Former civil war officer and Baptist minister Russell H. Conwell was once asked to mentor seven young students who couldn’t afford college tuition. This led to his delivery of 6,152 lectures in what became a worldwide tour and the creation of his famous book, “Acres of Diamonds.” The funds generated by the book and his lectures allowed him to found Temple University, and has provided education for thousands of struggling youth.
The gist of Conwell’s famous message is that you and I are currently surrounded by opportunity. We’re sitting on our own acres of diamonds. But like the man in his story, we usually wander elsewhere in search of it.
Conwell would prove his concept by spending a few days in each city before his lectures, researching local opportunities. Then he’d fill his speeches with stories about opportunities here and now.
Attitudes toward opportunity are illustrated in the familiar “Opportunity is Nowhere,” vs. “Opportunity is Now Here” statements. They use the same letters in the same order, but the space between “now” and “here” makes all the difference. Which statement describes the views in your shop?
People tend to embrace the attitudes around them. If the leader has a limited mindset — “all work and no play,” “just do the job,” “things are tough and then you die. Get over it” — then the team will be likewise uninspired.
But when someone takes the lead and starts each day with gratitude — “Look at this! Another beautiful opportunity to help people today!” — then people smile more often, find more meaning in their jobs, and discover opportunities that others don’t notice.
In the “Acres” story, Conwell tells of a man in India named Ali Hafed. One day he welcomed a traveler to his home who told great stories of the wealth that came to those who discovered diamonds. The story so captivated Hafed that he sold his farm and traveled the world, desperately seeking to discover diamonds.
Then one day, the traveler returned to the farm and spoke to the new owner. He asked about a large decorative stone that the farmer had placed on the mantle above his fireplace. The farmer replied, “It’s just an interesting stone that I placed there for decoration. There are lots of them all over the farm.”
As it turns out, the stone was a diamond, but neither the farmer nor Ali Hafed knew what diamonds looked like in their rough state. Before they’re cut, diamonds don’t look like diamonds. The farm in the story referred to what we know today as the Golconda Diamond Mines.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about these mines: Out of 38 diamond mines of India, 23 were located in the Golconda Sultanate, making it the ‘Diamond Capital’ of the past. It was considered a point of pride by any ruler to be the owner of one of the Golconda Diamonds. The top four pink diamonds of the world are from Golconda.
Where are your diamonds? Perhaps they’re hidden among your employees who have untapped potential? Or dormant among your former customers who seldom hear from you anymore? Could they be waiting among your friends and colleagues who could refer business to you, and you to them? Is there a stash of diamonds in the added services that you could easily offer, or in the technology that you’re barely using at all?
It’s been proven that the most reliable source of good, future employees is the referrals to acquaintances of your current employees and customers. Have you looked for diamonds (talent) there? Do people know that you’re always seeking talented people to join your team? Do your customers know that you consider them precious assets, and that you’re eager to be of further service to them and their families, companies, and friends?
Maybe today would be a good day to start roaming your “farm” and looking for diamonds in their rough state. A bit of polishing and expert cutting might just produce a beautiful gem.
Jim Cathcart is a strategic advisor to ATRA and a valued contributor to GEARS. You can schedule him as a speaker or acquire his many books by simply visiting Cathcart.com or searching for “Jim Cathcart” online.