One Man’s Story of How He Met Nelson Mandela Through Synchronicity

In 1990, Steve Golberg met Nelson Mandela, one day after his release from prison. How? Synchronicity.

Whether they realize it or not, everyone has had their experiences with synchronicity. It’s just a matter of how they view it as to whether it carries any significance for them.

Simply put, synchronicity is the experience of coincidences that carry a deeper meaning. A term coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, many “believers” take synchronicity to be a proof of a conversation taking place between them and the universe at large, popping up as ‘sign-posts along the path’, pointing them in directions they only understand to be answers in the clear light of hindsight.

Skeptics, on the other hand, give them no credence whatsoever, ascribing them to being simple, albeit interesting, coincidences and nothing more.

Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans. Synchronicity is what happens when you are paying attention.

Synchronicities are a huge part of my life experience and, I believe, a significant part of what it means to live an “Upside” perspective. By “synchronicity”, I’m referring to what can happen when we practice the art of being open, alert, and curious within ourselves and towards our surroundings (in synch) so that we can observe and attract the people and opportunities into our lives that we might otherwise have ignored or missed.

I further believe that these unpredictable events are the result of unexplainable forces which can impact and influence the course of our lives in positive and meaningful ways.  For me, it’s about paying attention while staying open to and curious about the signs and signals around me. I have been rewarded abundantly in my life with this approach.

Previously I shared the story of how, through a series synchronistic events, I met Nelson Mandela in 1990 on the day after his release from prison. In my reflections over the years on the events of that amazing day, I am struck by how easily I could have missed it all.

These were some of the things that occurred behind the scenes:

  • I had initially planned on leaving Africa the day prior. My flight was canceled at the last minute and I had been given a re-routing option, but my inner voice told me not to travel that day and instead stay another day.
  • I called and even though the hotel was fully booked, I somehow managed to extend my stay. I had no idea that this was the same hotel that Mandela would be visiting.
  • I got back to my room exhausted from the airport ordeal and the toll of the heavy work schedule I had experienced in the preceding several weeks. I was so tired that I could have quite easily slept the rest of the night away. Instead, my instincts told me to go out, get some air, and do some exploring.
  • My curiosity was rewarded by arriving at the reception line forming to view Mandela walk the red carpet laid out in front of our hotel lobby.  If I hadn’t heeded my sense of curiosity, I would have missed the next wonderful opportunity as well: running into my long lost friends who were now working with Mandela.  They arranged to sneak me into the state dinner that evening and, later, meet him in person.

Experience has taught me time and again that, as John Lennon so eloquently put it, “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.” 

What’s often difficult to grasp, particularly during challenging times, is that there are always solutions and sources of unseen help ready to assist if/when we are receptive to them.

Source: “The mystery of synchronicity: rare events or are we rarely paying attention?“, from