Tene Wells has been my executive coach for the past two years and has taught me so much about reaching for big goals and being aware of the roadblocks that I set up for myself. This summer Tene traveled to South Africa on a Bush Fellowship and wrote the following account of her experience:
Last month, I traveled to South Africa to look out a window.
After a series of challenges in 2009, when I was fired, I questioned the trappings of my past successes and corporate security and decided it was time for me to do my soul work. I applied and received a Bush Fellowship. As I envisioned my new life I decided that one of my learning objectives would include a trip to South Africa to witness the sparks of a new economy. However, the bigger objective was to look out the window of Nelson Mandela’s jail cell.
Of all the people who transcended their circumstances, no one personifies this more than Nelson Mandela – the man, the leader, the father of South African democracy and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Mandela was given a life sentence in 1964 at the age of 44, for treason against the system of apartheid of the South African government. Apartheid was the system of racial segregation under which the rights of the majority, of Black inhabitants of South Africa, were brutality deprived of their citizenship and banished to live only in townships; enslaved in their homeland.
Held in solitary confinement with his “co-conspirators” on Robben Island for most of his imprisonment, Mandela looked out the window of his cell and manifested a new reality. Allowed only one visit a year, and permitted to receive and send a one-page letter every six months, Mandela said of this experience, “there I had time to just sit and think,” and in that time, he envisioned a different South Africa.
In the 1970s, when I was a young adult beginning my career for social and economic justice, I marched in anti-apartheid rallies and learned about Nelson Mandela, his vision and the movement he inspired from jail.
I was appalled by the system of apartheid and the imprisonment of Mandela. While the world marched and demanded change, Mandela turned what he called “a misfortune” into a personal triumph when he emerged from imprisonment in1990 and four years later became the President of South Africa.
For many people, the end of apartheid, Mandela’s release from prison and election as president in South Africa was a miracle. How and who controls the power, to manifest the miracle is sometimes debatable, but we can agree our intentions create our reality and the steps we take to manifest our intentions can change reality.
Several years ago, I adopted, Henry David Thoreau the American poet, philosopher, abolitionist, and leading transcendentalist’s mantra, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you have imagined.” Every morning I meditate with this mantra. In all of my speaking engagements and workshops, I start or end with Thoreau’s quote. Although I have experienced the power of this statement many times, somehow I am always amazed when what I have imagined, becomes reality.
I have heard many stories about Mandela’s predictions of the future and the methodical daily actions he took to manifest his vision. In some accounts, I read that he envisioned his presidency from the window of his cell. How did he know he had the power to defeat apartheid? What did he see out that window that guided his actions for those many years of isolation?
My trip to South Africa was phenomenal in many ways. Professionally, I studied the genesis of an evolving economy (the South African government is less than 20 years old). I saw a multitude of social enterprises, and heard several stories demonstrating the entrepreneurial spirit of the Black people, of South Africa. I will continue to study and plan to return to South Africa many times, but my first responsibility is to write about the miracle to manifest a new realty to overcome insurmountable circumstances.
My own struggles seem so trivial in the shadow of Nelson Mandela, yet the lesson he inspired in me has the power to change anyone’s circumstances. When I applied for the Bush Fellowship, I declared that I would travel to South Africa to look out Mandela’s window to see my own future. I made a vision board and prominently placed South Africa and a map of the country, on the board to represent my desire and waited for the universe to respond.
I want to become the Suze Orman for poor people. With a fellowship from the Bush Foundation, I now have the resources and time to learn new skills, write a book, and become a motivational speaker.
Read the rest here.