Every now and again I come across a little gem. This is Bill Clinton on the best advice he’s ever received:
I’ve gotten a lot of good advice and wish I’d taken more of it! I once asked Nelson Mandela whether, when he walked out of prison for the last time, he didn’t feel anger and hatred again for having all those years stolen. He said that, briefly, he did feel old demons rise up until he realized that if he held onto his hatred after his release, he would still be a prisoner: “I wanted to be free, and so I let it go.”
On another occasion, I asked him how he found the inner strength to do that. He said the long years of confinement had taken a terrible toll. He had been abused physically and emotionally. His marriage didn’t survive. He didn’t see his kids grow up. Then he said that one day “I realized they could take everything from me, except my mind and my heart. Those things I would have to give away. I decided not to give them away.” Then he looked at me, smiled, and said, “And neither should you.”
Mandela didn’t give someone else the permission to define his life, his worth, and his tomorrows. If you have lost a bunch of yesterdays, welcome to the human race. You still don’t have to give anybody your tomorrows. That’s advice we should all take to heart and try to follow. Even for Mandela it was sometimes easier to say than do, but with discipline and determination, he did it. So can the rest of us.
This interview originally appeared in the Huffington Post on Aug. 5, 2013.