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The Lessons of Mandela

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With the passing of Nelson Mandela, many writers have posted columns about his life, his struggle to defeat apartheid, and the significance of his accomplishments.

One of the things I have been thinking about is the fact that he spent 27 years in prison. How did he do that? Could I survive such an ordeal? In a Dickensian work of fiction, such an incredible injustice would warp and twist a man.

I think that in Mandela's case, it did change him. But it changed him for the better. He once said: "I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."

Mandela is a case study in perseverance. In faith. And in transformation, going from being demonized as a terrorist to a beloved leader. He gives us an example of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation

Like Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and others who endured the horrors of hatred, his life is a testament to our ability to survive even the harshest conditions. He shows us what it takes to pass the toughest of tests.

Here are a few quotes from Nelson Mandela that show what he was made of.

On courage: "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

On being formidable: "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."

On leading others: "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership."

On being free: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

On the impossible: "It always seems impossible until its done."

On transforming one's enemy: "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

His life shows us that there is much we can learn from suffering.

"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday December 13, 2013

Terrence H. Seamon is an organization development consultant who provides leadership and team development services to employers in New Jersey. His book Lead the Way explores the challenges of leadership. Additionally, Terry is a job search and career coach whose book To Your Success provides a motivational guide for anyone in transition. His third book, Change for the Better, provides leaders with a guide to initiating, and navigating through, organizational change. An alumnus of PSG, Terry co-founded and co-moderates the St. Matthias Employment Ministry in Somerset, NJ. He can be reached at thseamon@yahoo.com and via his website: http://about.me/terrenceseamon

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