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A diamond with a flaw is better than a common stone that is perfect.

- Chinese proverb

I hasten to mention that this article is not about minerals. The quote refers to

Having said that, the part of the quote about the "common stone that is perfect"
is extremely difficult to explain. I sort of painted myself into a corner, huh?

No, the common stone that is perfect refers to a person who is not recognized for
any outstanding or clearly well-developed or superior characteristics. It's the
observer that is the object of this part of the quote, not the observed one.

A person who is not recognized for his or her strengths or good deeds will likely
have low self esteem. Either that or he will become a bully or an arrogant boor,
though these are in the minority compared to the people with low self esteem.

But surely there are few diamonds among us, given that by definition the diamond
is rare. Wrong again. Each person is a potential diamond, but only if the observer
is looking for diamonds, not common stones.

Taken on their own, the strengths that each person has are treasures that most of
us don't have. Each person has at least one strength or talent that most people
they know would envy if they were aware of it. Of course that wouldn't happen if a
person has not worked hard enough to develop that skill or talent.

We don't need to consider the weaknesses of a person in order to be able to

appreciate that person's strengths or talents. Unless their weaknesses impinge on
us badly, we should not consider them of great value (in a negative sense).
Consider the strengths and the weaknesses will pale in comparison in most people.

How does a person learn what their strengths are? In most cases, strengths or
talents are not genetic. Musical parents may raise a musical child, but the child
may have developed an interest in music in the womb and learned musical skills so
early that they seemed like the child was naturally talented. Then hard work made
extraordinary skill seem like a natural talent.

In other words, we can practise those skills or characteristics that we want to

have as strengths to the point where we are better at them than most other people.
A characteristic such as kindness is appreciated by most people and is one that
can be developed by anyone, no matter what gifts or deficits they were born with.
Should you believe that kindness is not an important characteristic, listen to a
few eulogies at funeral services.

Most Olympic athletes got to the point of being chosen to compete not because of
raw talent but because of extraordinary commitment to an excrutiating amount of
hard work--hours every day for many years--until they were superior to their
peers. Set aside their extraordinary skills and they are no more special than
anyone else, except in other ways that they may also have practised (such as
socializing or public speaking).

While I will never be an exceptional writer like those who sell millions of books
each year, I feel that I have excelled at writing through many years of practice.
Since I couldn't read or write until I was well into my 20s and having to write
anything of more than a few sentences would strike fear into my heart as a
student, I feel I haven't done too badly for myself.

The flaws in the human diamonds come with the person. What we need to do is to
polish the shiny parts until others notice them.

Then, for our own strengths to matter, we need to share them and to recognize the
strengths of others so that they too may grow.

We gain strength as individuals by raising others to our own level, not by pushing
them under our feet.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving
to help people polish the diamonds within themselves.
Learn more at