“Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul”, wrote Emily Dickinson, but at this stage, if she wasn’t already long gone, I would tell her to go and jump in a lake.
Let’s call a spade a spade – this has been a terrible year.
So much so that I even caught myself feeling nostalgic for 2016, when we all sat around making sardonic memes, longing for the new year, and hoping that Donald Trump would grow bored of running for the US presidency and call it quits.
Back then, we believed that things could only get better going forward. Instead, just four years later we’re locked inside, dealing with a pandemic.
So, ‘hope’ seems a little silly right now. At the same time, it’s also necessary, and we probably shouldn’t let go of it just yet.
That’s what Richard Branson thinks.
The pandemic hasn’t been kind to him or his Virgin Empire, and he’s only now starting to claw back the money he lost.
Amidst it all, he told Inc. that hope for him came in the form of a book, written in 2010, that he believes everyone should be reading right now, and it has roots in South Africa.
Mandela’s Way, by former TIME editor Richard Stengel, boils down nearly three years of intimate conversations with Madiba into 15 essential life lessons.
Branson knew and worked with Mandela to create a leadership group called The Elders, among other humanitarian projects.
He said in an email that “2020 is the perfect year to pick up a book filled with optimism in the face of incredible adversity”.
“I saw the human side of Madiba and his joyous, infectious character. His optimism was relentless. As the world is going through times of enormous uncertainty, I feel we should all share Madiba’s sense of hope and optimism,” Branson says.
“I first picked it [the book] up because I find Madiba’s story incredibly uplifting and I wanted to learn more. He redefined what it meant to be a great leader. He taught the world about the power of forgiveness and the importance of treating everyone equally.”
He goes on to say that it’s a must-read for entrepreneurs looking to make their mark on the world.
“Reading about Mandela’s life will make you realize that the goal is always bigger than you and impossible is just a word,” he believes.
“I’ve never made business a separate category–the lessons you learn in your career can help you in other areas, and vice versa. It’s all living.”
Maybe it’s worth lining the shelves with something to take the edge off.
Literature does, after all, have a long history of helping people through tough times, so we might as well keep the faith.
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