Don’t Play Marbles with Diamonds


Almost 10 years ago, in the spring of 2009, I was working with an organization that took college students on leadership and service programs abroad. As I prepared the final message for our inaugural group in South Africa, I discovered and shared the following story. Ten years later, the message still resonates, and it’s one we all need to hear.

In 1985, Vance Havner wrote a book titled Playing Marbles with Diamonds. The title of the book emanates from a story that he heard about a traveler who had gone to a poor African village and witnessed an incredible sight. There was a large group of children who were gathered in a circle on the dusty ground playing a game of marbles. As the traveler moved closer, he saw something that absolutely astounded him. These children who had no material possessions were not actually playing the game with glass marbles—they were playing it with diamonds.

Can you imagine the world’s most precious gem—diamonds—being used in what is possibly the most common game that a child can play—marbles? These kids were kicking up dust, flicking diamonds into the air, trying to knock other diamonds out of a dusty circle. They, and obviously their parents, had no idea what they held in their hands.

What if these young children realized what they had in their possession? What if they understood that those tiny gems could change their lives? What if their communities knew the potential riches they held?

It seems crazy; doesn’t it? These children played with diamonds like they were glass. They treated something extraordinary as if it was ordinary. But the truth is that you and I do the same thing every single day.

Think about the experiences you’ve had, the opportunities you’ve been blessed with, and the potential you hold in your hands. It’s true that our diamonds may be different, but we each have extraordinary gifts, talents, experiences, and opportunities that we so casually treat as common, mundane, or ordinary. This is as crazy as playing marbles with diamonds.

If we would look through the right lens to see the power we possess in our experiences, opportunities, and gifts, how might that perspective change our lives, and even the lives of those around us?

You play marbles with diamonds when your greed exceeds your gratitude. When you focus more on what you don’t yet have, you’ll waste what you do have. In doing so, you squander opportunities and miss out on so much joy.

You play marbles with diamonds when you fail to turn your aspirations into achievements. If you have goals but fail to focus and work intentionally to achieve them, you might as well not even set them.

You are playing marbles with diamonds when you allow your memories to be bigger than your dreams. You can’t pursue a bright future if you’re heart is stuck in the past.

The truth is, most of you aren’t in danger of ruining your lives, you’re in danger of wasting them.

Don’t play marbles with diamonds. Take your experiences, opportunities, and gifts and use these precious gems to change your life and impact the lives of those around you.

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Today, business means more than just mere products and services. Your organization needs to stand for something. Branding is what you tell the world; leadership is how you make it come true.

No one knows this dynamic better than Kevin Paul Scott.

Companies turn to Kevin for advice on how to up the meaning-quotient in their businesses, so that employees and customers alike champion the business as if it were their own.

Let Kevin come and teach your group about how to build a business and communicate corporate values in a way that resonates with consumers.

His speeches include:
• Building a Business with Meaning
• Leading When the Majority is Wrong
• In Changing Times, Hold to Unchanging Principles
• The War for Talent: Recruiting and Retaining Top Tier Talent
• Essential Exchanges: What You Have to Give Up to Go Up