• Thomas A. Wilson

Diamonds or Tanzanite?

I wrote a song that I think Neil Diamond should sing. It goes like this (you’ll have to use your imagination):

Love was born

In a clamoring storm

Where caring eyes, deserving more,

Wept in sorrow. In sorrow.

Our laughter couldn’t hide the sorrow.

Where hidden fears,

With listening ears,

Discovered why we cry those tears:

They’re for tomorrow. Tomorrow.

They wash our hearts for tomorrow.

And understanding this,

We couldn’t stay the same.

We were sick and tired of playing the game.

We were ready for the rules to change.

And then came love.

And then came love.

Baby, you brought true love.

With just a little bit more love

Than you asked for, you gave.

Though some had borrowed and never repaid,

You trusted me anyway.

With a little bit more love,

Just a little bit more love,

Just a little bit more love.

From the ashes of the burn,

The Phoenix is born.

So was our love through the storm.

And the lesson that we’ve learned,

What time steals away,

Only love can repay.

With just a little bit more love…

Now, I don’t have any delusions about Mr. Diamond actually performing this love song. It’s special to me and the person I wrote it for. That’s enough. But with the melody I have in my head, it would have been perfect for Neil!

In 1941, Neil Leslie Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York, son of Rose and Akeeba. Destined to grow into a fine young man, Diamond enrolled as a pre-med student at New York University. He attended on a fencing scholarship and was on the 1960 NCAA men’s championship fencing team. But Neal’s heart was elsewhere, and in his senior year—just 10 credits shy of graduation—he dropped out of the university to pursue music. After that, Neil Diamond’s legendary career speaks for itself. He was brilliant, ever learning, he sweated his way to success.

Another Diamond (no relation) also grew up in Brooklyn. His name was Jack. His friends called him Legs. In his youth, Legs ran with a New York street gang called the Hudson Dusters. John Thomas Diamond (his given name) joined and deserted the US Army during World War I. And for that, he served a little time in prison and evolved into a full-blown gangster. The media was infatuated. Some referred to Diamond as the Al Capone (who happened to be from Chicago) of the East Coast.

And, of course, he made enemies.

Some of those enemies wanted to fill Legs with lead. And boy, did they succeed! But Jack wouldn’t cooperate by politely dying. Prior to his death, he had been shot four times—and he lived. Rival gangster Dutch Schultz said, "Ain't there nobody that can shoot this guy so he don't bounce back?" Finally, on December 18, 1931, two gunmen entered the room where Jack was passed out in a drunken stupor. One held him while the other used a .38 to put three slugs into the back of his head. Legs’ run was over. He never learned; he wasn't teachable—despite reams of feedback indicating he was on the path to destruction.

There’s a popular marketing slogan that says diamonds are forever. Of course, the saying is about the gemstone. But it’s also true about people. Neil Diamond will forever be one of music’s great artists. Legs Diamond will forever be one of New York’s most notorious underliving men. We’ll all be forever something.

There’s another gemstone that fascinates me much more than a diamond. It zoisite, commercially called Tanzanite. Tanzanite is special, in my mind, because it starts out kind of brownish. Then it is heated to transform into a beautiful blue/purple color. In a way, Tanzanite is like the tortoise versus the hare, or the ugly duckling, or the Bad News Bears. It’s the heat that brings out the luster—know what I mean? The trial releases the glory. Pain does, after all, serve a purpose.

Tanzanite is named after the United Republic of Tanzania—the only place on earth where commercial deposits are found. Tanzania, in turn, is named after the two countries that form the republic: Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Tanganyika means sail the wilderness. Zanzibar means black coast. Both names hint at a shadowy sojourn in a dangerous place. That’s life, isn’t it?

Life offers up a plethora of opportunities to succumb to despair or vice. Some men embrace both. But real men don’t desert. They may choose to change careers, to leave med school for music school, but they’re intentional. They choose courage, mastery, and kindness on their way into their destiny. See the difference? Some do life. Others let life do them.

Drifting is the great enemy of human potential—it wastes the one thing that can never be replaced. It’s time for men to notice the clock ticking and to intentionally set sail, navigate the dark coast, and catch the wind and waves of authentic manhood.

I know a great shipyard where one can get a reliable vessel. And I can’t wait to hear the songs you’ll write and sing after you experience your great adventure.


Tom Wilson “collects genius.” Here (in Authentic Man School: A Practical Guide for Next-Level Living) he assembles these gems into systematic jewelry for transformation. Like the author, it is often provocative, never boring, and ultimately helpful.

—Rowan Conrad, Ph.D., Approved Volunteer, Montana State Prison

Affirmation of the Week: I quickly notice and respond to feedback.

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