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Nelson Mandela Quotes: 25 Inspirational Words Of Wisdom

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[quote]Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.[/quote]

Today is truly a sad day as the world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela. At the age of 94, Mandela has passed after a lengthy battle with an unreported illness.

His story is one filled with both triumph and tragedy, and throughout it, he has remained a constant symbol of hope. Despite having been imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela managed to overcome insurmountable odds packing several lifetimes worth of achievements into his 94 years.

Although we say goodbye to him today, one aspect of his legacy we can continue to celebrate are the many insightful, profound and inspirational quotes he has left us with.

Below, we examine our 25 favorites covering education, life, leadership, fear and more, as we celebrate the legacy of one of the most influential men in history.

Nelson Mandela Quotes: 25 Inspirational Words Of Wisdom

1. On fear:

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

Our Interpretation: Anything is possible. Don’t let the fear of accomplishment keep you from achieving remarkable things.



2. On difficulty:

“Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”

Our Interpretation: Obstacles have the power to destroy or inspire. The choice is entirely yours.


3. On education

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Our Interpretation: Empower yourself and you can achieve anything.


4. On adversity:

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

Our Interpretation: Obstacles are apart of the human experience. Have the courage to keep going.


5. On being brave:

“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.”

Our Interpretation: It’s ok to be afraid. The ability to use that fear to our advantage is what makes us powerful.

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6. On being an optimist:

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

Our Interpretation: See the good in everything and everyone even when it seems impossible.


7. On overcoming challenges:

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Our Interpretation: Our greatest achievements are found in the obstacles we overcome.


8. On freedom:

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Our Interpretation: True freedom lies in our ability to improve the lives of those around us.


9. On being resentful:

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Our Interpretation:  Being consumed by anger towards others for what they have done will only keep us further from happiness.


10. On coming back:

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

Our Interpretation: There’s a special feeling when returning home to find only you have really changed.

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11. On race:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Our Interpretation: Hate, ignorance and racism are taught. Love is the only force powerful enough to overcome them.


12). On being passionate:

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Our Interpretation: Embrace your inner greatness. Don’t apologize for wanting to shine bright.


13. On judgement:

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

Our Interpretation: Admiration should come from the obstacles a person has overcome in their life.


14. On being in control of your future:

“I am the captain of my soul.”

Our Interpretation: The outcome of your life is completely within your control.


15. On rising above circumstances:

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

Our Interpretation: Love what you do, and you can achieve anything.

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16. On leadership:

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”

Our Interpretation: True leadership is putting the needs of others ahead of your own.


17. On making the world better:

“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

Our Interpretation: A genuine concern for the lives of others would make the entire world a better place.


18. On doing it all over again:

“If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man.”

Our Interpretation: Live without regrets. Everything you’re not has made you everything you are.


19. On not being a saint:

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

Our Interpretation: No one is perfect. Mistakes are accetable as long as we work towards correcting them.


20. On letting ourselves and others shine:

“ As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Our Interpretation: Lead by example and you will inspire others to do the same.

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21. On leading from the back:

“Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”

Our Interpretation: Allow subordinates to shine by taking the spotlight away from yourself.


22. On being a great leader:

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”

Our Interpretation: Being kind and intelligent is good, having both those qualities and the ability to articulate them is better.


23. On being able to identify with others:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Our Interpretation: In order to build rapport with those you are trying to persuade, speak to them in the language that is truly personal.


24. On perspectives:

“Where you stand depends on where you sit.”

Our Interpretation: Recognize that your view on the world has alot to do with where you’ve been lucky or unlucky enough to have been placed.


25. On change:

“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.”

Our Interpretation: Change comes from within. Start there and work outwards.


Do you have any spiritual or inspirational Nelson Mandela quotes we might have missed? Let us know in the comments.

Images via flickr: South Africa The Good News,  mrgarethm,  paul-simpson.orgAbode of Chaos,  IPP ON UPP ,  maureen lunn,  MsSaraKelly

Written by Quotezine Team

Michelle Quinteros is a pop culture and lifestyle writer with a fancy degree from McMaster University. When she’s not writing for Quotezine, she can be found excessively quoting The Simpsons or binge watching Netflix.

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