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10 Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela

10 Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela
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Nelson Mandela has left us a legacy of forgiveness, reconciliation and his pledge for freedom for everybody, no matter their race or color. He will always be an inspiration to the world. In the long and cruel battle to achieve this, he has taught us some invaluable life lessons.

1.Never abandon hope or give up

“The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela (also known as Madiba) had very clear objectives in that he was committed to ending apartheid and a terribly unjust society. He knew that the road would be paved with enormous difficulties. But he never gave up.

Defining your goal and your objectives are essential to winning the race. Facing setbacks and failure is the most difficult part, but never give up.

2. Learn the art of compromise

“You mustn’t compromise your principles, but you mustn’t humiliate the opposition. No one is more dangerous than one who is humiliated.” – Nelson Mandela

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

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Whether in politics or in relationships, compromising and negotiating are essential tools. Learn how to give and take. Mandela gave superb advice when he stated that both sides have to gain. It should ideally be a win-win situation.

3. Violence is not the answer

“We can’t win a war, but we can win an election.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela was sentenced to prison for life (and served 27 years) because he and the ANC party had adopted a Marxist strategy of sabotage and violence in the fight for justice. After his release, he did not altogether renounce this policy. It was kept in reserve.

Reconciliation and negotiation were far more effective and powerful weapons and that should never be forgotten. Madiba had the intelligence not to let the past of bitterness and resentment restrict him. Four years of tough negotiations with President de Klerk were rewarded with success and the joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

4. Don’t be put off by difficulties

It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela

That quote by Madiba reflects that although lives are marked by illness, tragedy, misfortune and pain, people should never get discouraged. Those negative experiences can teach more than anything else. And they can teach that you have to remain faithful to your values and ethics. Mandela wanted freedom from apartheid, and while he changed strategy, he never changed that one principle.

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Nelson Mandela

    5. Learn how to forgive

    “If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.” – Nelson Mandela

    Why do you think that Nelson Mandela decided to learn Afrikaans, the language of his oppressors, while in prison? That was the first move in forgiveness.

    When you have been hurt, it is only right to feel self-pity. That feeling may be followed by anger and rage and you should let it all out in a safe, private way. If you never learn to forgive, you will always feel bad. Even if the person who hurt you is dead, negative emotions ruin your life. Time to draw a line under it, and once you forgive, you immediately start to feel better.

    6. How kind are you?

    “I believe that in the end that it is kindness and accommodation that are all the catalysts for real change.” – Nelson Mandela

    Try a little kindness today.

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    7. Bond by sharing experience

     “I dream of Africa which is at peace with itself.” – Nelson Mandela

    In South Africa, rugby was the sport of the white elite and many black and colored people cheered the opposing team as a way of protesting. Picture the scene at the 1995 Rugby World Cup when Mandela wore the rugby jersey of the Springboks, the South African team, who went on to win. That one gesture in participating at a great sporting event was a powerful way of bonding a nation.

    On a personal level, try hugging (if appropriate!), eating together, taking part in a sport, or hundreds of other ways to strengthen bonding. These shared experiences will help understanding, commonality and reinforce relationships.

    8. Fight discrimination

    “I detest racialism because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.” – Nelson Mandela

    Madiba was single minded in his approach to the enormous task ahead. Today, society is confronted with many other forms of intolerance that lead to discrimination and oppression.

    In addition to racism, you can add sexism, ageism, fat phobia, ableism, homophobia and classism as barriers to unity and equal human rights for all.

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    Where do you stand on these issues? Have you taught your kids that this discrimination is hurtful and unfair?

    9. Draw a line under your past

    “We don’t have to be victims of our past, that we can let go of our bitterness, and that all of us can achieve greatness.” – Nelson Mandela

    Mandela had every reason to become bitter and twisted and to continue with aggression and confrontation. He was intelligent enough to realize that closure was essential and the new path towards peace and reconciliation was the only way.

    How many times have you told that story about your difficult childhood, marriage or boss? Looking for pity is no way to win friends. Time for healing and closure.

    10. An unconquerable spirit

    At the Rivonia trial, there was a risk that Mandela might be sentenced to death. He was so determined that he persuaded his comrades that they would not appeal. He urged them to have dignity and pride, and to be steadfast.

    Mandela’s approach to life when he finally retired was, “Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically.”

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     You might also like: One Life Lesson From Nelson Mandela

    Featured photo credit: Ted Eytan Creative Commons via Flickr via Flickr

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    Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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