Nelson Mandala I grew up reading about Nelson Mandela and rejoiced when he was finally released from prison like most of the rest of the planet. And I mourned his recent passing.

But, I didn’t fully realize how great a man he was until I started studying heroes a few years ago and what it takes to be one. Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest heroes of all time. And the following is a good lesson on how you can be too.

He at first protested non violently against the system early on in South Africa. Then a massacre of 60+ of his fellow non violent protesters were killed by the authorities. So he went underground for a couple of years and did violent things. I’m saying this not to judge him but to explain where he came from. He was arrested and put in jail. Some time later the authorities found more evidence of bigger plans and they made his sentence much longer to life. This is the start of when Nelson Mandela became a true hero.

Over the 27 years in prison he changed as would you expect. But, he changed for the better. While in prison he made friends with his guards. In fact after his death a former guard said Nelson Mandela was a father figure. Nelson Mandela learned their language Afrikaners. He connected with them as a human. And they treated him as best they could in the confines of a prison. He meet with leaders around the world. They came to him, to his little cell. He was influencing the world from prison. He had a message and nothing could stop it.

Due to increasing international pressure he was released from prison in 1990.

Then Nelson Mandela did what many in his situation would never do. He negotiated with the current South Africa president F. W. de Klerk, the same government that put him in prison, and they negotiated to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led his party to victory and became South Africa’s first black president. He choose to start from scratch and think about what was best for his nation. What is the ideal solution to apartheid? Would saying let’s overrun the current government and install a reverse apartheid be the solution? Or would a solution where both sides get together and say hey this current setup isn’t right, what can we do to have an equal non racial government that everyone can be part of? Nelson Mandela did just that. I just find that incredible.

And since then he had gone on to unite the nation. He invited other political parties to work together, setup a commission to look at past human rights abuses, helped created a new constitution, helped in negotiating some international issues and started a foundation focusing on poverty and HIV/AIDS.

So I learned from Nelson Mandala that it is best to not hate anyone, no matter what. You can’t build anything stable based on hate. It must be based on love, it comes to the human heart more naturally. Thank you Nelson Mandala for changing this life an isolated boy in the bush of Alaska to understand what it takes to be a true hero. I will miss you.