Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Acre of Diamond - Review of a Masterpiece

Acres of Diamond

Russell Conwell wrote a speech called Acres Of Diamonds, which he delivered over 6,000 times around the world; it was eventually published as delivered in Conwell's home town, Philadelphia.

The central idea of the work is that one need not look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement, or fortune -- the resources to achieve all good things are present in your own community.

This theme is developed by an introductory anecdote, told to Conwell by an Arab guide, about a man who wanted to find diamonds so badly that he sold his property and went off in futile search for them; the new owner of his home discovered that a rich diamond mine was located right there on the property. Conwell elaborates on the theme through examples of success, genius, service, or other virtues involving ordinary Americans contemporary to his audience: "dig in your own back-yard!".

Conwell's capacity to establish Temple University and his other civic projects largely derived from the income that he earned from this speech.

Acres of Diamonds:
At the heart of his lecture was a parable Conwell heard while traveling through present-day Iraq in 1870:

There was once a wealthy man named Ali Hafed who lived not far from the 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 about diamonds.

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.

Ali Hafed sold his farm, left his family, and traveled to Palestine and then to Europe searching for diamonds. He did not find them. His health and his wealth failed him. Dejected, he cast himself into the sea.

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. Digging produced more diamonds — acres of diamonds, in fact. This, according to the parable, was the discovery of the famed diamonds of Golconda.

The point, Conwell says, is that we often dream of fortunes to be made in faraway places. We ought instead to be open to the opportunities that are around us. He illustrates this concept with several other stories, including that of the discovery of gold in California.

Principles of Success:
How can we learn to discover these acres of diamonds in our own backyards?

Maintain a ready mind. Be open to the 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 commonplace objects.

Learn what people want, then give it to them. Discover a market, and then provide a good or a service. Too many people do this the other way around. They develop a good or a service and then try to market it, try to manufacture desire. You’ll have more success if you see a desire and then try to 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.

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 not over there 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 you.

Conwell says that inside each of us are the seeds of greatness. “Greatness … really consists in doing great deeds with little means and the accomplishment of vast purposes from the private ranks of life.”

I used to be one of those people who looked for diamonds in faraway places. I dreamed of doing something — I didn’t know what — until one day I found an opportunity that had been in front of me all the time: this site. Have you taken stock of your life lately? Perhaps there are diamonds

Toward the end of his life, Russell H. Conwell (1843-1925) observed, "I am astonished that so many people should care to hear this story over again. Indeed, this lecture has become a study in psychology; it often breaks all rules of oratory, departs from the precepts of rhetoric, and yet remains the most popular of any lecture I have delivered in the fifty-seven years of my public life. I have sometimes studied for a year upon a lecture and made careful research, and then presented the lecture just once -- never delivered it again. I put too much work on it. But this had no work on it -- thrown together perfectly at random, spoken offhand without any special preparation, and it succeeds when the thing we study, work over, adjust to a plan, is an entire failure." He then went on to explain to each audience that "acres of diamonds are to be found in this city, and you are to find them. Many have found them. And what man has done, man can do. [They are] are not in far-away mountains or in distant seas; they are in your own back yard if you will but dig for them." These comments provide an excellent introduction to Conwell's book. As I read it, I thought about 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." What Conwell has in mind involves far more than such appreciation, however. The tale he shares in this book, concerning a wealthy Persian named Ali Hafed, demonstrates that almost everything we may seek elsewhere is already in our lives and available to us, sitting just outside your back door.

THOUGH Russell H. Conwell's Acres of Diamonds have been spread all over the United States, time and care have made them more valuable, and now that they have been reset in black and white by their discoverer, they are to be laid in the hands of a multitude for their enrichment. In the same case with these gems there is a fascinating story of the Master Jeweler's life-work which splendidly illustrates the ultimate unit of power by showing what one man can do in one day and what one life is worth to the world. From the beginning of his career he has been a credible witness to the truth of the strong language of the New Testament Parable where it says, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, 'Remove hence to yonder place,' AND IT SHALL REMOVE AND NOTHING SHALL BE IMPOSSIBLE UNTO YOU. As a student, schoolmaster, lawyer, preacher, organizer, thinker and writer, lecturer, educator, diplomat, and leader of men, he made his mark on his city and state and the times in which he lived. A man dies, but his good work lives. His ideas, ideals, and enthusiasms have inspired tens of thousands of lives.It is my wish that you also are inspired by this story and set to find your own "Acres of Diamond".

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rebranding- The Nigerians' New Perspective

I applaud the recent move by the government through the Ministries of Information and Youth Development in rebranding Nigeria and launching us in a brand new way to the world. But more has to be done than just the rebranding strategy, that is, we have to rebrand not only Nigeria but the Nigerians as well. It has to be a wholesome and total exercise for a befitting achievement. It is not enough to tell the world,”Hey! Look, we are a new Nigeria” while the old Nigerians still dwell in the new Nigeria. It makes a mockery of what we are saying. We need more of the new Nigerians because they will ultimately translate into a new Nigeria.

