3 Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela

Natalia Costa
6 min readOct 4, 2021

Turning Challenges into Opportunities, Turning Enemies into Allies

Nelson Mandela is one of the most admirable human beings for the collective imaginary. While reading his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom one is not only moved by his words, but also by his values and his attitude in life. Other than being an excellent communicator — after all he was an attorney — Mandela was an inspiring person. The light he radiated lives far beyond his physical body. His ideas and ideals were as relevant then as they are now.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” Professor Keating in Dead Poet’s Society

The main lesson we can learn from Mandela is his positive conduct towards all challenges either presented in the form of people or circumstances. Mandela was in prison for 27 years! And, yet, he remained optimistic about the outcome of his vision. One of the many readings that accompanied him during that period was William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus that ends in:

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

Clearly Mandela was a firm believer that he made his own destiny as his tenacity demonstrated. And not many are able to combine strong will with such kindness. What made Mandela truly remarkable and unique as a leader was the compassion he always displayed towards any person.

Let’s take a closer look into 3 life lessons we can take from Mandela’s example:

1. Forgiveness Sets You Free

The main thing that Mandela can teach us all is that forgiveness is the key to be free.

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.

Only when we forgive can we free our soul from all the negativity imprinted by the grudges we hold. It’s not about the people or the situations, it is ultimately about ourselves and about the thoughts we wish to hold in our mind.

How long will you hold thoughts of hatred and bitterness?



Natalia Costa

Human being 🐒 Engineer by day, Poet by night ☯️ Writing about emotional intelligence A.K.A. applied quantum physics. www.bynataliacosta.com