What Nelson Mandela Taught Me

Nelson Mandela was one of the most memorable initiators in history. He was a genius at taking his impactful ideas and then making them happen despite the odds.

Of late, I have been doing lots of thinking about the concept of initiation or, how to make stuff happen. Having hit a point in my life that is either sink or swim for me and my children, you would think that this is a no-brainer but it isn’t. I am good with making decisions but not always reliable on getting into gear to action those decisions. This might sound familiar to you too? This got me started on a quest to explore the concept of initiation.

Initiation is the process of starting something, getting the ball rolling. It’s an important concept because without it, nothing gets off the ground. Instead, what we have are good ideas living in our head. In life and in business the difference between being a winner or loser is initiation and initiation is the difference between a ‘doer’ and a ‘gonna’ in health and fitness.

The 18th of July is Nelson Mandela International Day. By any standard, Madiba, as he was fondly referred to by those who loved him, lived a robust, fulfilling and revolutionary life. Few people have had as much impact on history as Madiba had. History will remember him as one of the greatest men who ever lived – an incredibly selfless man who made so much of a sacrifice to re-write the history of generations of South Africans and the World.

During his lifetime Mandela inspired us with his numerous words of wisdom, etched in our memories till tomorrow. Here I share with you what Mandela taught me about initiation:

1. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”
The number of times I have gotten up from a setback reflects the extent to which I am congruent with my values and my purpose. Procrastination is the opposite of initiation. If we have a vision, a purpose that is big enough, we will keep initiating new ways of reaching the success we have in mind and ward off procrastination.

2. “When people are determined they can overcome anything”.
Initiation and intention are intimately intertwined. If you are having trouble taking action on your decisions or outcomes, question your intentions, i.e. the reasons why you want what you want. If you don’t have enough reasons or the reasons aren’t big enough then you are likely to lack the determination and initiation to overcome the inevitable obstacles and detours that may crop up on your journey to your goal.

3. “There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way”.
My mentor explained to me that initiation doesn’t mean we know how to do it. It just starts and it doesn’t have to be perfect or right, it just starts from where we are at. There is a confidence that we will figure it out as we go, in the moment improving as we go along.

4. “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do”.
When we go for it, get started, take action we ask the critical questions:
What’s the first step? What can I do now with what I do know?
Am I committed to my vision? Am I resolute about my purpose? Am I devoted to my goal? Do I have a staunch belief in myself achieving this outcome? Do I have an attitude of resilience in the face of setbacks?

If you can say a robust “Yes!” to ALL of these questions, then your intention is aligned with your aspirations and you are the type of person that has initiation down pat! If there are a few that you didn’t do that for, your initiation could do with some fine tuning. Get together and work with a Life Coach, Business Coach, Health Coach, Leadership Coach to clarify and support you in developing your blind spots and rev up your initiation.


People from all walks of life engage Equilibrio’s personal life and well-being services. Our youngest client has been aged 10, and our oldest has been aged 82. We work with individuals, couples, parents and families.