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  • Writer's pictureHassan Younes

Nelson Mandela’s 9 Greatest Lessons in Avoiding Complacency

The first president of South Africa survived trials and tribulations to liberate his nation from an apartheid regime. Had he been complacent, he wouldn’t have succeeded in doing all that.



“We can never be complacent because the legacies of our past still run very deeply through our society.”

Nelson Mandela uttered these words right after the apartheid ended in South Africa.


The world was celebrating the end of racial segregation in the country. South Africans were celebrating a new era of peace and equality. And Mandela himself had just been released from 27 years in prison for his role in the revolution.


The atmosphere was filled with happiness, joy, and newfound hope for a better tomorrow.


Yet, those were the words that emerged from Mandela’s lips.


What did he mean?


Well, Mandela was sending three messages to everyone:


Don’t rest on your oars.


Don’t be complacent.


There’s still much work to be done.


This clearly describes the kind of person he is.


After all, Mandela is known for constantly fighting for human rights and freedom. He is someone who never rests on his laurels despite achieving monumental success.


Mandela is never complacent.


That’s why three months after his release, he led the African National Congress in a peaceful meeting with its bitter enemy - the government. He made the apartheid government agree to far more than anyone expected them to concede.


And years later, South Africa, adopted a new national constitution under his leadership.


Nelson Mandela is a principled man. His sacrifice for humanity not only changed his country but also touched the entire world.


With that in mind, here are nine of the greatest lessons we can learn from him about rejecting complacency.

Lesson #1- Be Punctual

Mandela is always punctual when attending meetings and events. It’s because he believes that a lack of punctuality is a character flaw.


Respecting time says a lot about you irrespective of who you are.


When you’re punctual to meetings or hangouts, you send a strong message to others. You tell them that you’re in control of your life and can handle things.


On the other hand, being late to work and events will make you look and feel like a complacent slob. You’ll also lose the respect of others, which will prevent you from reaching a higher level of success.


Lesson #2- Start Your Day Early


One of Mandela’s famous habits is to rise before dawn every day. He also makes his bed by himself. And he does this whether he’s at home, in a hotel, or even in prison.

If you have the habit of starting your day early and immediately making your bed, you’ll increase your capacity and productivity.

Ultimately, this means complacency won’t have a place to stay in your life.


But if you allow yourself to indulge in the comfort of your bed and give yourself to slumber, you allow laziness and complacency to enter into your life. You’ll easily lose track of time and won’t have the sharp mind to deal with the issues that come your way.

Lesson #3 - Be Passionate


Passion is the fire that keeps you on the path to success even when you’re tired. And if you’re passionate about your goals, complacency won't stop you from achieving them.


This passion was evident in Mandela’s life.


His path to liberty was filled with many obstacles and enormous challenges. But he never gave up the fight because his passion for the cause was bigger than the shame and pains of his failures.


According to Mandela himself:


“The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.”


When you’re passionate about your goals, you become deeply connected to them. This elevates your energy levels and keeps complacency out the door.


Lesson #4 - Turning Your Dreams Into Reality Require Radical Action


Mandela epitomizes a lifetime of discontent by the apartheid system in his country. This culminated in radical action, which caused a revolution that liberated South Africa.


You need to do the same thing to make your dreams a reality.


That means you have to take intentional action to free yourself from the limitations placed on you. Establish and re-establish boundaries to elevate yourself above your obstacles. Doing this eradicates complacency from your life.


However, know that radicality doesn’t equate to unplanned actions. And you should also consider the impact you’ll have on others as you move on to a higher level.

Lesson # 5 - Accept That Change Is Messy


Mandela could have carved out a nice, comfortable life for himself when he was a partner at the only black law firm in South Africa. After all, he had many aggrieved clients who sought restitution for being wronged by the government.


However, he didn’t rest on his laurels.


He knew achieving real change would be difficult and messy. And he didn’t shy away from it. That was why Mandela was able to achieve a lot in his life.


Understand that you cannot avoid change when you want to solve a problem that really matters.


Accepting that change will be messy and that it could bring difficult situations prepares you for the task ahead. And shunning complacency is easier when you’re in this state of mind.

Lesson #6 - You Can Rise Above Any Circumstances


It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or the color of your skin. You can rise above any circumstances you find yourself in.


Mandela is proof of it.


He was a human rights activist for the greater part of his life. And he held onto his beliefs, which strengthened his resolve to make a change to society. That was why he was able to rise above all the problems life threw at him to secure liberty for millions of South Africans.


If you believe that your circumstances cannot hold you down, your inner self is energized. This belief gives you the strength to keep going even when you feel weak. It gives you the drive to move forward, keeping complacency far from you so you can move to the next level of success.

Lesson #7- Be Disciplined and Consistent


Personal discipline - both physically and mentally - plus consistency seem to be common traits of many great leaders. And throughout his life, Mandela cultivated the habit of being disciplined and consistent.


He constantly fought for humanitarian causes and the emancipation of lives. And he did it throughout his lifetime.


The end of apartheid was a massive milestone in seeing his dream come true. But because he was disciplined and consistent, Mandela didn’t fold his hands and rest when he accomplished his goal.


That was how he avoided complacency.


The truth is that when you’re disciplined and consistent, complacency won’t find a way to wobble in your life to ruin your success.

Lesson #8- Leaders Sacrifice For The Greater Good


“Only through hardship, sacrifice, and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.”


Mandela believed in sacrificing for the greater good. It’s why he willingly sacrificed his freedom, life of comfort, and many years of his life to achieve his goals.


He’s proof that you won’t have time for complacency if you’re ready to sacrifice for the greater good.

Lesson #9- Care for Your Community


Our communities play an important role in our lives. After all, they help shape our paths and mold us into the type of person we’ll eventually turn out to be.


Mandela understood how important communities are.


So much so that he had a fundamental concern for making his community a better place to live for everyone. And according to him, this would go a long way in making the world a better place for all.


By caring for others in your community, you’ll exude love and togetherness - virtues that promote growth and development. You’ll also feel a sense of responsibility and focus, which will banish complacency from your life.

Reject Complacency and Achieve Success

Nelson Mandela is acknowledged and respected all over the world for his valiant efforts in the liberation of South Africa. He was passionate, disciplined, and consistent in fighting for the oppressed.


Mandela’s experiences taught us a lot of lessons on how to avoid complacency so that we can be successful.


However, avoiding and overcoming complacency is easier said than done. The good news is that you don’t have to do it all by yourself.


Reach out to me and find out how my speaking services can help you build a stronger business that’s free from the dangers of complacency.


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