Have you ever heard the story, Acres of Diamonds, by Russell Conwell?
It’s a classic case of what I refer to as the number one source of stress in successful people’s lives.
As the story goes, an African farmer began to hear word of other farmers who had gotten rich discovering diamonds. This farmer became so excited that he sold his farm and went off on a wild expedition to find his own diamond mine.
Alas, he spent years searching in vain. He ran out of money, lost all hope, and threw himself in a river to drown.
But wait, there’s more.
Back on the old farmer’s land, the new owner stumbled across a small stream on his property one day. He noticed something shiny under the surface, reached down, and picked out a pretty stone. So pretty was it, that he put it above his fireplace for everyone to admire.
One day a visitor saw the stone and rushed over to examine it. His eyes nearly popped out of his head as held it in his hand.
“Do you know what this is?” he asked the farmer.
The farmer shook his head. He thought it was a worthless crystal.
The visitor was quick to correct him.
“This is one of the largest diamonds the world has ever seen!” the visitor said.
The farmer was surprised. It was not unusual to see many gems just like it in his creek.
It turned out that this farm was to become one of the biggest diamond mines in Africa. But pity the first farmer who had sold it, thinking his treasure lay elsewhere. He had sold his land for pennies on the dollar and sacrificed his life chasing the wealth he desired, only to have it hiding within reach at home.
The big lesson from this story is easy to see:
The first farmer didn’t bother to look at, or appreciate, what he had. He didn’t believe there could be any value in his farm, so he gave away everything in exchange for nothing. He didn’t bother to invest the time or energy in exploring his farm, and so he chased worthless dreams around the continent. He threw away his dreams because he refused to do the work that mattered.
Conwell’s story has had massive impact on millions of readers spanning generations because we all recognize this mistake in ourselves.
Due to our self-limiting beliefs (or simple ignorance) we often fail to recognize that what matters has been here all along.
This could refer to our relationships, our talents, or our opportunities. The old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” applies.
If we only had the wisdom and patience to do the work we could find happiness, success, and true wealth in what we already have.
But it’s human nature to believe the grass is greener on the other side, and to chase shiny objects in business and personal life, always looking for something better than what we have. Sometimes this pursuit is simply because we’ll do anything to avoiding doing the work that will bring us riches from our current resources.
It’s amazing how hard we’ll work and how much time we’ll waste to avoid doing the work that matters.
Acres of Diamonds is a warning. Before you chase another opportunity, before you dump one relationship for an exciting new one, stop and think. These greener pastures may not be what they seem. Perhaps it’s better if you give your own garden and stream a thorough investigation before you leave home.
I thought of this book recently when giving advice to one of my Perfect Life Workshop clients. He had significant and obvious problems to fix in his business, but instead of staying home and doing the work he was heading off to another motivational seminar.
“The Acres of Diamonds in your life are right here, right now, within your reach,” I told him. “The real riches in your life will come from fixing the hard, nitty gritty problems in your personal situation and business systems, not in attending motivational seminars or reading inspirational books / watching inspirational videos. Those things are fluff, and nutritionally devoid of real results.”
And I’m sure there are Acres of Diamonds in your life right now as well.
The problem is they’re buried in the mud, and you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves to get them. And even when you do, those gems will still likely require you to spend hours polishing them up.
This goes for personal relationships and professional opportunities. At work we need to dig deep into the problems that exist with our team members, our systems, and our schedule. And in our personal lives, we need to lean into difficult conversations, make the apologies, and overcome conflicts to polish the gems we already have.
These are all problems that don’t disappear from getting “pumped up” or inspired.
They only get fixed when you roll up your sleeves, spend time under the hood, and get your hands dirty.