Acres of Diamonds: All Good Things Are Possible, Right Where You Are, and Now!
by Russell H. Conwell
You may have to search a bit to find this classic, but the effort will certainly provide great dividends. While a new copy can easily be found online for as low as $5, it may very well be the greatest addition you’ll ever find to both your business and personal libraries. In my opinion, it should be required reading for every high school student in the nation.
I was first exposed to this masterpiece very early in my business career. I found it in the form of a very small booklet and must admit that the package was certainly a disservice to the wonderful gift I found within the covers of this classic. “Acres of Diamonds” was originally written and delivered as a speech and was considered by many to be one of the finest lectures ever written.
I’m continually amazed by the large numbers of people I come into contact with who have read and been inspired by this book at some point in their career. My amazement may very well stem from the fact that this inspiring story was written by an author who was born in 1843 and died in 1925. Russell H. Conwell was a lawyer, a Baptist minister, a decorated Civil War officer, and founder and first president of Temple University, which opened as a college for working people in 1884. For more than 60 years Conwell was active as a lecturer. Conwell personally delivered his “Acres of Diamonds” lecture over 6,000 times and earned over $4,000,000 doing so (about $200 million in today’s dollars).
I’ve re-read this captivating lecture, inspired by a true story with an ageless moral, many times over the years. This intriguing story reminds me very much of Dorothy in L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Only after a series of adventures far from Kansas did she realize that “there’s no place like home.” I also see correlations with the Disney Classic, Mary Poppins. Here we find a magic nanny who comes to work for a cold banker’s unhappy family. Mary opens the eyes of the banker and his wife as she helps them recognize their own “Acres of Diamonds.”
The story was about a farmer who lived in Africa and through a visitor became tremendously excited about looking for diamonds. Diamonds were already discovered in abundance on the African continent, and this farmer got so excited about the idea of millions of dollars worth of diamonds that he sold his farm to head out to the diamond mine. He wandered all over the continent, as the years slipped by, constantly searching for diamonds and wealth, which he never found. Eventually, he went completely broke and threw himself into a river and drowned.
Meanwhile, the new owner of his farm picked up an unusual looking rock about the size of a country egg and put it on his mantle as a sort of curiosity. A visitor stopped by and in viewing the rock practically went into terminal convulsions. He told the new owner of the farm that the funny looking rock on his mantle was about the biggest diamond that had ever been found. The new owner of the farm said, “Heck, the whole farm is covered with them”―and sure enough it was. The farm turned out to be the Kimberly Diamond Mine … the richest the world has ever known. The original farmer was literally standing on “Acres of Diamonds” until he sold his farm.
This book will not appeal to those who think that one’s own surroundings offer no advantages. Acres of Diamonds offers a multitude of lessons about the rewards of work, education, and finding the riches of life in one’s own back yard. There are a multitude of gems to mine from Russell Conwell’s words, no matter what your walk of life. Acres of Diamonds remains a significant—and inspirational—lesson about where the true riches of life may be found.
(This book review was originally published in 2008 as one of the Top 10 Books – Edition 17.)