6 Essential Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Nelson Mandela

Here is an inspiring look at six quotes attributed to Nelson Mandela that can positively impact your life and your business.

One of the world’s most recognized and popular statesmen, Nelson Mandela (an anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999), shared indelible lessons that every entrepreneur can take to heart.

The former South African president’s plight to overturn apartheid was an inspiration to many around the world. As Mandela once explained, ““It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”  (South Africa, July 14, 2000).

Here is an inspiring look at six quotes attributed to Nelson Mandela that can positively impact your life and your business.


1. “Difficulties break some men but make others.”

Starting a business is full of victories … and difficulties. But what truly distinguishes a winner is the resolution to keep going. Overcoming business challenges is par for the course of entrepreneurship. From learning how to build brand awareness and compete against established companies to building a winning company culture and hiring great talent — these difficulties, in the mind of a winner, are merely opportunities.


2. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Onlookers will often say to a fledgling and hopeful entrepreneur, “That’s impossible.” But those who have built successful companies know one thing to be true: ““Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” (Muhammad Ali) To build a successful business, is to perfect the art of the “possible.”


3. “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”

Every business owner is faced with broad commonalities, and a multitude of varying circumstances. And if you are in business for any length of time you will inevitably hear someone tell you the importance of dedication and passion. Dedication equips you for the road ahead while passion inspires you to go the extra mile;when others would likely tell you to “pull over” or “turn around”. While many of us will not face the depth of struggles that many great men and women have encountered, we know that without these things success is infinitely harder to attain.


4. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Before you consider your latest and greatest business idea, land your first customer, pivot your business model, explore new market opportunities, and scale your success you will come face to face with fear. Not once, but many times. So, before an entrepreneur masters anything else in business, they must master their fear: the fear of failure, disappointment, the unknown. Overcoming fear in business starts with repeated action despite challenges and perceived setbacks. Ideally, each action is strategically based on a business game plan. Remember: the next great success in business is one step away from the mastery of your fear.


5. “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.”

What are you truly capable of becoming? If you have the courage to build your dreams into reality then I’d venture to say that you are capable of much more than you ever believed. I once said that entrepreneurs are the new superheros because “By definition, superheroes are people that possess extraordinary powers and skills. Doesn’t that sound like an entrepreneur to you? Small business owners certainly accomplish seemingly impossible feats, tackle enormous risks and rely on a supporting cast of invaluable characters to get the job done. While we’re not costumed crime fighters, we have an even more important role in society — to change the world.”


6. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Behind every great entrepreneurial success story is another story … of setbacks, challenges, defeats and failures. As you grow a successful small business, from zero to hero, you will learn that success is merely a byproduct of quality decisions that are made — day in and day out. Every entrepreneur will fall down, but those that are successful know that failure is temporary and true success rises .. and rises … again.

What other inspiring lessons can entrepreneurs learn from Nelson Mandela? Let me know in the comments section below.


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