The World's Most Valuable Diamond

copyright 1997, Rex Ballard

Sometimes, success doesn't look the way we think it should. Here is the story that shows us something about the opportunities we overlook every day.

The Fortune Hunter

About a century ago, in southern Africa, a young farmer began to hear stories from other people in the area about people discovering diamond mines. He decided to sell his farm, the farm he had grown up in, and all that he owned, and set out to find the glistening gems that would make him rich and famous.

Eventually, after several years of searching, his fortune gone, his spirits low, and never once finding anything that even look a little bit like a diamond, he threw himself in a fit of dispondancy. The river swept him away and he was never seen again.

The Farmer's Mantle

Actually, back at the farm, the man who had purchased the farm was herding an ox across a small creek bed. As he was bending over, tired of pushing the ox, he saw a large rock. He thought it was pretty, so he took it home and put it on the mantle of his fireplace where it sat for several years.

One day, the farmer was entertaining a visitor, the friend of his neigbor's. When the visitor noticed the stone on the mantle, he picked it up, and asked the farmer where he found it. The farmer said he found it in the creek bed, and asked the man if he would like one, there were plenty of them in the creek.

The visitor then explained to the farmer that the stone on his mantle was a diamond. It turned out that this stone, which the farmer had thought to be nothing more than a pretty rock, was actually one of the largest diamonds ever found. Furthermore, as they explored the creek, and the land around it, it turned out that the farm was actually to become one of the largest and most successful diamond mines in the world.

The Teacher

This would have been an interesting enough story, but eventually it was told to a priest who had been asked by some of the local people if he would teach their children. The priest began to speak to some other people and soon he began to build a school. To raise funds, he would tell the story of the man who had sold his farm to find his fortune, only to have his farm be his fortune. Eventually, he raised enough to build a great university especially for the young people who couldn't afford it - Temple University.

Temple University became a place of radical transformation. Young, poor, "uncut diamonds", entered the University, completed their cirriculum, and became leaders, doctors, lawyers, and scientists. Graduates of Temple University have become leaders in their respected fields.

The Leader of Leaders

Eventually, the story of the uncut diamond became a key lesson the teachings of Ernest Nightengale, and was later taught in many colleges, universities, and "success programs". The story challenged people to see the "uncut diamonds", uncut diamonds like the Micro-Computer, the Personal Computer, the Internet, the World Wide Web, General Public License (GPL) software, Open Source, Linux, and technologies which even today appear only as "diamonds in the rough".

What is the true value of that one stone, completely overlooked for the Fortune Hunter's lifetime, treated as a mere Mantle Decoration by the farmer, discoverd by the diamond miner, used to raise charity by the teacher, taught by tape to thousands, and taught by the students to millions. What was the value to those who heard the story, and then saw the first MITS Altair, with it's big clunky box and awkward switches. What was the value to those who saw the first Apple, in it's wooden case, the vacuum tubes of it's 4" monitor showing out the back? What was the value to the people who saw the Internet with it's college students, porno discussion groups, and techno-geeks trying to forge the uncut diamond (UNIX) created by Kernigan and Ritchie into the world's largest global network, available to nearly 1/2 billion people world-wide?

There are replica's of the diamond in several museums. It was never cut, and it's almost the size of a football. In the estimation of the fortune hunter, only interested in finding a cut, polished, finished stone, complete with 87 facets, the stone wasn't even worth the effort of picking up to examine. But the men who told that story created a legacy that has led to 4 $1 trillion industries, including broadcast radio, network television, the personal computer, and the world wide web. And who is to say that the story of the "Temple Diamond" didn't inspire franchises, supermarkets, k-marts, and outlet stores.

Today, as you walk through your life, as you read the pages, and you talk to people, ask yourself "How many uncut diamonds am I stepping over today?".

E-Mail Address: reballar@us.ibm.com

Rex Ballard has a complete biography.