Let the four diamonds sparkle: kindness, love, forgiveness, and gratitude.
When I was ten, I got this crazy idea that diamonds were hidden inside hard coal. I told my two cousins about it, and we figured that anthracite coal held the most promise because it was so hard. And, we were in luck because we lived in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania, and its hard coal was all around us, including the basement.
We scrambled down to the coal cellar, grabbed a lump of it, and started whaling away with hammers. Our hands turned black as well as our faces, the thighs of our jeans, and our hair as we wiped away the sweat.
We hammered and hammered, chattering about how no one else knew about these diamonds and we could be the first, and how rich we’d be.
My aunt came home from working at JC Penney’s and heard our racket through the kitchen floor. We looked up, and there she stood. She stared down at us, as our pounding ceased.
“What the hell’s going on?” she said. We told her about the diamonds. “If you think coal holds diamonds, then the damn furnace should be filled with them by now.”
My cousins and I stared at each other and slumped back on our heels. Disappointment settled in as we realized that our get-rich-quick scheme was doomed.
That day with the hammer in my hand, banging away looking for riches is what I did during the recent five years when I slid from one personal disaster to the next — divorce, business failure, bankruptcy, and another failed relationship.
It began after the divorce when my focus turned external: money, appearance, hunting recognition. But when things start going the other way, we pick up the hammer and whale on others as anger and frustration build within ourselves. And as we bang away, life starts throwing rocks back, and before you know it, life is beating the hell out of you.
I had been fortunate during my years of working in medical devices to earn a high income. I made enough for boarding schools and private colleges for two kids; and enough to build a beautiful 5,000 square foot, stone craftsman-style home in the Boulder area. And enough to be thinking about retirement at age 55.
But after the divorce, I didn’t have as much, and I had years of alimony to pay. I needed one more startup ‘hit’ to take care of the ex and my next life. So, money and payouts became my focus. Time became a focus — it had to get done within three years. Being recognized as a top entrepreneur in Boston was important for fundraising. And keeping my youthful look helped in the world of entrepreneurship and for the younger woman who had become a committed partner.
I repeated affirmations that my company sold for $100 million; I was the best startup guy in Boston. I was the best this or the best that. And that was my fatal mistake. It was fatal because I lost the sparkle I once carried within.
Many people don’t believe it when I say that throughout my career, I never thought about money. Ever. I never dreamed of owning a big house or becoming an entrepreneur or orchestrating multi-million dollar deals.
What I wanted was whatever I needed at the time for whatever it was I wanted, like paying for pre-school, dance classes, gymnastics, clothes, food, and shelter.
As I went along in life, money appeared. It was like, “Wow, a ten thousand dollar bonus. I didn’t realize I hit that sales number. Thanks.” Then later it was, “Five-hundred grand from that? Really?”
You may call me lucky, and I’m sure a part was luck, but it happened for thirty out of the thirty-five years of my career. They weren’t Zuckerberg-like home runs, but plenty of doubles and triples. In the right place at the right time. I was choosing the right CEO to work for and selecting the people I wanted to work for me. All of it was always in front of me, and choosing was easy.
My affirmations back then were: I am kind. I am loving. I am forgiving. I am thankful.
I named them the four diamonds.
I learned to internalize kindness, love, forgiveness, and gratitude by reading Wayne Dyer’s books, beginning with Your Erroneous Zones and Pulling Your Own Strings, and through Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and Paul Coelho and others.
My meditation exercise was Herbert Benson’s The Relaxation Response. I would lay flat on the floor, do the relaxation technique, and feel my body sink into the carpet with my mind focused on ocean swells and waves (that was my visualization). Then, once relaxed and in the zone, I envisioned where I was going that day and who I was going to see.
I’d imagine myself extending kindness in some way — maybe it was a compliment or taking the time to listen to someone finish a story — or extending gratitude. I played out make-believe scenes in my head. The vision and the feeling eventually became so intense that my chest filled with heat and flowed through my limbs. And I sensed the diamonds radiating from within.
My journey with Wayne Dyer and others began when I was overcoming a severe speech impediment at age twenty-two. And on that journey, I came to understand that experiencing humiliation and intense embarrassment over my speech block also came from within me. Those around me didn’t inflict it.
Every morning, when I’d leave home and look around, I saw embarrassment and humiliation everywhere. I avoided any situation that involved talking to people I didn’t know, which would explain why I made only three friends during college. And considering that I was at Penn State with 40,000 other kids, that could be a reason for embarrassment.
Once I began projecting kindness; kindness looked back — the same with the other diamonds of love, forgiveness, and gratitude. Embarrassment and humiliation faded and then disappeared.
As a sales rep, the day I walked into a hospital with those diamonds sparkling, life began changing. Bad luck turned into good. Humiliation became jubilation. And I went from the worst territory in the country to salesman of the year.
Yes, we need goals and objectives. You can’t become a writer without putting your butt in the chair and writing hundreds of words every day. And you can’t achieve sales success if you don’t understand the number of required sales calls. And, yes, wouldn’t it be great to drive a Mercedes?
As for me, I need to keep working on writing new posts, but that requires new topic ideas and learning the ability to write faster. I need separate focused time to work on my fiction novel. I need two hours a day with my dog (he’s active and clingy).
I was driving a few hours a day for Uber to cover the budget, but now I’m headed for spinal fusion surgery. So, yeah, I need to keep writing new posts, did I already say that? I go to bed at 10:00 p.m. and rise at 4:30 a.m. Barkley (my dog) thinks I’m crazy. I got his leash out this morning, and he crawled under the bed and slept to 6:30.
I have all the right objectives in place and know the steps to get there. But I can’t achieve goals and overcome frustrations with a hammer and think that I’ll discover diamonds if I hit whoever or whatever hard enough. There will always be external things that we can’t control. A big one may be what if Medium tanks and shuts its doors? A hammer won’t help with that one.
Over the past forty years, I’ve learned that when I’m living in a diamond-sparkling state of kindness, love, forgiveness, and gratitude, God or the Universe opened a new path whenever a change was forced upon me.
I found when you lean into life radiating diamonds; life leans into you with the same.
Whenever I find myself wavering and ready to pick up a hammer and bang away at those around me and the world, I find the photo of my cousins and me when we were little — the future diamond hunters.
And every time I hold it, I see us banging on coal, and I laugh, and I feel the brotherhood and the love that has radiated for a lifetime.
Put down the hammer guys. We already have the diamonds.