Our favorite advice from Nelson Mandela

We used the time in our research group meeting today to reflect on Nelson Mandela’s life and how his massive influence relates to sustainability. Here is some of our favorite advice from Nelson Mandela and what it means to us.

“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.” Nelson Mandela

Nicole Barclay on this advice – Being in academia especially, we all have multiple ideas to contribute that can help advance society. I can personally say turning those ideas into action requires some courage to push ahead, even in the possibility of failures.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Kelsey Lantz on this advice – Here Mandela notes an important part of human nature. The fear of success shouldn’t hold us back from trying to shake things up or change the status quo, with respect to both personal development and sustainability. This quote reminds me to recognize the source of stress when taking on a big task (like a PhD, for example).

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

Freddy Paige on this advice – Many passionate people never reach all of their goals due to many factors, but when passion fuels dedication to something, failure is truly not an option. This type of mindset ensures a person’s elevation and success simply by rising them above the failure prone hopeless.

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

Tripp Shealy on this advice – It reminds me why I started the PhD. I wanted to learn the skills needed to change the world and now through teaching I want to inspire others to do the same.

Rodolfo Valdes on this advice (via e-mail) – It just reminds me of what my mother said to me when I was a kid – how by educating others and yourself things can be improved not only for this generation but the next seven ones.

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

Ross Beppler on this advice – Fitting considering the time of year we are at with everyone taking finals and completing projects. It also applies to sustainability, because no matter how far we go there is always more to be done. Never be satisfied, always strive to climb higher.

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

Turner Cotterman on this advice – There are always a multitude of reasons and excuses for not fully tackling an issue. Yet true determination and sometimes foolish courage prove essential in completing a task.

“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.”

Kate Gasparro on this advice – To live respectfully means one cannot just be tolerant of other people. Instead, one must continuously strive to understand and accept others’ backgrounds, ideas, and culture. Only then will be able to truly live and create change that is sustainable. 

“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.”

Me on this advice – This quote reminds me that we have an obligation to strive for change that is more than incremental. These words also remind me that, when I feel burnt out, it is not because I’m trying to do too much, but because I’m ‘playing small.’