Dr Russell Conwell once went on a trip along the Tigris River in present day Iraq, using a guide hired in Baghdad who would take him out to the Persian Gulf. These river guides were like barbers in that they liked to talk, but the story this one told, Conwell insists, is easily verified.
There was a man, Al Hafed, who lived on the banks of the River Indus who had a nice farm with orchards and gardens, excess cash, a beautiful wife and children. He was 'wealthy because he was contented'. Then an old priest visited him and one night related how the world was made, including the formation of all the rocks, the earth, the precious metals and stones. He told the farmer that if he had a few diamonds he could have not just one farm, but many. The farmer listened. Suddenly, he wasn't that happy with what he had thus far acquired in life.
He sold up and went travelling in search of diamonds, across Persia, Palestine and into Europe. A couple of years later, what money he had was gone, and he was wandering around in rags. When a large wave came in from the sea, he was happily swept under by it.
The man who had bought the farmer's land was another story. One day, watering his animals in the stream that ran through the property, he noticed a glint in the watery sands. It was a diamond. In fact, it was one of the richest diamond finds in history; the mines of Golconda would yield not just one or two but acres of diamonds.
Open your mind
In this tiny book, which is actually a transcript of a hugely popular lecture that he gave, Conwell relates similar true life stories about the folly of going off to find your fortune when it is in your own backyard or just staring you in the face. He suggests that most people are 'pygmies of their possible selves', because they are not willing to accept, or it did not occur to them, that they have great untouched powers: "Families do not credit their own folks with abilities they attribute to other persons. Towns and cities are cursed because their own people talk them down", he says.
Conwell's message is that we shouldn't fall for the trap of thinking that all the great people and the great businesses are somewhere else. Consider that Henry Ford started designing and building his car on his own farm and built the famous Ford production line factories in the same area where he had grown up. There was nothing special about Dearborn, Michigan - he made it special, without ever leaving his own backyard. Warren Buffett, the great investor, decided against moving his family to Wall Street. He stayed in Omaha, Nebraska and made his billions there.
The discovery of true service
Conwell's other theme is that great service is basic to prosperity.
He tells of the financier John Jacob Astor the elder, who had to suddenly go into partnership in a millinery store because the owners could not keep up mortgage payments. What did he do to get this business on its feet? He would go into the park and quietly watch the women strolling along, particularly the most confident and elegant, and take careful note of the hats they were sporting. Back in the store, he had these hats copied exactly. The result was that the store never made a hat or bonnet that a lady didn't like, and it boomed. Left behind was the idea that 'we make hats and try to sell them', to be replaced by 'what women want, we sell'.
From such basic service erupts great success, in this case a store that even in the 19th century made seventeen million dollars. You may think you have already considered it, but ask again: what do people want?
The problem with most people, Conwell says, is that their wealth is 'too near'. You need to develop an open mind to spot the obvious. This will never happen if you are continually speeding off to the next opportunity, looking for a greener pasture. Genuine service is simple, but it may only occur to you what this is when your mind has been quieted. Without finding some quiet time to yourself you will not be able to see the wood for the trees. Leave time for meditation and contemplation, and answers will come.
Another way to start is by thinking about what you need. Chances are, if you need something, others will too. The woman who invented the snap button, first used in gloves, made her fortune this way. Conwell emphasises that "It is the open-mindedness to little things that brings human success." The greatest minds think in simple terms, and the greatest people, Conwell says, are always straightforward.
You can't succeed if you have no interest in people and their needs. In Conwell's words, you must make yourself necessary to the world. What all great people have in common is that they make themselves a 'medium' for good, they make the best goods and provide them to the largest number. This, not taking money at a till, is service.
Acres of Diamonds might seem from another era, but Conwell was one of the original American motivational speakers and his talk can still inspire. It costs next to nothing to buy, can be read in about half an hour, and every so often you may like to be reminded of its two lessons:
So simple, but so useful to remember.
Praise for 50 Success Classics:
"This incredible book gives you the best of success literature ever written - in one easy book that you can read and reread for years.”
