We long for heroes and have too few. Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013 at the age of ninety-five, is the closest thing the world has to a secular saint. Read more...
We long for heroes and have too few. Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013 at the age of ninety-five, is the closest thing the world has to a secular saint. He liberated a country from a system of violent prejudice and helped unite oppressor and oppressed in a way that had never been done before.
Now Richard Stengel, the editor of "Time "magazine, has distilled countless hours of intimate conversation with Mandela into fifteen essential life lessons. For nearly three years, including the critical period when Mandela moved South Africa toward the first democratic elections in its history, Stengel collaborated with Mandela on his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom," and traveled with him everywhere. Eating with him, watching him campaign, hearing him think out loud, Stengel came to know all the different sides of this complex man and became a cherished friend and colleague.
In "Mandela s Way, "Stengel recounts the moments in which the grandfather of South Africa was tested and shares the wisdom he learned: why courage is more than the absence of fear, why we should keep our rivals close, why the answer is not always either/or but often both, how important it is for each of us to find something away from the world that gives us pleasure and satisfaction our own garden. Woven into these life lessons are remarkable stories of Mandela s childhood as the protege of a tribal king, of his early days as a freedom fighter, of the twenty-seven-year imprisonment that could not break him, and of his fulfilling remarriage at the age of eighty.
This uplifting book captures the spirit of this extraordinary man warrior, martyr, husband, statesman, and moral leader and spurs us to look within ourselves, reconsider the things we take for granted, and contemplate the legacy we ll leave behind."
Lessons from an exemplary life
Self-help books crowd the shelves of America’s bookstores, beckoning consumers with all sorts of hopeful promises—from thinner thighs and bigger bank accounts to spiritual and sexual nirvanas. Though Richard Stengel’s publisher has placed his instructive book, Mandela’s Way, in the self-help genre, it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the assistive literary hoi polloi.
Stengel, the editor of Time magazine, collaborated with the liberator and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela on his 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. He spent nearly three years with Mandela, conducting hours of extensive interviews, traveling with him, shadowing his every move. “I kept a diary of my time with him that eventually grew to 120,000 words,” writes Stengel in the book’s introduction. “Much of this book comes from those notes.”
Distilled from those jottings are 15 essential lessons modeled on Stengel’s observations and interpretations of Mandela’s courage and wisdom, exemplary leadership, compassion and love of humanity. From clear words on courage and self-control (“be measured”) to the benefits of presenting a good image, seeing the good in others, keeping your rivals and enemies close (this particular dictum is famously chronicled in the recent movie Invictus) and believing in the difference that love can make, the lessons are seamlessly intertwined with stories from Mandela’s life. This texture is one of the book’s key strengths, but a beautiful grace note is Stengel’s undiluted—yet clear-sighted—regard for the complex man who survived an unspeakably difficult 27-year incarceration and who said of his prison experience, “I came out mature.”
Ultimately, the true light of this inspirational book is the utter believability of these lessons. The hotheaded young Mandela, protégé of a tribal king who turned into a fierce freedom fighter, grew gradually into a man who, literally and figuratively, “found his own garden.” Though at age 91 Mandela is in the twilight of his life, he still personifies this grand lesson plan, these 15 deceptively simple steps to empowering self and others.
Alison Hood writes from Marin County, California.