A Book Worthy of Your Time & Attention

Mandela's Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage, by Richard Stengel (Stengel, now editor of Time magazine, was a confidant of Mandela's.)

From "Look the Part":

"[Mandela has beautiful posture. You will never see him hunched over with his head anything but upright and looking ahead. On Robben Island, he was always aware of how he walked and carried himself. He knew he needed to be seen as standing up to the authorities, literally and figuratively ... He knew that people took their cues from him, and if he were confident and unbowed, they would be too."

"[Mandela] understood the power of image. ... 'Appearances constitute reality,' he once told me."

"In the election in 1994, his smile was the campaign. That smiling iconic campaign poster—on billboards, on highways, on street lamps, at tea shops and fruit stalls. It told black voters that he would be their champion and white voters that he would be their protector. It was the smile of the proverb 'tout comprendre, c'est tout pardoner'—to understand is to forgive all. It was political Prozac for a nervous electorate."

"Ultimately the smile was symbolic of how Mandela molded himself. At every stage of his life he decided who he wanted to be and created the appearance--and then the reality--of that person. He became who he wanted to be."

From "Have a Core Principal—Everything Else Is Tactics"

"Nelson Mandela is a man of principle—exactly one: Equal rights for all, regardless of race, class, or gender. Pretty much everything else is a tactic. I know this seems like an exaggeration—but to a degree very few people suspect, Mandela is a thoroughgoing pragmatist who was willing to compromise, change, adapt, and refine his strategy as long as it got him to the promised land."

From "See the Good in Others"* [*One of the best essays I have ever read.]

"Some call it a blind spot, others naïveté, but Mandela sees almost everyone as virtuous until proven otherwise. He starts with an assumption you are dealing with him in good faith. He believes that, just as pretending to be brave can lead to acts of real bravery, seeing the good in other people improves the chances that they will reveal their better selves."

"Mandela ... consciously chose to err on the side of generosity. By behaving honorably, even to people who may not deserve it, he believes you can influence them to behave more honorably than they otherwise would. This sometimes proved to be a useful tactic, particularly after he was released from prison, when his open, trusting attitude made him appear to be a man who could rise above bitterness. When he urged South Africans to 'forget the past,' most of them believed that he had. This had a double effect: It made whites trust Mandela more and it made them feel more generous toward the people they had so recently oppressed."

"Mandela sees the good in others both because it is in his nature and in his interest. At times that has meant being blindsided, but he has always been willing to take that risk. And it is a risk. ... Mandela goes out on a limb and makes himself vulnerable by trusting others. ... We rarely equate risk with trying to see what is decent, honest, and good in the people in our daily lives. ... 'People will feel I see too much good in people, and I've tried to adjust because whether it is so or not, it is something I think is profitable. It's a good thing to assume, to act on the basis that others are men of integrity and honor, because you need to attract integrity and honor. I believe in that.'"