To Become a Diamond, You Must Go Through Fire
“A diamond doesn’t start out polished and shining. It once was nothing special, but with enough pressure and time, becomes spectacular.” – Solange nicole
How are diamonds made?
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the beautiful crystals that humans spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on every year come from a combination of two things: high temperatures and high amounts of pressure.
When both are combined, carbon atoms – which diamonds are made of – bond with each other to form crystals. They will continue to attach to other nearby carbon atoms, growing in mass until you have one diamond.
A one-carat diamond, for example, consists of billions of bonded carbon atoms.
I think the process that makes diamonds can be analogous to the process that helps high-performing teams to produce amazing work.
The Power of Teamwork
The English poet, John Donne, once wrote that “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” In my opinion, he was right.
Humans are created to be social creatures, to live in communities. We must rely on each other to grow and survive.
We need connection with others to learn, innovate, and positively influence others.
Lorraine M. Gutiérrez and Edith A. Lewis explain it this way:
“Connection serves two purposes: the development of social support networks and the creation of power through interaction. Involvement with others in similar situations provides individuals with a means for acquiring and providing mutual aid, with the opportunity to learn new skills through role modeling… and with a potential power base for future action.”Empowering Women of Color. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1999.
How does this translate into the business world?
This means that we cannot truly create and operate in a vacuum.
No matter how individualistic a job is, no matter if you’re an entrepreneur with a one-person company or an entry-level employee in a billion-dollar organization, your success – or failure – is ultimately tied to others.
Forging Diamonds through Fire
Diamonds are created when high temperatures and high amounts of pressure cause carbon atoms to bond together.
The same can be said with business results.
Think of the last time you and your team worked together on a project, product, or service that achieved – or even exceeded – the desired results. Something that stands out in your mind as a particular success.
This is what I would define as the figurative version of a “diamond.”
There were probably a few common elements:
1) A high degree of intensity
Do amazing results come from lackadaisical teams? I think not.
In my professional life, I’ve seen the most salient and noteworthy outcomes arise from when teams came together to give 100% or more on a project while holding the same shared vision. When fueled by time, passion, effort, strategic thinking, and comradeship, all working towards excellence.
Lexico.com offers a definition of temperature that I really like and that I really believe applies perfectly to this specific analogy: “The degree or intensity of heat present in a substance or object, especially as expressed according to a comparative scale and shown by a thermometer or perceived by touch.”
Standout achievements and results too come from times when there’s a high degree of intensity, whether from internal or external factors. Times when you’re working against the clock, have strict deadlines to meet, or the stakes are high.
2) A lot of pressure
Besides a high degree of intensity, moments when we rise to the occasion will, more often than not, include a high amount of pressure.
In other words, you’re usually under pressure to produce outstanding results. Or put another way, “diamonds” derive from high-pressure situations.
As I previously mentioned, humans beings are inherently social beings who are wired neurologically to connect with one another. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the last element of what produces a business “diamond” is teamwork.
Like the carbon atoms which begin to bond with each other and, in fact, must do so to form actual diamonds, the best results are achieved through teamwork – by working with, relying on, and collaborating with others.
Anyone can come up with an idea, but it takes a team to accomplish it.
Eyes on the Prize
We’ve all been stuck in situations that seemed insurmountable: When we had deadlines that we felt we couldn’t actually achieve, when we had to go back to the drawing board to the umpteenth time, and when we were plagued internally by self-doubt. When we’ve wondered: Will I actually be able to do this? Do we have what it takes to do what needs to get done?
Some people are fueled by times like this, and some are drained. Regardless, I think we can all agree that situations involving a high amount of pressure and intensity in the workplace are not easy. You can’t maintain a laissez-faire attitude or breeze through hard, pressing, or high-stakes times and expect to succeed.
But if you bond together, work hard, and keep your eyes on the prize, whether actual or metaphorical, you can truly produce diamonds, indeed.