Brian Tracy, author of
Goals and Million Dollar Habits
|"A highly readable collection! 50 Success Classics presents a smorgasbord of some of the best thinking on what success really means.”|
Kenneth Blanchard, co-author of
The One Minute Manager
|"I can't imagine needing any other success book after reading 50 Success Classics. It has every piece of wisdom you'll every need to make your life extraordinary.”|
Cheryl Richardson, author of
"Many thanks for 50 Success Classics...and for the inclusion of so many impressive and well-known success authors. Many of their works I have studied, enjoyed and learned from. It is a delight to see them all included in one volume, in which one can be exposed to numerous success ideas so conveniently. I shall be recommending this book to my readers worldwide.
Catherine Ponder, author of The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity
|"I only wish this book had been available years ago - it could have saved me countless hours sifting through the dross by instead pointing me to the really inspirational works. Very highly recommended.”|
Vice-President of The Speakers Association
After the war Conwell studied at Albany Law School and practised law, but later went to work as a reporter for the Boston Evening Traveller. He travelled around the world for another journal, the American Traveller, and was 27 when he travelled down the Tigris river. His wife died when he was still in his twenties.
In his third career, in 1882 Conwell was invited to become pastor of a newly built Baptist church in Philadelphia. He would serve in this role for 43 years, also becoming a popular lecturer on the Lyceum and other circuits and writing a number of books. Easily his most popular lecture was 'Acres of Diamonds', which he gave over five thousand times and earned him, it is said, a million dollars. With the money he founded Temple University in Philadelphia. He died in 1925.
--- parameterHolder: symfony/default: action: show edit: false module: sfSimpleCMS slug: acres-of-diamonds attributeHolder: symfony/default: culture: en
--- app_sfAssetsLibrary_upload_dir: media app_sf_guard_plugin_remember_key_expiration_age: 259200 mod_sfsimplecms_enabled: 1 mod_sfsimplecms_is_internal: mod_sfsimplecms_view_class: sfPHP propel_behavior_actasnestedset_sfSimpleCMSPage_columns: left: sf_simple_cms_page.TREE_LEFT right: sf_simple_cms_page.TREE_RIGHT parent: sf_simple_cms_page.TREE_PARENT scope: sf_simple_cms_page.TOPIC_ID sf_admin_web_dir: /sf/sf_admin sf_app: frontend sf_app_config_dir: /var/www/cms/apps/frontend/config sf_app_config_dir_name: config sf_app_dir: /var/www/cms/apps/frontend sf_app_i18n_dir: /var/www/cms/apps/frontend/i18n sf_app_i18n_dir_name: i18n sf_app_lib_dir: /var/www/cms/apps/frontend/lib sf_app_lib_dir_name: lib sf_app_module_action_dir_name: actions sf_app_module_config_dir_name: config sf_app_module_dir: /var/www/cms/apps/frontend/modules sf_app_module_dir_name: modules sf_app_module_i18n_dir_name: i18n sf_app_module_lib_dir_name: lib sf_app_module_template_dir_name: templates sf_app_module_validate_dir_name: validate sf_app_module_view_dir_name: views sf_app_template_dir: /var/www/cms/apps/frontend/templates sf_app_template_dir_name: templates sf_apps_dir_name: apps sf_autoloading_functions: sf_available: 1 sf_base_cache_dir: /var/www/cms/cache/frontend sf_bin_dir: /var/www/cms/batch sf_bin_dir_name: batch sf_cache: sf_cache_dir: /var/www/cms/cache/frontend/prod sf_cache_dir_name: cache sf_calendar_web_dir: /sf/calendar sf_charset: utf-8 sf_check_lock: sf_check_symfony_version: sf_compressed: sf_config_cache_dir: /var/www/cms/cache/frontend/prod/config sf_config_dir: /var/www/cms/config sf_config_dir_name: config sf_data_dir: /var/www/cms/data sf_data_dir_name: data sf_debug: sf_default_action: index sf_default_module: