By: Chuck Frey
What creative lessons can you learn from one of the most compelling stories ever told? Plenty!
One of the most inspiring stories ever told, in my opinion, is Acres of Diamonds.
In the early 20th century, a Baptist preacher named Russell Conwell told this story over 6,000 times in speeches all over the world. This message was so compelling that Conwell raised enough money to found Temple University and to fund numerous civic projects in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This amazing story is all about developing an awareness of the opportunities that lie all around us – if only we would develop eyes to see them. The story goes something like this:
Al Hafed was a wealthy man who owned a large farm in south central India. He lived a very contented life, until an ancient Buddhist priest told him of the existence of diamonds, the world’s most valuable mineral. He became so obsessed with the idea of becoming incredibly wealthy by finding these precious gemstones that he sold his farm and traveled the world in search of them until had spent all of his money. Penniless and despondent, he finally drowned himself.
Meanwhile, back at Al Hafed’s property, the new owner took his camel to a garden brook to give it a drink of water. While the camel was drinking from the brook, he noticed a brightly-colored rock glinting in the water. He took it home with him, and placed it on his fireplace mantel. A few days later, the old Buddhist priest returned to the property. Seeing the colorful rock on the mantel, he recognized it as a large diamond in the rough.
Thus was discovered the diamond mine of Golconda, one of the most magnificent diamond mines in all the history of mankind. Golconda diamonds are well-known today as the highest quality gemstones in the world. Many of the world’s most famous diamonds, including the Hope diamond, are believed to be from the Golconda mine.
The US Coast Guard holds real-time pitch events that engage their workforce in the innovation process. Find out how they organize the event and how they recognize their innovators in this podcast interview.
The eye-opening lesson of Acres of Diamonds
The lesson of this story is simple: You don’t need not look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement or fortune. All of the opportunities you could possibly want can be found where you are now – in your present community, job, family and other circumstances. For best results, we need to dig in our own backyard, to find opportunities where we are now.
You may have heard the expression, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” We all dream of finding our success or fortune – somewhere else, in a different set of circumstances, in a different city, with a different job or a change in our marital status. When you get to the “other side of the fence,” you will probably discover that the grass wasn’t so green there after all. On the other hand, the opportunities we seek are probably closer than we think.
The relationship between problems and opportunities
Problems usually contain within them the seeds of opportunity. The reason that most people never see them is because no one has ever taught them how to look for them. You see, when they are pulled from the ground, diamonds don’t look like the brilliant, multi-faceted gems that we all know and love. They come disguised as rough-hewn, colorful rocks. It takes a trained eye to recognize them. In the same way, opportunities in come disguised in “work clothes” – as problems or challenges to be overcome. The average person sees only the problems, and quickly gives up. But small handful of entrepreneurial people push on through the challenges to identify and capitalize upon the opportunities they contain.
What should the wealthy farmer have done, instead of selling everything and traveling the world in search of diamonds? For starters, he should have invested some time and effort to learn what diamonds look like in their native form. He should have also learned in what types of geological formations they are typically found. These two steps would have helped him to vastly increase the odds of finding the fortunes he sought. The wealthy farmer is like most people today, who either see insurmountable problems and stay where they are now, in quiet desperation, or run off trying to find new opportunities without any idea what they are looking for.
You already own a diamond mine – learn how to mine it!
What’s remarkable is that you already own a priceless diamond mine. Before you dismiss me as a fool, consider this: Between your ears, you already own, free and clear, the most powerful problem-solving, visualization and creativity tool ever devised – your relentlessly creative brain. The problem is that our society, education and conditioning have caused the creative muscles of your brain to atrophy. But like any muscle, your brain can be developed.
How can you recognize opportunities more readily? By training yourself in the art and practice of creative problem solving and ideation. A great primer to help you to do that is my new e-book, Creativity Hacks, which I wrote in order to energize people like you to use their latent creative energies to solve the challenges in their lives. This book not only destroys the myth that creativity is inborn, but also shows specific techniques that you can use to generate ideas, solve problems and, above all, to cultivate the richness that only a creative life can provide.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to learn how to dig for diamonds in your own back yard!
About the author
Chuck Frey Senior Editor, founded InnovationTools.com and served as its publisher from its launch in 2002 until the partnership with Innovation Management in 2012. He is the publisher of The Mind Mapping Software Blog, the definitive souce for news, trends, tips and best practices for visual mapping tools. A journalist by trade, Chuck has over 14 years of experience in online marketing, and over 10 years experience in business-to-business public relations. His interests include creative problem solving, visual thinking, photography, business strategy and technology. His unique combination of experience and influences enables him to envision new possibilities and opportunities.