What the Movie “Invictus” Teaches Us About Success

Self confidence is one of the keys to personal and professional success that is part of my Common Sense Success System.  I discuss it in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success, Your Success GPS, I Want YOU…To Succeed, Star Power and 42 Rules to Jumpstart your Professional Success

You can become self confident by doing three things.  First, choose optimism.  Believe in your heart of hearts that today will be better than yesterday, and that tomorrow will be better than today.  Second, face your fears and act.  Procrastination and inaction feed fear and rob you of self confidence.  Action cures fear.  Take responsibility for yourself and do something.  Third, surround yourself with positive people.  Don’t let the naysayers into your life.  Hang around with people who are positive about themselves, their careers and life in general.

I’m a retired rugby player.  I played my first game in 1968 at Penn State and my last in 2001 for the Colorado Ole’ Pokes.  I’m active in youth rugby and olde boys rugby here in Colorado.  I love the game, so I couldn’t wait to see the movie Invictus

Invictus is a book and a movie about the story of the South African victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  That victory is credited for healing many of the wounds caused by the apartheid years.  Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, consciously chose to support the Springboks – long seen as a symbol of white oppression in South Africa and hated by most of the country’s black population – as a rallying cry for national unity and putting aside the hate of the dehumanizing apartheid policy of the white South African government.  The team did not disappoint.  They won the World Cup in a memorable match against New Zealand, then the best rugby side in the world.

Morgan Freeman plays Mandela in the film.  Matt Damon plays Springbok Captain, Francois Pienaar.  I loved the movie – it was right up my alley – about two things I love to discuss: politics and sports.  It was a bonus that it was about my favorite sport, rugby football.  I actually saw that famous 1995 match on video two days after it happened.  As I watched it, I commented that Pienaar was a mad man on the pitch that day. He willed the South African team to victory. 

Cathy made my Christmas by giving me a copy of the book Invictus – originally published as Playing the Enemy.  I just finished reading it the other day.  Until I saw the movie and read the book, I had no idea that Mandela befriended Pienaar and convinced him that the 1995 Rugby World Cup was more than a game; it was a chance to help unify a deeply divided country.

And that brings me to the point of today’s post.  Nelson Mandela was supremely self confident and an optimist.  He believed that he could heal the wounds of oppression and unite a country through tolerance.  He also believed that sport – especially rugby — could play a big part in helping him achieve his goal.

There is an interesting quote on pages 252 and 253 of Invictus

“His (Mandela’s) secret weapon was that he assumed not only that he would like the people he met; he assumed also that they would like him.  That vast self confidence of his coupled with that frank confidence he had in others made for a combination that was as irresistible as it was disarming. 

“It was a weapon so powerful that it brought about a new kind of revolution…Conceiving of his revolution not primarily as the destruction of apartheid but, more enduringly, as the unification and reconciliation of all South Africans, Mandela broke the mold.”

It took a supremely self confident man to believe that he could erase years of hatred by embracing, rather than destroying his enemy.  It took a supremely self confident group of South African rugby players to believe that they could beat the best rugby side in the world.  Both Nelson Mandela and the Springboks proved the value of self confidence that day in 1995.  While unifying the country and winning the Rugby World Cup took a lot of hard work, both were accomplished by building on the foundation of self confidence and optimism.

Mandela and Pienaar were the embodiment of Helen Keller’s famous quote on optimism and self confidence, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

If you like sports and/or politics go to see Invictus.  If you’re really interested in the subject matter, pick up a copy of the book and read it.  Trust me, you will be inspired.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are self confident.  Self confident people are optimistic.  They face their fears and act.  They surround themselves with positive people.  The story told in the movie and book Invictus demonstrates the power of self confidence and optimism.  Nelson Mandela’s supreme self confidence allowed him to unify a nation when most thought that it was headed for a bloody civil war.  Francois Pienaar and the Springbok rugby side believed that they could defeat the best team in the world and win the Rugby World Cup for South Africa.  They did, when all of the experts predicted they would lose in a big way.  What’s your big hairy audacious goal for 2010?  Do you have the confidence that you will achieve it?  If you do, you are well on your way to success.

That’s my take on optimism, self confidence, success and Invictus.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  I’d like to hear from my rugby friends on this one.  As always, thanks for reading.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Jan Prinsloo says:

    Hi Bud,
    What a great article. I also played provincial rugby, and i always like to compare rugby with business. Rugby is a business and if you don’t perform we all know what happens. Sometimes i wonder why business people don’t learn from rugby lessons, and likewise why don’t rugby administrators learn from business people?.I always knew when running onto the field that i was the best in my position.You were confident.
    Thanks for this article, as always it makes a huge difference in my life.

  2. Thanks Jan:
    Maybe we’ll run into each other at a Golden Oldies event.
    I wasn’t always sure I was the best tight head prop on the pitch every time I played, but I knew that I would work harder than any one of the other 29 out there.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.