default sf_doc_dir: /var/www/cms/data/doc sf_doc_dir_name: doc sf_enabled_modules: - default - sfGuardAuth - sfSimpleCMS sf_environment: prod sf_error_404_action: error404 sf_error_404_module: default sf_error_reporting: 341 sf_escaping_method: ESC_ENTITIES sf_escaping_strategy: bc sf_etag: 1 sf_i18n: sf_i18n_cache_dir: /var/www/cms/cache/frontend/prod/i18n sf_in_bootstrap: 1 sf_lib_dir: /var/www/cms/lib sf_lib_dir_name: lib sf_log_dir: /var/www/cms/log sf_log_dir_name: log sf_logging_enabled: sf_logging_history: 10 sf_logging_level: err sf_logging_period: 7 sf_logging_purge: sf_logging_rotate: 1 sf_login_action: signin sf_login_module: sfGuardAuth sf_max_forwards: 5 sf_model_dir_name: model sf_model_lib_dir: /var/www/cms/lib/model sf_module_cache_dir: /var/www/cms/cache/frontend/prod/modules sf_module_disabled_action: disabled sf_module_disabled_module: default sf_no_script_name: 1 sf_orm: propel sf_path_info_array: SERVER sf_path_info_key: PATH_INFO sf_plugins_dir: /var/www/cms/plugins sf_plugins_dir_name: plugins sf_prototype_web_dir: /sf/prototype sf_rich_text_js_dir: js/tiny_mce sf_root_cache_dir: /var/www/cms/cache sf_root_dir: /var/www/cms sf_routing_defaults: sf_culture: en sf_secure_action: secure sf_secure_module: sfGuardAuth sf_standard_helpers: - Partial - Cache - Form sf_strip_comments: 1 sf_suffix: . sf_symfony_data_dir: /var/www/cms/config/../data/symfony sf_symfony_lib_dir: /var/www/cms/config/../lib/symfony sf_template_cache_dir: /var/www/cms/cache/frontend/prod/template sf_test: sf_test_cache_dir: /var/www/cms/cache/frontend/prod/test sf_test_dir: /var/www/cms/test sf_test_dir_name: test sf_timeout: 1800 sf_unavailable_action: unavailable sf_unavailable_module: default sf_upload_dir: /var/www/cms/web/uploads sf_upload_dir_name: uploads sf_url_format: PATH sf_use_database: 1 sf_use_flash: 1 sf_use_process_cache: 1 sf_use_security: 1 sf_validation_error_class: form_error sf_validation_error_id_prefix: error_for_ sf_validation_error_prefix: ↓ sf_validation_error_suffix: ↓ sf_web_debug: 1 sf_web_debug_web_dir: /sf/sf_web_debug sf_web_dir: /var/www/cms/web sf_web_dir_name: web
--- cookie: env: files: get: post: server: CONTEXT_DOCUMENT_ROOT: /var/www/cms/web CONTEXT_PREFIX: DOCUMENT_ROOT: /var/www/cms/web GATEWAY_INTERFACE: CGI/1.1 HTTP_ACCEPT: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING: x-gzip, gzip, deflate HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE: en-us,en-gb,en;q=0.7,*;q=0.3 HTTP_HOST: www.butler-bowdon.com HTTP_USER_AGENT: CCBot/2.0 (http://commoncrawl.org/faq/) PATH: /usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin PHP_SELF: /index.php QUERY_STRING: REDIRECT_STATUS: 200 REDIRECT_URL: /acres-of-diamonds REMOTE_ADDR: 188.8.131.52 REMOTE_PORT: 41302 REQUEST_METHOD: GET REQUEST_SCHEME: http REQUEST_TIME: 1438161940 REQUEST_TIME_FLOAT: 1438161940.235 REQUEST_URI: /acres-of-diamonds SCRIPT_FILENAME: /var/www/cms/web/index.php SCRIPT_NAME: /index.php SERVER_ADDR: 184.108.40.206 SERVER_ADMIN: [no address given] SERVER_NAME: www.butler-bowdon.com SERVER_PORT: 80 SERVER_PROTOCOL: HTTP/1.0 SERVER_SIGNATURE: | <address>Apache/2.4.7 (Ubuntu) Server at www.butler-bowdon.com Port 80</address> SERVER_SOFTWARE: Apache/2.4.7 (Ubuntu) session: lang: home
--- php: 5.5.9-1ubuntu4.5 os: Linux butler-bowdon 3.13.0-37-generic #64-Ubuntu SMP Mon Sep 22 21:28:38 UTC 2014 x86_64 extensions: - Core - date - ereg - libxml - openssl - pcre - zlib - bcmath - bz2 - calendar - ctype - dba - dom - hash - fileinfo - filter - ftp - gettext - SPL - iconv - mbstring - session - posix - Reflection - standard - shmop - SimpleXML - soap - sockets - Phar - exif - sysvmsg - sysvsem - sysvshm - tokenizer - wddx - xml - xmlreader - xmlwriter - zip - apache2handler - PDO - json - mysql - mysqli - pdo_mysql - readline - mhash - Zend OPcache