Your forest of gold

By D.J. Vanas © 2008
News From Indian Country 5-08

I recently read an article in National Geographic about pernambuco, the famous and rare wood of the pau brasil tree. For hundreds of years, this precious material from Brazil has been used to make the finest musical instruments in the world. In fact, the virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell uses a 200-year-old bow made from this natural resource. The value of this piece of wood not much bigger than a standard ruler is $40,000. However, many of the locals in the communities where the wood is found do not recognize the value in their treasure, like a forest of gold around them! Instead, they use the wood for common uses such as fence posts and even… firewood.

This oversight is a typical experience in many of our lives, whether we’re looking at the precious pernambuco or at our own talent and ability. How many times do we overlook or devalue our own incredible gifts? We view them as ordinary or common instead of using them to create the kind of life and career we want. Of course, we face the big enemies of fear and doubt. But something far more insidious and wasteful is simply the fact that we allow ourselves to settle for second best, good enough or get caught up in the crowd. Instead of creating masterpieces in our lives with our forest of gold, we use our gifts for fence posts or firewood.

Here are a few ideas to help you make the most out of your natural resources:
Take inventory – this means not just writing down and journaling about your unique talents and skills, but also soliciting insights from those close to you – family, friends, mentors and colleagues. Ask them to share their perspectives on your abilities and strengths, not to stroke your ego but to better develop yourself and grow. This inventory quickly highlights the often untapped and underutilized skills sets we bring to the table. I’ve done this exercise with veteran executives, military leaders and those that have a long track record of success – they are still blown away to see the unexploited wealth of assets inside of them.

Take risk – it’s not what we have that counts. It’s how we use what we have that counts! Move out of your daily comfort zone and practice flexing that wealth of ability you possess. This means accepting the risk of looking foolish or falling down. We have to be very clear when it comes to our lives and ask a simple and powerful question: are we here to collect “cool points” or to become a success? If we’re collecting cool points, we allow ego and pride to get in the way and become hesitant to risk wounding either. If we’re here to become successful, we know taking risk is part of the process and we keep score not by how good we look in the eyes of others but by what we learn from our mistakes and the risks we take.

Take heart – have faith in yourself and recognize that you’ve got more power, talent and ability than you could use in a hundred lifetimes! Understand that the most successful people in the world – from Oprah to Abraham Lincoln – accomplished what they did not because they were gifted beyond their peers, but because they learned to use and develop their gifts through years of struggle, heartbreak and mistakes. Read about those you see as successes and you’ll see this common thread in each story!
The Creator has given each and every one of us priceless gifts – our own forest of gold. It is up to us to recognize, develop and use them for what they are instead of building fences or making fires.

D.J.’s upcoming schedule:

29-30 EDAW (Snow Mtn. Ranch, CO)


1-4 Society of American Indian Govt
Employees (Traverse City, MI)
5-6 Family-Centered Practice
Conference (Phoenix, AZ)
7 Child Care Conference (Yuma, AZ)
13-14 Child Care Conference
(Sierra Vista, AZ)
20-30 Grandpa’s 94th Birthday
Celebration (San Diego, CA)


1-5 Family Vacation (San Diego, CA)
8-9 Mashantucket Pequot Youth
Summit (Mashantucket, CT)
10 Choctaw Nation Youth Summit
(Durant, OK)
15-16 Creek Nation Youth Summit
(Warner, OK)
17 U.S. Office of Personnel
Management (Denver, CO)
21-22 United Negro College Fund
(Baltimore, MD)

D.J. Eagle Bear Vanas (Odawa) is a nationally acclaimed motivational storyteller, success coach and the author of the celebrated book, The Tiny Warrior: A Path to Personal Discovery & Achievement and audio CD series The Warrior Within. D.J. uses traditional warrior concepts and wisdom to inspire people to achieve their best in life, school and career and owns Native Discovery Inc., a company dedicated to “building the warriors of tomorrow… today.” He can be reached at (719) 282-7747 or at