11 Lessons from Nelson Mandela

By David Crane, Ode Magazine

Last week we celebrated living legend Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Looking back on his 93 years, here are 11 lessons (from many) that I would like to share from his legacy, which would help us make a small but positive mark in our society.

1. Have determination in fighting for the right thing. Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid for more than 50 years — from 1943 when he joined ANC to 1994 when South Africa became independent and he became president. Of these years, 27 were in prison.

2. Never sell out on your beliefs. While still serving in prison, Mandela had repeated offers from the apartheid regime to accept release for independence in a small portion of South Africa called the Transkei, from where he hailed. He simply turned them all down.

3. Be ready to change your tactics. In 1960 Nelson Mandela together with other leaders set up the military wing of ANC. After being released from prison in 1990, Mandela would eventually renounce all armed tactics and once again resort to peaceful negotiations.

4. Know the facts. Mandela was an astute lawyer and during his incarceration, his jailers in the 1980s repeatedly attempted to get him to renounce militarism; however he remained adamant in his belief that prisoners cannot enter into contracts – only free men can negotiate.

5. Admit mistakes. In interviews later in life, Mandela admitted that the ANC had committed some human rights abuses and even criticized anyone who attempted to deny it.

6. Reconcile with enemies. Nelson Mandela worked on the setting up the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

7. Share with others. Mandela has shared his life in books and through post retirement charity organizations that work on ills affecting the world today.

8. Lead from the front. When the Springboks South Africa rugby team won the 1995 world cup, Nelson Mandela presented the winnerís trophy to the Captain Francois Pienaar while wearing a replica of Pienaar’s no. 6 Springboks t-shirt. This was a symbol that served to further heal the very tangible racial tension in South Africa.

9. Let go. Nelson Mandela became President in 1994, and in 1999 chose not to run for a second term, even though he likely could have won by a landslide. He instead handed over power to Thabo Mbeki.

10. Smile. Mandela is known for his big smile when meeting with people all over the world.

11. Serve humbly. Graca Machel once said, “I found this simple man,” as she described him in 1998 just before they were married. Indeed his actions of “letting go” of a presidency, of forgiving his captors, serving tea to his guests, and many more are testament to the humility and personable nature of Nelson Mandela.

If applied, these lessons would make the world a better place and for that may God bless Mandela and give him many more years to live and inspire us.


Dale O.

Nelson Mandela lives on, long after his death to inspire others. He will be missed by so many.

Roger M.
Past Member 5 years ago

A great man.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson5 years ago


John Tambeau
John Tambeau5 years ago

Nelson mandela is one of the greats he is up there with Gandhi, martin Luther king, Dalai Lama,

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Shawn P.
Shawn P6 years ago

What a truly inspiring, wise man.......

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago

Very interesting! President Mandela is a living legend.

Roxana C.
Roxana Cortijo6 years ago

A real example to follow! Thanks for sharing.

Myriam G.
Myriam G6 years ago

I would have a lot of things to say about how inspired I have felt, all my life, from Mr Mandela's actions and words, and it would take pages. So, I have to sum it up with: thank you, Nelson Mandela!

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W6 years ago