Acres of Diamonds
A lot of people are familiar with the subject of my blog today, but for some reason I felt compelled to talk about it. It may be my incessant longing for the warm climates of California or Florida, instead of the Chicago winters. Or maybe it was listening to U2 sing I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Whatever it was, it just felt right today to talk about Acres of Diamonds.
That’s the name of a book and a lecture written by Russell Conwell. Conwell was born in first half of the 19th century and lived until 1925. Most people on the east coast know him as the founder of Temple University in Philadelphia. By his own account, Conwell gave the lecture, Acres of Diamonds, more than 6,000 times. That’s a lot of engagements, and its a good thing. I’ve read the lecture at least ten times, and I can’t imagine how many times it must have taken to memorize it.
Conwell loved the city of Philadelphia, and read narrowly, his lecture was about finding success and prosperity in his home town. That is, Conwell believed there was an abundance of opportunity in the city of brotherly love, sufficient enough that one should not have to chase dreams of fame and fortune elsewhere. His famous quote was “dig in your own backyard”.
Conwell started his lecture with a story told to him in 1870, while he was traveling in the middle east as a correspondent for the New York Times. Conwell had hired a guide to to explore the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. During a trip down one of the rivers, the guide told the story of Al Haphid, a Persian farmer who was wealthy and happy, apparently possessed of hefty land holdings and a contented family. One day, Al Haphid was told of great wealth to be made in Europe from the discovery and mining of diamonds. He dreamed so vividly of greater and greater wealth, that the very next day he turned over operations of his farm to another and left his family in search of diamonds.
Of course, and by now, you know Al Haphid found no such thing. He toiled and toiled and spent all of his money, wealth and health, until finally he was so utterly beaten, depressed and downtrodden that he flung himself into the Thames river, never to be heard from again. Now I could have said he died, but Conwell elegantly used the words “never to rise in this life again”. So “died” just seemed kind of cheap.
One day, Al Haphid’s successor—the man who purchased his farm in India, was out by a stream and found what he thought was an unimpressive rock. The rock turned out be a diamond, a huge diamond. As it would turn out, this farm would come to be known as the Galconda diamond mines, the greatest in the history of the world. This mine produced the Orlov of Russia and the Koohinor of England—the most magnificent crown jewels in the world. If only Al Haphid had dug in his own yard instead of traipsing around the globe, he would have had acres of diamonds. Conwell always finished this story by pointing out you can find success, riches and satisfaction right where you are.
Now there is nothing wrong with trying to achieve and to lift up your station by exploring new places and ideas. But today, Mr. Conwell made me think. And he made me remember. Sometimes, we all need that.
I guess today I will look a little closer at all the wealth I have right here. I will look closer at my family and my health and I will look closer inside. I will look closer at what I have right here. Wow, I do have acres of diamonds.