executive coach

Finding your Acres of Diamonds

Russell Herman Conwell, born in 1843, was someone who had a profound effect on the lives of millions of people. He was a lawyer, a newspaper editor and a clergyman. During his church career, an incident occurred that was to change his life and the lives of countless others.

“One day, a group of young people came to Dr. Conwell at his church and asked him if he would be willing to instruct them in college courses. They all wanted a college education but lacked the money to pay for it.

After they left, an idea began to form in Dr. Conwell’s mind and he decided to create a school for poor but deserving young people.

Almost singlehandedly, Dr. Conwell raised several million dollars with which he founded Temple University, today one of the country’s leading schools. He raised the money by giving more than 6,000 lectures all over the country, and in each one of them, he told a story called “Acres of Diamonds”. It was a true story that had affected him very deeply, and it had the same effect on his audiences.”  *

From my personal experience, having spent time living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (let’s called it DRC for short) as a telecoms executive, I was flown to Mbuji-Mayi (pronounced: Bugee-My). You could only fly to this city because of the war torn devastation, erosion and apathy from the government to develop infrastructure.

I now believe Dr. Conwell was referring to Mbuji-Mayi in his story. This city was filled with traders surviving by selling on a daily basis drinkable water in plastic bags, exchanging US dollars for local currency or selling pre-paid mobile charge cards (my employer’s cards) and yes digging for diamonds since it’s a recognized diamond mining area.
I’ve met many people like the ones in Dr. Conwell’s story – perhaps you have as well.

“The story was the account of a farmer from Mbuji-Mayi who had heard tales about other farmers who had made millions by discovering diamond mines. These tales so excited the farmer that he decided to sell his farm and go prospecting for diamonds as well. So after selling the farm he spent the rest of his life wandering the DRC, searching unsuccessfully for the magic gems that brought such high prices on the markets of the world. Finally, the story goes, worn-out and in a fit of despondency, he threw himself into a river and drowned.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, the man who had bought the farm happened to be crossing the small stream on the property. Suddenly, there was a bright flash of blue and red light from the stream’s bottom. He bent down, picked up the stone-it was a good-sized stone and, admiring it, later put it on his fireplace mantel, as an interesting curiosity.

Several weeks later, a visitor to his home picked up the stone, looked closely at it, held it in his hand-and nearly fainted. He asked the farmer if he knew what he’d found. When the farmer said no, that he’d thought it was a piece of crystal, the visitor told him he’d found one of the largest diamonds ever discovered. The farmer had trouble believing that. He told the man that his creek was full of such stones-not as large, perhaps, as the one on the mantel, but they were sprinkled generously throughout the creek bottom!

Needless to say, the farm the first farmer had sold so that he might find a diamond mine turned out to be the most productive diamond mine in the entire DRC. The first farmer had owned, free and clear, acres of diamonds, but he had sold them for practically nothing in order to look for them elsewhere.

The moral is clear: If only the first farmer had taken the time to study and prepare himself to learn what diamonds looked like in their rough state-and, since he had already owned a piece of the African continent, to thoroughly explore the property he had before looking elsewhere, all of his wildest dreams would have come true.
The thing about this story that so profoundly affected Dr. Conwell, and, subsequently, millions of others, was the idea that each of us is, at this moment, standing in the middle of his or her own acres of diamonds.”  *

How many times do we become envious of others for their seeming ‘instant fame’ or ‘luck’ or ‘getting the good breaks’?
Are we envious to a point of being obsessed, and completely overlooking our ‘Power sources’ such as our strengths, values, skills, inspiration, mindset and self-belief? We all have these powers sources, sometimes we just forget that we do.
It’s easy to see the greatness in others without spending the time to explore ours – this is all too common.

We struggle to emulate others yet we should be spending more time on how to better ourselves, not repeat a Monkey See, Monkey Do approach.

“By having the wisdom and patience to intelligently and diligently explore the work in which we are now engaged, to explore ourselves, we’ll usually find the riches we seek, whether they be financial or intangible or both.”  *

Coaching people has taught me what I call finding your ‘Zone’ or ‘area of greatness’. That zone sits in the common between two basic questions:
1. What is it you are good at?
2. What do you enjoy doing?

One of my bosses called Jim told me once, “Paul find the intersection of what you are good at and what you like to do and you will become deadly”. Jim was right.

It took me 24 years to find ‘my Zone’.

OK, I was a good (not great) sales rep, a decent Sales Manager; an effective Marketing Director, a responsible executive but I was not excelling at these jobs.

Finding my Zone for me was akin to finding a diamond in the rough. About 15 years ago I had heard about ‘Coaching’ and thought to myself…hum that would be fun; again not paying attention to this rough diamond.
Then about 8 years ago I rediscovered coaching. I took some training and now I do this full time.

The benefits of finding my Zone? Well Coaching isn’t work for me. I don’t get tired; I’m not stressed and I get tremendous gratification when I coach people hence, it’s not work.

My professional experience – the good, the bad and the ugly are now anchors for me to relate and guide others. The real ugly moments in my career serve as detours and potential pitfalls to discuss with my clients.

People now tell me I’ve transformed them. How’s that for a compliment!
I’m not better, smarter or craftier than anyone else. I just found my Zone; my Acre of Diamonds and it was sitting in between my ears…not between someone else’s ears, property or business.

Everyone can do the same. It may take 24 hours to find it, 24 months or like me 24 years. But hear me out: You can and will find your zone.
The goal is to keep looking and avoid envy in others. We’re all different and we all have different power sources. Really, when you think about it, it’s virtually impossible to be like someone else when we have varying levels of skills, values and mindsets.

I now know, that after accumulating 32 years of work experience there are few things more sad than the person who wastes his life running from one thing to another, forever looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and never staying with one thing long enough to find it.

No matter what your goal may be, perhaps the road to it can be found in the very thing you’re now doing. Maybe you just don’t know that it’s right in front of you.

Your mind is your richest resource. You own it ‘free and clear”. No one can take it away from you and only you are in complete control to feed your mind, to ‘sharpen the saw’ as Stephen R. Covey would say.

You are free to nurture and cultivate your mind as you see fit. It you read, learn daily and train yourself, the mind gets shaper. If you coast, the mind gets lethargic.

I remember getting some sage advice 20 years in Canada from a fellow entrepreneur who reiterated what’s been said above. He told me:
“Paul, if you love raising rabbits and you want to become the country’s largest rabbit farmer, then do it! Go for it; become a rabbit farm benchmark.”

It’s not sexy; it’s not high tech but if it really turns you on and you have a skill for it, then that becomes Your Zone.
Earle Nightingale once wrote that “the human race is much like a convoy of ships in time of war; the whole fleet is slowed down to protect the slowest ships.

And human beings march slowly on en masse, unmindful of the diamonds beneath their feet. To become diamond miners, the first thing we need to do is to break away from the crowd, and quit assuming that because people in the millions are living that way, it must be the best way. It’s not the best way; it’s the average way. The people going the best way are way out in front.

They’re so far ahead of the crowd, you can’t even see their dust anymore. They’re the people who live and work on the leading edge, the cutting edge. And they mark the way for all the rest.

You and I have a choice to make, really. It takes imagination, curious imagination, to see diamonds in their rough state as cut and polished gemstones.”  *

There’s great fun in finding diamonds hiding in ourselves and in our work.
The interesting part is discovering that those Acres of Diamonds were always there in front of you.

*Source: Earle Nightingale, American Speaker and Author Lead the Field