There is a fable told by Russell Conwell in his book, Acres of Diamonds, that we do not need to look far for opportunity and success. The story is one Conwell heard by an Arab guide when he was visiting the middle east.  The protagonist within the story was a  landowner named Ali Hafed-a wealthy and happy man in ancient Persia.

One day Hafed met a Buddhist priest who sat with him by a fireside to discuss the wisdom of our world. The priest went on to explain that the most precious and valuable thing created by the almighty are diamonds. “A diamond is a concealed drop of sunlight,” said the old priest. He told Ali that even with one diamond the size of his thumb, he could purchase the entire county.  And if he had a mine full of diamonds, he could place his “children upon thrones.”  That night Ali Hafed went to bed no longer a wealthy man; instead, he was now a poor man— even though he had not lost any of his wealth.  “I want a mine of diamonds,” he thought to himself as he laid in bed.

So the next day, Ali Hafed decided to start his quest for diamonds.  He sold his land, collected his money, and left his family.

He traveled throughout the world to look for diamonds. He ended up spending all of his money, and by the time he was in Spain, he was completely broke, in rags, dejected without friends or family.  One day while on a beach in Barcelona, a tidal wave came rolling in.  Ali–starving and weak– was swept under by the tide.  He was never seen again.

Back home one day, the man whom Ali Hafed had sold his land to stopped with his camel to take a drink in a shallow garden on his newly obtained land.  In the dirt, he noticed a black stone with cracks of light reflecting off of it. Picking up this stone, he would later find out that it was indeed a diamond stone. After realizing this, the man rushed back to that spot to dig some more.  Lo and behold, the new landowner discovered a mine full of diamonds on the land that Ali Hafed had sold to him.

The moral from this story is that you may be standing right on top of the acres of diamonds.  Instead of trying to search far and wide, Russel Conwell’s point was that if we were to more carefully examine what is literally right under our nose and around us, we can find our “diamonds”.

But if you think deeper, a more significant point can be seen that doesn’t relate to actual diamonds or even money, rather the things that are of the highest value in our lives. Before you look to see where are your “diamonds,” ask yourself what do you consider as “diamonds” in the first place?  And how do we know what are our “diamonds”– the things that are of highest values in our life?  There is no single formula or a singular way to find the answer.   The question may very well have very different answers between many of us. For some, it may be a difficult question to answer at a granular level.

Our answer though requires significant self-reflection and developing skills in self-awareness. For some, it may take some deep soul-searching to gain this wisdom.  This is partly because all of us have been immensely influenced in our life by our cultures and families on what values are most important.  I would argue that if you accept the values given to you by others without much deep thought, you risk leading a false life.  Much like Ali Hafed, you may even go searching for years somewhere afar for your diamonds but never find them. Or you may see that what you thought are “diamonds” were not really something of great value to you.  I am not saying that we should ignore the influences from our cultures and families–I think there is much wisdom to be gained from them–but instead of blindly accepting them, we should carefully examine them to make sure we know the values that are truly our “diamonds.”

If you continue to find yourself stuck in this thought exercise, maybe reading my last blog post on the essential elements of well-being can help with some ideas for common themes to a more meaningful and enriching life. Unlike Ali Hafed, you may realize that your acres of diamonds may very well be right here in your home, place of work, or somewhere within your community.




I am a gynecologic oncologist, a husband, and a father. My blog is mostly about our healthcare system and well-being, but occasionally I get inspired to write about other "stuff" too.

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