After all, failure and success are cousins—and when we look hard and long enough, we will find acres of diamonds tucked inside the failures of our lives, just waiting for us to mine them. We can find great treasures that will carry us to success in ways that would never have been possible had it not been for the failures in our lives.
A Russell Cronwell story, shared in Top American Speeches of the 20th Century. It goes like this:
“When going down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers many years ago with a party of English travelers I found myself under the direction of an old Arab guide whom we hired up at Baghdad, and I have often thought how that guide resembled our barbers in certain mental characteristics. He thought that it was not only his duty to guide us down those rivers, and do what he was paid for doing, but to entertain us with stories curious and weird, ancient and modern strange, and familiar. Many of them I have forgotten, and I am glad I have, but there is one I shall never forget…
The old guide told me that there once lived not far from the River Indus an ancient Persian by the name of Ali Hafed. He said that Ali Hafed owned a very large farm; that he had orchards, grain-fields, and gardens; that he had money at interest and was a wealthy and contented man. One day there visited that old Persian farmer one of those ancient Buddhist priests, one of the wise men of the East. He sat down by the fire and told the old farmer how this old world of ours was made.
He said that this world was once a mere bank of fog, and that the Almighty thrust His finger into this bank of fog, and began slowly to move His finger around, increasing the speed until at last He whirled this bank of fog into a solid ball of fire. Then it went rolling through the universe, burning its way through other banks of fog, and condensed the moisture without, until it fell in floods of rain upon its hot surface, and cooled the outward crust. Then the internal fires bursting outward through the crust threw up the mountains and hills, the valleys, the plains and prairies of this wonderful world of ours. If this internal molten mass came bursting out and cooled very quickly, it became granite; less quickly copper, less quickly silver, less quickly gold, and, after gold, diamonds were made. Said the old priest, “A diamond is a congealed drop of sunlight.” Now that is literally scientifically true, that a diamond is an actual deposit of carbon from the sun.
The old priest told Ali Hafed that if he had one diamond the size of his thumb he could purchase the county, and if the had a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones through the influence of their great wealth. Ali Hafed heard all about diamonds, how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man. He had not lost anything, but he was poor because he was discontented, and discontented because he feared he was poor. He said, “I want a mine of diamonds,” and he lay awake all night. Early in the morning he sought out the priest. I know by experience that a priest is very cross when awakened early in the morning, and when he shook that old priest out of his dreams, Ali Hafed said to him:
“Will you tell me where I find diamonds?”
“Diamonds! What do you want with diamonds?”
“Why, I wish to be immensely rich.”
“Well, then, go along and find them. That is all you have to do; go and find them, and then you have them.”
“But I don’t know where to go.”
“Well, if you will find a river that runs through white sands, between high mountains, in those white sands you will always find diamonds.”
“I don’t believe there is any such river.”
“Oh yes, there are plenty of them. All you have to do is to go and find them, and then you have them.”
Said Ali Hafed, “I will go.”
So he sold his farm, collected his money, left his family in charge of a neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds. He began his search, very properly to my mind, at the Mountains of the Moon. Afterward he came around into Palestine, then wandered on into Europe, and at last when his money was all spent and he was in rags, wretchedness, and poverty, he stood on the shore of that bay at Barcelona, in Spain, when a great tidal wave came rolling in between the pillars of Hercules, and the poor, afflicted, suffering, dying man could not resist the awful temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again…
The man who purchased Ali Hafed’s farm one day led his camel into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose into the shallow water of that garden brook, Ali Hafed’s successor noticed a curious flash of light from the white sands of the stream. He pulled out a black stone having an eye of light reflecting all the hues of the rainbow. He took the pebble into the house and put it on the mantel which covers the central fires, and forgot all about it.
A few days later this same old priest came in to visit Ali Hafed’s successor, and the moment he opened that drawing-room door he saw that flash of light on the mantel, and he rushed up to it, and shouted:
“Here is a diamond! Has Ali Hafed returned?”
“Oh no, Ali Hafed has not returned, and that is not a diamond. That is nothing but a stone we found right out here in our own garden.”
“But,” said the priest, “I tell you I know a diamond when I see it. I know positively that is a diamond.”
Then together they rushed out into that old garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers, and lo! There came up other more beautiful and valuable gems then the first. “Thus,” said the guide to me, “was discovered the diamond-mine of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond-mine in all the history of mankind, excelling the Kimberly itself. The Kohinoor, and the Orloff of the crown jewels of England and Russia, the largest on earth, came from that mine.”
When that old Arab guide told me the second chapter of his story, he then took off his Turkish cap and swung it around in the air again to get my attention to the moral. Those Arab guides have morals to their stories, although they are not always moral. As he swung his hat, he said to me, “Had Ali Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar, or underneath his own wheat fields or in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, and death by suicide in a strange land, he would have had ‘acres of diamonds.’ For every acre of that old farm, yes, every shovelful, afterward revealed gems which since have decorated the crowns of monarchs.”
As you look at your own life—especially your failures—where are the diamonds? I hope you don’t go looking in someone else’s backyard for the answers that are right in you own!
For additional ideas about how understanding strengths can help you mine your own diamonds, download the first chapter of our book: Unlocking Strengths—Accelerating Performance, Energy, and Relationships.http://strengthsstrategy.com/download-book/.
You are also invited to register for our upcoming webinar: Eliminating Toxic Interactions, Increasing Performance on May 29, 2015 9:00 AM CDT at:https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/972024720252202241.