Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela - Lessons for Humanity

Today we mourn a legend.

Today the world lost one of the most influential civil rights activists known in our time - a man who inspired generations, and shaped our modern world.  

Nelson Mandela, a revolutionary anti apartheid  activist and arguably one of the greatest leaders of our time.  A hero of South Africa, and indeed, for many across the globe.  His is a legacy that will live on.  

It is a sad loss, and I took time today to reflect on what his legacy for the world is from my perspective.  

He leaves us all with lessons on the power of education, the importance of equity, how we need to value our freedom and standing up for what is right.   

Lesson 1.  Persevere and continue despite adversity

Life is full of setbacks.  It is these setbacks that shape who we are and give us our character.  Learning to overcome obstacles and brushing ourselves off whenever we fall or stumble builds our resilience and ability to adapt to change.  If you are able to pick yourself up when you are faced with a setback you are more able to control a situation and in return experience success.  When you look back on your life, often it is the overcoming of adversity that brings the greatest rewards.   Sometimes it is the hardest lessons we are most proud of.

 Lesson 2.  To be Educated is to be powerful 

An education is indeed a powerful weapon.  It allows humanity to think, to challenge, to question and it promotes participation in society.  They (who they is remains one of the great mysteries of the universe) say education and knowledge is power.  Progress and development is dependent on education.  To open ones mind is to open one to possibilities.  Of course, it is risky if you are a dictator, but education has the power to change the world in so many positive ways.  To deny people an education is to enslave and remove the ability to challenge status quo.  If only our young people who opt out of education understood how transformational it is...and how lucky they are to have access where others in our world are denied that right.  

Lesson 3.  Learn to move on 

Forgive, heal and move forward into the future, embracing the positives.  We have already established that setbacks are part of life, and sometimes it can feel that life sends more than its fair share of knock backs and unfair situations.  When life hands out lemons we can chose to allow those situations to breed hatred and bitterness, or we can find ways to overcome those moments, and instead grow for the better.

Lesson 4.  Don't undersell what you are capable of doing 

Sometimes we put off doing something because the task in front of us seems too hard or too daunting.  To start the journey seems fraught with impossibilities and an unlikely chance of success.   Remember, the greatest fruit is not from the lowest branches, but from that which is the hardest to reach and where one must climb the highest.  The lesson here is an inspiring one - go forth and start.  Don't sell yourself short and write yourself off - often we are never aware of what we are capable of achieving.  There are always solutions - you just have to make a start.  

Lesson 5.  Follow your Vision and rise to your potential

If you have a vision - you should go for it.  Life is a one time deal.  I often wonder to myself when faced with a crossroads - what would I say to myself on my deathbed, as I look back over my life and reflect on the opportunities I have been faced with.  Will I regret it if I don't do it or will I be proud of following my passion even though that might be making the tough choice and taking the path paved with hard work?  Do not live a life of regrets - once we reach the end of our time on our earth, it is too late to do 'do overs'.

  Lesson 6.  Use Your Freedoms to Enhance the Freedoms of Others 

Our world is full of disparity and inequitable outcomes.  Whilst we may all bleed the same, we are not all born with the same opportunities and freedoms.  It leaves me with wonderings.
In what ways do we enhance the freedoms of others throughout our lives?  Freedom can be defined as the following; 

  1. 1.
    the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.

  2. 2.
    the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.

For those of us who are not enslaved or imprisoned by war, poverty, religion, or politics, it can be hard to imagine what it is like for those who are or have been.  Do we take our freedom to act, speak or think as we wish for granted, and what do we do in our lives to assist others to have those same freedoms.  In what ways do we advocate for it.  Can we really be 'free' when other human beings are not?

Lesson 7.  Leadership is selfless and courageous

A leader celebrates the successes of their team - they lift them up high and take a backseat in order to allow others to grow in the limelight.  When adversity brings the dark times, this is where the leader steps to the front, to protect and shield their team from any of the approaching storm.  This kind of leadership is selfless and courageous, and it brings people along beside you on any journey you undertake with trust and mutual respect.  Leadership takes many forms, in what ways do you practice courageous and selfless leadership - with your family, your friends, your community, your work?    

Lesson  8.  "Feel your fear and do it anyway"

Our world is a wondrous place full of things to experience and explore.  To do this and to make the most out of opportunities takes the ability to conquer our fears.  Fear - whether it be from something (a snake, spider or other creature), a feeling (like rejection or embarrassment) or a situation (like a new job opportunity) has the ability to paralyse us and put in place boundaries and walls from which escaping can be difficult.  Our ability to grow and move forward into the future is stymied and frozen.  The ability to conquer these fears -  to face them head on and learn valuable lessons from them takes us into new pathways of growth that open doors of possibility, and pave a pathway of success for our future.    To rise above our fears gives us a personal power that builds our resilience and allows us more strength to rise when faced with adversity.

Lesson 9.  Leadership comes in many disguises

What is one persons extraordinary circumstance may not be so to another.  Sometimes, knowing you have a voice and that you have the freedom to exercise that voice, and then acting on it for the common good of others is what is important.  Greatness is often thrust upon others not because they sought it - but because it was the right thing to do.  The challenge is to know when it is your time to step up and seize the opportunity.

Lesson 10.  Teach Love and Tolerance

When we are born we are born with a clean blank canvass - we are not predisposed with the ability to love or hate the moment we take our first breath.  Our experiences and our relationships with others shape this.  As teachers and parents, the power for our young people to be lovers or haters is to a large degree, in our hands.   How our young people see the world and the people in it, is based on the lens with which we give them to view the world.  Hate is such a negative and destructive emotion - it chews up its host and twists them into a bitter and lonely individual, and no loving parent would ever wish this for their child.   How do you teach love, and foster tolerance?  Are you the mirror in which your child is reflected?

                                Lesson 11.  Who you are makes a difference

Finally, the most important lesson of them all.  We all have the ability to make a difference to the world we live in.  One action has the power to change a situation for someone.  It may be something small or it may be something much bigger, either way, it will impact on our world.  From a smile to a stranger, to donating time to a charity - your one good deed may be the catalyst that starts a chain reaction of goodness.  Ask yourself, what have you done today that made a difference.  

RIP Nelson Mandela 

(sources - a big thank you to google images..)


1 comment:

  1. Extremely well written. Definitely food for thought. What an inspirational figure in our history.