Conversations with Myself (Nelson Mandela): Memorable Quotes


Nelson Mandela (Photo Credit: SA The Good News / Wikimedia Commons)

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918 – 2013) was a human rights activist and the first democratically-elected president of South Africa. Also known as “Madiba“, he is not generally considered to be a philosopher though his thoughts on leadership, politics, and ethics make him (to my mind at least) a figure worth considering. In what follows I will detail a few memorable quotes from his book Conversations with Myself (first published in 2010), which also includes a forward by the former president of the USA, Barack Obama.

“To start a revolution is easy, but to continue and maintain it is most difficult.” (p. 103)

“A new world will be won not by those who stand at a distance with their arms folded, but by those who are in the arena, whose garments are torn by storms and whose bodies are maimed in the course of the contest.” (p. 175)

“Honour belongs to those who never forsake the truth even when things seems dark and grim, who try over and over again, who are never discouraged by insults, humiliation and even defeat.” (pp. 175 – 176)

“…the human soul and human body has an infinite capacity of adaptation and it is amazing just how hardened one can come to be; and how concepts which we once treated as relatively unimportant suddenly become meaningful and crucial.” (p. 176)

“It has been said a thousand and one times that what matters is not so much what happens to a person than the way such a person takes it.” (p. 194)

“…internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being. Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others — qualities which are within easy reach of every soul — are the foundation of one’s spiritual life. Development in matters of this nature is inconceivable without serious introspection, without knowing yourself, your weaknesses and mistakes.” (pp. 211 – 212)

“Never forget that a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.” (p. 212)

“…the realist, however shocked and disappointed by the frailties of those he adores, will look at human behaviour from all sides and objectively and will concentrate on those qualities in a person which are edifying, which lift your spirit [and] kindle one’s enthusiasm to live.” (p. 234)

“It is a grave error for any leader to be oversensitive in the face of criticism, to conduct discussions as if he or she is a schoolmaster talking to less informed and inexperienced learners.” (p. 326)

Buy the book here: SA | Intl.

Also read about “The Mandela Effect”: “…a collective misremembering of a fact or event…” (