THE BLOG
12/17/2013 11:45 am ET Updated Feb 16, 2014

Change One Thing and Everything Changes: Mandela's Lesson

'Tis the season of resolutions. We all want to change something in our lives. The numbers suggest this is not so easy.

I had the good fortune to be in South Africa when Nelson Mandela passed away. I say good fortune because it totally transformed my thinking about change. One could not escape the man. A constant stream of Mandela's image and voice filled every radio, every screen, and every home with his message. Mandela was on everyone's lips and on everyone's minds.

And something magical happened. Thing's changed. People changed. I changed.

Everyone seemed to make eye contact and smile in passing. More doors seemed to be held, more patience behind the wheel, more assistance offered for a multitude of little things. Everyone seemed enlarged, elevated, more filled with love than fear. I will call this the Mandela Effect.

It is easy to get lost in Mandela's extraordinary accomplishments. Born in a country that didn't permit him to use the "White's toilet" much less vote, he became its president. After 27 years of degrading imprisonment he emerged not only free of rage and resentment but filled with compassion and committed to peaceful change. With the country on the brink of civil war, he intervened and averted a blood bath.

But perhaps his greatest gift was the Mandela Effect. As I see it, this has two distinct parts.

The first has to do with introspection. It is impossible to listen to Mandela's words and not ask yourself, "How well am I doing? Am I living my beliefs? Do my choices reflect who I want to be? Can I change? Can I do better?"

The second piece of the Mandela Effect is incredibly simple. It is an emphatic "yes" to the question, "Can I do better?" His greatness, both the humility and the power, were infectious. He, who could so easily seem impossible to emulate, sent an unspoken message that yes, we all have the potential for great things. He seemed to extend his hand to help you climb up to a better version of yourself.

Mandela demonstrated the most important element of successful change. Faith. Who would have believed that he could possibly accomplish what he did? Mandela believed, but not only in himself. He embodied the African concept of ubuntu, which says I am because we are. He had faith that people were basically good, no matter how misguided and fearful. He befriended his jailors. He embraced the apartheid leaders who fought for his death sentence.

Without faith, change is doomed, faith that we can be better, faith that no one is diminished by our progress but rather emboldened by our growth, faith that the world will be a better place if we are better people, faith that we will not be dropped because we've found our voice.

So as we approach the season of resolutions, remember, faith first. Believe you can change. Remember Mandela. Remember ubuntu and that you are not alone. Then almost anything can happen.

Thank you, Tata Madiba