I recently read an article that detailed the process of how diamonds are formed. It was fascinating; I couldn't help but notice that the way diamonds are formed is strikingly similar to the way people become network marketers.

At this very moment, about ninety miles beneath our feet, diamonds are forming. It can happen only at that depth because of the enormous pressure and heat in those layers. The pressure at this depth is equivalent to having eighteen elephants balancing on a single high-heeled shoe and measuring the pressure delivered through the heel. This would be about 20,000 pounds per square inch. Combine this with a temperature ten times the boiling point of water, or 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and you have the kind of extreme environment that will create diamonds.

After a billion years or so, little crystals begin to form, and slowly become bigger and bigger. Bring these crystals up to the surface and they will catch your eye with their ability to bend and reflect light. But only an elite few of these diamonds will ever reach the earth's surface. Most will stay buried forever and never reveal their beauty. Those that do come up will do so in quite a dramatic fashion.

How does it happen? Only through the power of a volcano. Deep and rare underground explosions act like extreme elevators and propel scorching magma upwards, carrying the diamonds in a rocket-like river where they eventually shoot out the top of the earth's crust and onto the surrounding land and water. When it's all over, the crystals are everywhere, in abundance, and recognized for what they are ... diamonds.

At this point they're called "rough diamonds." The "rough" seems rather undignified, given all these rocks have been through. The name "diamond comes from the Greek word adamas, meaning "invincible." They are in fact the toughest material on the planet: they cannot be chipped, scratched or broken by any other substance.

This toughness also puts diamonds in a bit of a predicament, because in order for them to reach their full potential in shape, beauty and value they must be chipped, scratched and broken. How is this possible? Only by using other diamonds, or at least the dust of other diamonds. And even these cutting tools will be effective only in the hands of skilled craftsmen.

Thus begins the study of each stone to discover the potential that lives beneath the rough surface. Once this is found, the craftsman uses a tool to strike the stone with a single blow, called the "cleave." This single cut will determine almost everything about the ultimate structure of the gem. Only then is a cut made to form the top of the diamond, called the "table." The process then continues, forming the upper part of the jewel, called the "crown." The crown makes up the largest part of the diamond, and slopes outwards until it reaches the widest point, called the "girdle." The diamond finally slopes inward to make up the lower section, called the "pavilion," until it comes to a point at the bottom named the "cullet."

By the time this process is complete; less than half of the original rough diamond remains, but its value has multiplied. No wonder it has become a symbol of power, fearlessness, virtue and, in the case of wedding rings, eternity. The advertising slogan, "Diamonds are forever" actually tells the truth.

The symbolism of all this as it applies to network marketers intrigued me. I contemplated what the profession has meant to me, what it helped me become, and what it has done for so many others. Consider this: the reason we started our own business was usually because we were under harsh conditions, with no time in our lives, no money, or no hope. It was this pressure and heat, so to speak, that formed us into a material that could be considered invincible.

But then there is the disheartening fact that so many other people have been formed under these same harsh conditions, but will do nothing to make a change. These are the diamonds that will remain buried forever.

Network marketers aren't like that. We have rocketed to the surface, propelled by an explosive, driving power within us. We are ready to discover our true beauty and value. We have emerged as individuals ready for action, no matter how unpolished or "rough" we may be.

And so begins the process of reshaping ourselves. Soon we realize that we can do this only by using the sharp edges or fine dust of other diamonds — our leaders, mentors and coaches. Sometimes the process hurts, because we must leave behind a part of us to become more than we are already.

Where should we begin? Like the skilled gem cutter, we should begin with the cleave the single decision to act upon our true potential. We need to begin with a clear vision of the life and lifestyle we are seeking to create for ourselves and others through network marketing. Analogous to the table of the diamond, this vision will determine everything else about your business, including how big it will be and how much it will cost in terms of money, time and effort. In fact, your vision determines the cut, clarity, color and carat of your diamond.

Then comes the importance of prospecting, finding ways to create new prospects and enroll them in your business or get them started with your product or service. Just like the crown of the diamond, the process of prospecting will always make up the largest part of your business and will be placed, in terms of importance, above everything else except your vision.

After prospecting comes the role of personal growth, the art of developing your skills, knowledge and spirit. Personal development, just like the upper pavilion of the diamond, is placed right below prospecting (the crown), because it supports it. How? Well, if you are more personally developed, you will be a better prospector. This is why your mentors and coaches have stressed the importance of reading that book, listening to that CD, and going to those events. Analogous to the diamond's pavilion, personal development will let our light shine through, revealing who we truly are.

Then comes the skill of growing your downline, which could be considered the lower part of the pavilion. Through downline development, you will empower and enrich your team. Whether it is with leadership, inspiration, incentives, or all the above, downline development, when applied at the right time, is very effective at multiplying your business. But be careful! Applied too early, downline development is a waste of time, and applied too late, it is a missed opportunity. That's why it's placed at the lower pavilion, below prospecting and personal development.

Last come the challenges, which are an inevitable part of our profession. In the shaping of a diamond, challenges would make up the cullet because they need to be kept in perspective. As the lowest part of the jewel, most of them can be eliminated, but those of value can be kept to make the jewel stronger. The challenges of our profession are the lowest part because it is through prospecting, personal development and downline development that they will be overcome.

Once all these fundamentals—vision, prospecting, personal development, downline development and challenges are in place, consider what you have become. What was once a rough, invincible diamond formed by pressure and extreme temperature and shot to the surface by volcanic forces has now been cleaved and cut to its full potential. Realize that you have tremendous value and beauty. You are a true diamond, and some of companies even use this name filled with meaning when referring to a pin level.

Now it's your turn. It's time to use what you've left behind—your dust, your sharp edges and your strength¬—to form new diamonds from those who are seeking to become what they were meant to be. And when you are able to cut diamonds in our profession, you truly become priceless.