As a farmer lay dying, his four sons sat by his bedside awaiting his final words. “There is a vast treasure buried in the family’s field,” he whispered.

“Where is it, father?” the sons pleaded. But it was too late. Their father was gone.

Soon after his passing, the sons set to the field, trying to unearth the treasure. For many days the sons desperately worked pick and shovel, digging everywhere in search of their promised legacy. Eventually they turned over every inch of the field, but alas, no treasure was to be found. Finally, dejected and discouraged, they gave up their search and returned to their families and vocations.

The next year the farm yielded its greatest harvest ever.

This parable yields a lesson richer than the treasure the sons so fervently sought: The fortune their father hinted at was not a magical boon that would transform the sons’ lives in one glorious instant. The treasure was the untapped potential of the field, capable of yielding riches to the family if they worked with the materials and natural potential before them. The power of the treasure lay not at the end of the rainbow, but in the journey toward it.

I hear people talking about waiting for their big break; or for Oprah to hold up their book on television; or to win the lottery. Certainly these events would be wonderful if they occurred, but if you sit on your duff waiting for a record producer, Oprah or a lottery number to save you, you may wait for a very long time and miss the wonder and gifts of the journey. Wisdom-guided action and integrity build success far more substantially than a magic pill.

The apparent goal of a journey is simply the carrot the universe dangles before you to call you to the adventure and learn the lessons the journey yields. Martin Büber declared, “All journeys have destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

If you think about most of the things you have striven for, you will realize that the lessons you learned in the process of striving were far more powerful and long-lasting than the material object at the end of the trail. While you sought for a soulmate, you may or may not have ended up with that person; but the self-knowledge you gained and the growth you experienced in the search ran far deeper than the form of the person you sought. Or perhaps you worked hard for a financial or career success. You may or may not have attained your goal, but what happened to you along the way made a far greater difference in your life than the specific goal itself. Then, when you obtained the car, house, or promotion, you were satisfied for a moment, but sooner or later you set your sights on the next achievement. Something inside you recognizes that the power of stretching to achieve something yields you more value than the something itself.

We are a quick-fix oriented culture. We want lots of stuff and we want it now. What we often leave out of the equation, however, is that we would prefer stuff that works. We want computer printers that last longer than a year, a job we can grow into a passionate career, and a soulmate we can love for a lifetime. Because we often sacrifice integrity for expedience, the art of quality engineering, true craftsmanship and meaningful relationships is shrinking to the domain of a dedicated few.

When I visited Japan, my friend Koichi told me that the oldest company in Japan – and the world – is 800 years old. The company is an architectural firm that specializes in building temples and pagodas. The company, Koichi explained, does not use nails in their construction. Instead, they make a series of tabs on the ends of wooden pieces and fit them together. Over eight centuries, when there have been earthquakes, this company’s structures, including five-story pagodas, have stood firm while buildings around them crumbled.

If you want a life that stands while others crumble, pay more attention to how you till the field than finding the buried treasure. The real treasure, you see, is buried within you. If you are going to mine anything, mine the gifts you already own. Don’t wait for a soulmate, talent scout or Oprah to put you on the map. You are already on the map, but if you are holding it upside down, you won’t recognize and claim your true domain.

It’s a wonderful thing when people or events come along to change our life. But you must do your inner homework and own those changes by right of consciousness. Otherwise the boons that arrive will disappear as fast as they came. But if you have tilled your field with love, care, and integrity, the harvest will be bountiful and you will have plenty for yourself and many others.

Alan Cohen
Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including the bestselling The Tao Made Easy. Become a certified professional life coach through Alan’s transformational Life Coach Training beginning February 1, 2019. For more information about this program, Alan’s books and videos, free daily inspirational quotes, online courses, and weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com.

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