It is damaging enough that some of are country men and women in diasporas are not representing us in the best way as our ambassadors. Let us take a little walk down where we started and to see the reasons for not just a brand new Nigeria but Nigerians as well. I was reading recently in NewAfrican (a monthly publication directed towards restoring the real image of Africa as against the appalling picture painted by the western media) about Neill Blomkamp’s movie, District 9, where Nigerians are portrayed as criminals terrorizing South Africans, getting involved in all forms of crimes ranging from drugs, women trafficking to armed robbery. I would not like to talk about it because I believe a lot have been said in that regards. But I may want to ask,” Was all that Neill produced wrong?” Believe it or not, most of our predecessors in that foreign land left a bad antecedent for the new migrants. Just like having the same old feelings about a bad uncle no matter how good the children turns to be. You still have reservations for them because of their father. Also the recent case of Faruk AbdulMutallab and the Christmas Eve bomb blast saga has yet added more salt to injury. The global world is now seeing Nigerians as terrorist. This could be confirmed by the recent harassing of Nigerian students in Yemen and other European countries alike or the disdain treatment of Nigerians at foreign immigration centre. Make a visit to any of the embassies and see what Nigeria wanting a greener pasture in foreign land pass through in the hands of the foreign immigration staffs. Just when it is like the Faruk’s news is dying down, another crisis in Jos where hundreds of people lost and is still losing their lives added to the latest smearing of Nigeria’s already devastated image. From terrorists to war tasty nation, always making the negative headlines. This perception of our beloved Nation as that full of terrorist or full of warring people is so disturbing and gets me sick to the guts that I was more than relieved when I heard Prof. Dora Akunyili in collaboration with some private sectors launching a campaign towards rebranding Nigeria.

In the light of this development, I would like to suggest that awareness should be made on the need for Nigerians to rebrand not only our nation but regenerate our attitudes- personal, business, religious and otherwise. Just like the popular Chinese proverb that says, “If everyone sweeps the front of his house, the entire community will be clean”. If only every Nigerian can learn to mean what they say and act on what they believe in, our nation will still be perceived as a terrorist or any other degrading adjective the outside world deems fit for us. It requires a wholesome over haul of the old Nigerians for the new Nigerians. The same people but with different character and of different breed. A total regeneration. A new people with a firm resolution to ‘uphold the honor and glory of Nigeria’. I know I am sounding like one of your priests or preacher in the church but that is the truth of the matter. No one can fail to notice the negative media popularity that Nigeria has. How this is affecting the economic growth of the nation even though our CBN governor does not agree with this fact. People are afraid of Nigerians. Just try chatting with people online and see their reactions when you tell them that you are a Nigerian. Even their sometimes polite way of declining further conversation with you would strike you that some thing is seriously wrong with the country. I have stopped complaining about the country and have since resolved to make a little change starting with myself and with people around me. Truth be told, the country is in a chaotic state morally and attitudinally. The house needs to be put in other and it has to be done individually and then collectively. That’s where we need to start from and every other thing follows suit. Accepting that we have a problem is the first step of solving it. It baffles me that people are ready to talk about how good other nations like America, Britain or other developed or even developing (like Kenya or even our neighbor Ghana, for those who would say that the Western countries have existed before us), their organization and sense of duty. It is only in Nigeria that the security guarding a community claims oblivion of an obvious crime while every other person reports that they are aware. Where public office holders have thrown accountability and integrity to the dogs and behave as lords over the masses they are to serve. Where there is a call for resignation of a public office holder that dares criticize the bad proceedings of the government he or she is serving. Where we have abundantly and still live in abject penury. A nation richly blessed with talents and human resource but lack human labour. Where our citizens win accolades and awards for outstanding performances but fail woefully in their own turf. Where credibility is despised and non accountability hailed. Where the most corrupt are put in charge of fight against corruption. I can go on and on but it is not the time to recount faults rather to offer solutions. We all know that the only way to get rid of the situation is by nipping it from the bud- from our individual lives. We are the only people to put our nation in order through self purgation of these vices that limit our growth. I always tell my friends when they do certain things and claim that it doesn’t matter that,  ” The society we all abuse today will take revenge on our future generations if we happen to escape the wrath”. No action of man will not be rewarded, if not now then later in life, maybe not directly but on his generations to come. It’s like a chain reaction where series of actions emanates from a single act whether good or bad alike.

So this vision of rebranding Nigeria should be welcomed by every Nigerian. In the wave of the recent happenings in the country, Nigerians whether at home or in diasporas, must endeavor to be good ambassadors of the country. Knowing that what ever decision we take today will determine the future of our wards and those yet to be born. Let us all join hands with the Ministries of Information and Youth Development and other sectors involved to relaunch Nigeria in a brand new way. Nigeria, Good People Great Nation.
Anthony Ikechukwu Odoh