There are three kinds of people who participate in our local business economy.

First, there are the winners who “make it happen.” Then, there are the losers who “watch it happen.” Lastly, we have some fools who “haven’t a clue what happened!”

In chaotic times such as we face now and for the foreseeable future our natural, albeit foolish human tendency, is to believe that the grass will be greener on the other side of the mountain. Winners realize that isn’t usually the case – though they recognize that it may be a lot warmer over there …

From 1900-1925 Russell Conwell repeated his speech “Acres of Diamonds” to more than 5,000 audiences. This classic is especially appropriate for us in Fairbanks today. Conwell tells of a farmer who was told by a seer that he would find acres of diamonds.

The farmer sold his land and set off across the world to find his fortune. After years of wandering he threw himself into the sea and died totally broke. Meanwhile the man who bought the poor ex-farmer’s land kicked over a rock … and found acres of diamonds on that farm.

The acres of diamonds were waiting to be found right there in the backyard!

Conwell also writes about “a man out in California in 1847, who owned a ranch. He heard they had discovered gold in southern California, and so with a passion for gold he sold his ranch to Colonel Sutter, and away he went, never to come back. Colonel Sutter put a mill upon a stream that ran through that ranch, and one day his little girl brought some wet sand from the raceway into their home and sifted it through her fingers before the fire, and in that falling sand a visitor saw the first shining scales of real gold that were ever discovered in California. The man who had owned that ranch wanted gold, and he could have secured it for the mere taking. Indeed, thirty-eight millions of dollars has been taken out of a very few acres since then.”

Rather than participate in the current economic malaise and recession, we in Fairbanks who want to “make it happen” should be looking around in our own backyards for acres of diamonds.

There’s an old poem that goes:

“We have two ends with a common link.

With one we sit, with one we think.

Success depends on which we use.

With heads we win.

With tails we lose.”

Next time, instead of sitting around fussing over what is happening to us, we should energize our brains and look around for entrepreneurial opportunities lurking in our backyards. There are still acres of diamonds for all of us to find right here in Fairbanks.

May all of us in Fairbanks keep our eyes and ears open and choose to have a winning, happy and prosperous New Year.

Charlie Dexter is a professor of applied business emeritus. He may be reached by email at cndexter@alaska.edu. This column is provided as a public service by the UAF Community and Technical Colleges.