We Can Be Like Mandela

[Cache – #140]

“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Nelson Mandela

This quote is just one of seven that the Globe and Mail mobile version was running in a loop last night, beneath a picture of Mandela.

Whether they are his most famous utterances, I do not know.  But it seems striking that more than half of them relate to living one’s best life:

  • “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
  • “It is not where you start but how high you aim that matters for success.”
  • “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

These could be the words of a self-help guru.  But of course, Mandela was not speaking from that perspective, but rather as someone who sought freedom for his people, his country, and lastly, for himself.

Freedom.  In accordance with the quote that began this post, freedom to live a life that is, to the fullest extent, the one of which you are capable.  Implied here is that each of us has unique potential – that if fulfilled, will result in a unique contribution and legacy.

So how to play big?  Metaphorically aiming high or climbing the hill requires that we first define ourselves in terms of our purpose, our values, our mission and our vision in life.

And the best part?  As Mandela taught us, we are free, whatever our circumstances, to define ourselves in any way we wish.  Twenty-seven years in an island prison, breaking rocks in the unrelenting sun, could not steal from Mandela his freedom to define himself as a forgiving man.  As British Prime Minister David Cameron put it yesterday:

“The abiding memory I have is seeing him in Johannesburg, and him talking about the people who had imprisoned him and the suffering he’d undergone, and yet his complete forgiveness, his total lack of malice, towards those who had done this to him…”

At profound risk of seeming trite on such an important day, this is what branding is all about:  self-definition, and having the courage and serenity to never waver.

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