For the past two days, we have given thought to treasure and what gives it it’s value. We have looked at three of five things that make treasure valuable: origin, scarcity, and cost of discovery. Today we will complete the three-day series with a look at the role of brilliance and the audience play in ascribing value to treasure.
It is a likely assumption that most men shop for a diamond once in their life and jewelers in your typical mall outlet know this. They can spot the look of the deer in the headlights all the way to the food court. Once they lure you in they have one shot to impress you with the brilliance of their stones. Everything about most jewelry stores is staged for brilliance right down to the dress of the sales staff. One of the first tactics they might employ to the unlearned but slightly interested is to offer an education in the 4 Cs of Diamonds. Then they pull out the rings and display them under a bright light just to show you what clear rocks they have.
Aside from scarcity and clever sales schemes, part of the value of a treasure is its intrinsic brilliance, not just in the shiny sense of the word but possessing some quality of attraction such as skillful craftsmanship or dynamic usefulness. Perhaps it has a history so intriguing that it stirs emotions long after its inception.
For spring break of 2016, Kate and I took the boys for a visit to my brother, Toby, sister-in-law Kim, plus daughters and their growing families in Pennsylvania. On the drive back to South Carolina we made a planned stopover in Washington, D.C.. In two days, we must have walked 10 miles seeing every monument we could. Eventually, we made our way to the National Archives Building to see the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. We got in queue and winded our way through the velvet ropes. If the line is of any length, as it was this day, you get in line in a brightly lit hallway and make your way through to the dimly lit Rotunda. We had a wonderful conversation with the boys as we went about the gravity of these two documents in all of world history. With respect to readers outside the U.S., there has never been a country that comes close in comparison on nearly any level. Much of that is owed to the framers of these two documents and the choices they made at their pivotal moment in world history. They could have gone in so many other directions, but they chose the freedom of the individual over all else.
As you get closer, a docent instructs you in how to proceed when your turn comes to view the documents. Even with all the conversation and instruction, I was fully unprepared for the surge of emotions that washed over me when I gazed at the Declaration of Independence. These were real people who put it all on the line by signing this document. They had no guarantee of success, and some paid dearly for their association with this very piece of paper. When they put a quill to this paper it became the epicenter at the fault line of freedom and tyranny that still trembles today. Brilliant!
However, not everyone in the room was feeling the same tremors as I was. In fact, many just seemed content to take a peek and get on with their day. Thousands see these documents daily, but not all are the proper audience to understand them for the treasure they are. It takes the right audience to assign the worth due to treasure.
The Golkanda diamond mine would not exist today if it were up to the land owner who succeeded Ali Hafed. It took the wiser eye of the Buddhist priests to recognize the rock on his mantel as a precious stone. Remember Conrad Reed and his father John? They used the nice “yellow” 16-pound rock as a doorstop for three years until he decided to show it to a silversmith who had no idea what it was. Reed finally found a jeweler who saw it for what it was. Even when Reed knew he had gold, he was still clueless about its value and was ripped off by the jeweler who paid him $3.50 for it and sold it for $3,600. Reed got schooled, as they say, and fortunately found plenty more gold.
The Wittelsbach-Graff diamond has always been of great value but it was only worth a fourth of its current $80M value until 2008 despite having been used in both the Austrian and Bavarian Crown jewel sets. In a controversial move, Graff had the diamond cut by three diamond cutters to remove flaws (see the before-and-after difference HERE), but, in so doing, he extracted more worth than even royal families could provide and elevated the diamond from famous to legendary.
One of the most addictive shows on U.S. public television is “Antiques Road Show”. The premise of the entire show is that ordinary people may have extraordinarily valuable items. They just need the right audience, the expertly trained eyes, to tell them what their item is worth. Every episode has a story of someone who paid little to nothing for a belonging and finds out it is worth a fortune. (You can see the 10 most valuable HERE.)
As leaders, we ought to be developing an expertly trained eye for spotting non-physical treasures in others. Flattery and charm have their momentary usefulness. I never watch the Late Late Show with James Corden (actually, just had to look up his name). I caught a snippet of the show last night. That guy is a masterful flatterer. He makes people feel like rock stars (of course, some of his guests ARE rock stars). Watch him sometime and see how he connects with people. He is in his role for a reason. It’s easier to love popular people who already have credibility in their favor.
However, have you ever stopped to realize that you think you are better than other people? You do and so do I. I am not talking about discernment. Many smart people have made themselves very stupid from an over indulgence of the political correctness Kool-Aid. It sickens me sometimes to hear the ridiculous excuses offered for the bad behavior of our heroes or those we rush to slap a badge of victimhood on just so they don’t squeal.
I’m not talking about honestly labeling blatant irresponsibility. I mean that we think of people in a way that says,
“You are not worth my time.”
That is the culture of many businesses. There is nothing more soul-crushing than working for a boss, a company, or an organization that sees zero value in you as a person and employee. There is a tremendous amount of insecurity in some businesses (and families) and it shows in dishonorable actions, un-celebrated victories, a hyper-focus on “what is going wrong”, or complete disregard or lack of recognition for all but a few elite.
That is not the life of a conscious leader. Think about how rewarding it is to spot something of worth in another person they may not even see themselves or quit believing in a long time ago. Creating a culture of honor is a skill anyone can master. It takes development and self-training. It requires a level of thought and reflection that is higher than that of blame and mass consciousness. It takes intention and it is most effective when it is authentic. We might not admit it publicly but we like to be flattered. We can also smell BS. Saying meaningful things that shows someone you cherish them is uncommon but it has transformative power.
Be a treasure hunter. Take some time to dwell on the treasures others possess. Stop using the excuse that you are not good with words. I promise you someone near you desperately needs to know they matter. Give them some thought and tell them one thing about them you notice that no one else has ever said to them. If you don’t get the response you expected, I’ll give you back all the money you paid for this message.
PS – The Life Leaders GPS has lessons set up to give you a simple framework to honor the key relationships of your life. Don’t wait for the funeral to express the value that others bring to your life.