ACRES OF DIAMOND
By Russell H Conwell
Russell H Conwell is an American orator, philanthropist, lawyer and writer (1843-1925)
–Read India Initiative—
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‘Acres of Diamond’ is a distinguished book by Russell Conwell. Reason why he is referred as a penniless millionaire? His appropriate findings will change you adequately to seek new opportunities. To find true wealth right in your backyard. The same principles had even transformed Russel Conwell into one of the most charitable millionaires of his time. I’m sure the book will also revolutionise your life as you read the timeless homilies contained in those rich pages. It is divided in chapters.
CHAPTER 1: There was once a wealthy man by the name Ali Hafed who lived not far from river Indus. ‘He was contented because he was wealthy and wealthy because he was contented.’ One day a priest visited Ali Hafed and told him all about diamonds. Ali Hafed patiently heard him. Including how much they were worth, and went to his bed at night as a poor man. He had not lost anything. Yet he was poor because he was discontented, and discontented because he feared he was poor. And as an aftermath, Ali Hafed sold his farm. Left his family and travelled to Palastine and then to Europe in search of diamonds. But he could not find them.
In the meanwhile both his health and wealth failed him. Dejected, he cast himself into the sea and died. One day. The man who had purchased Ali Hafed’s farm found a curious sparkling stone in a stream that cut through his land. It was a diamond. He got excited and started digging and that produced more diamonds—acres of diamonds. This according to the parable was the discovery of the famed diamonds of Golconda.
So, are you among those who look for diamonds in faraway places? Is the grass really green on the other side and not this side? And, is there an opportunity that has been in front of your eyes all this while? Have you taken stock of your life of late? Perhaps, there are diamonds sitting just outside your backdoor. Now I’m not suggesting. You physically go and start digging your backyard, as the story says. But yes you can find ‘acres of diamonds’ in your backyard too.
Each of us, are in the middle of our own ‘acres of diamonds.’ If only we could visualise it, and focus on the ground we are standing on. Before, charging off, to greener pastures elsewhere. Opportunity does not just come along. It is there all the time. We just have to notice it. In life when we go searching for ‘something’ we should know what that ‘something’ looks like. How it smells and tastes like, so that we can recognize it, when we find it. Before we give up what we already have, make sure what we’re getting is better than what we already have.
Holy Bible does not say, ‘Money is the root cause of all evil.’ Conwell rejects the common belief that in order to be pious or virtuous one must be poor. He insists that, ‘Ninety-percent out of hundred rich men of America are honest.’ To attain wealth is a noble thing because, ‘you can do more good with it than you could do without it.’
A student challenges Conwell, when he is certain that the scriptures state, ‘Money is the root of all evils.’
‘Go out … into the chapel and get the bible and show me the page.’ Conwell tells him.’ The young man returns with the Bible. Turns the pages and reads: ‘The love of money is the root cause of all evil.’
‘Not money, but the love for money is evil. That man who hugs the dollar until the eagle squeals has in him the root of all evil.’ Conwell says.
In order to be successful in business, get to know your customers well. Conwell challenges business owners who insist that they cannot get rich in their own town. He asks them about their neighbours. Where are they from? What do they do in their spare time? What do they want and what do they need?
To the man who does not care about the answers, he replies: ‘If you had cared about him, your neighbour. Taken interest in his affairs, to find out what he needed, you would have been rich.’
It is criminal not to make profit on what you sell. The overly pious insist that it is sinful to profit on a transaction. Conwell replies, ‘you cannot trust a man with your money. Who, cannot take care of his own.’ You have no right to injure your own business for charity. In order to serve your own community and customers you need to be a strong and stable institution yourself. You are no good to anyone if you cannot take care of yourself.
To inherit a great amount is a curse. To be born with plenty and therefore be without the drive to make something out of your own efforts is a handicap. He pities the children of the wealthy. They will never know the best of things in life. ‘One of the best things in our life is when a young man has earned his own living.’ Much better than money is to leave your children with education, a noble character, a wide circle of friends and an honourable name. Quite regularly he rebukes those who believe, capital is a must to become rich. He responds with a story about a man who began whittling toys from firewood, and by observing what his own children wanted, he became a millionaire.
‘How fortunate that young man is who loses the first time he gambles.’ Failure is the best teacher. To make a risky move and lose, teaches one to act with more caution and wisdom. He tells the tale of a man. Who spends half of his tiny amount of money, on things no one wants. After that he searches, until he has found a demand then commits his capital to supplying that on this principle. The man turned 62.5 cents into 40 million dollars.
Success comes to the observant. Conwell details the story of John Jacob Astor who was renting out a store to bonnet (hat) makers who could not pay their rent bills. Astor started a partnership with the same people in the same store. He went across the street, sat on a park bench and watched the women walk by. When he saw one walking with a confident posture and a smile on her face, he took note of her bonnet, asked them to make more just like it and put them in the store’s window. They could not make a single bonnet until Astor told them what to make. The store blossomed to success thereafter.
Truly speaking great people never appear great. The greatest of people are plain, straightforward, earnest, sober and even practical. You’d never know how great they are until you see them doing something. Their neighbours never see greatness in them. They call them by their first names and treat them the same no matter what heights they reach.
The author remembers the time he met Abraham Lincoln, just days before his death. Initially he was intimidated by the importance of him. But quickly he was put at ease by the ordinary, comfortable farmer like quality of the president.
Apply yourself wholeheartedly, to the task, till it is complete. Was the other lesson Conwell learnt from Lincoln: ‘Whatever he had to do at all, he put his whole mind in it and held it all there until that was all done.’ Once, when, Conwell was taken to the President’s office for a meeting. Lincoln was inundated with official papers. And he remained in that limbo for sometime while Conwell anxiously waited. Then he tied up his documents and focused fully on his guest: ‘I am a very busy man and have only a few minutes to spare. Now tell me in the fewest of words what is it you want?’
When their business was concluded, Lincoln gave a crisp ‘good morning’ and went on to the next set of papers. Conwell excused himself.
An office will not make you great. ‘You think you are going to be made great by an office. But remember that if you are not great before you get the office, you won’t be great when you secure it.’ An elected official is the representative of great people and therefore can only be as great as his constituents. Conwell says, when too many great people get elected to an office, we will have the makings of an empire, rather than democracy. Title and position is no replacement for character.
The truly great people go about their daily business with honour and integrity. Whereas, the proud and egotistical man, ‘is nothing but a puffed up balloon held down by his big feet.’
So the challenge is. In a nutshell how can you find acres of diamonds in your own backyard? For that maintain a ready mind. Be open to possibilities around you. Don’t let preconceived notions cloud your judgment. We often overlook the value of something because we believe we already know it.
Look at the familiar in new ways. Conwell lists some important inventions—the snap button, the cotton gin, the mowing machine—and notes that these were created by everyday people who found new approaches and new uses for common place objects.
Explore what people want. Then give it to them. Discover a market, and then provide a product or a service. Too many people do this the other way round. They develop a product or a service and then try to market it. Try to manufacture desire. You’ll have more success if you have desire and then try and meet it.
Knowledge is more important than capital. Lack of capital is a common excuse for not starting a business venture. How often have you heard, ‘you need money to make money.’ Nonsense, says Conwell. He gives anecdotes of wealthy people who started with nothing but an idea.
He further says. Don’t put yourself down and don’t belittle your environment. Don’t compare yourself with others. ‘Believe in the great opportunities that are right here and not in New York or Boston, but here for business, for everything that is worth living for on earth. There was never an opportunity greater. Find the best in what’s around.’
Synopsis by Kamlesh Tripathi
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