The art of accumulating wealth by mining for golden nuggets requires that the prospector patiently sifts through trays of pebbles and sludge examining even the most minute shiny objects. This painstaking process is slow but can yield great wealth. Knowing where to look, having the right tools and learning from experienced prospectors are key. Mastering the art can change your fortune. The tenacity, focus and determination for getting it done can lead prospectors to the mother lode. Consider prospecting for verbal nuggets when reading as a means of building a different kind of wealth.

As a consultant to the admissions committee at Harvard, I assisted in the search for qualified students who did not grow up in families of the rich and famous but who demonstrated their unique talents through a different form of currency. The golden nuggets they mined in their educational journey were indicators that they would survive and thrive in this place of rigor and intellectual competitiveness.

I learned from my first mentors that I could catapult from poverty to the professions through education. My journey started with mining books and other meaningful readings to build verbal wealth. My advice to students who often express their desire to strike it rich is simple. Increase your word power, one word at a time. When you grow your intelligence, you increase your chances of realizing your full potential and seizing on opportunities to make your dreams come true.

If you come from a book-poor home with limited resources, you will have to grow your wealth on your own. Like panning for gold, discovering the meaning of words through reading is similar to finding golden nuggets in a stream. You have to watch carefully for them, separate terms you know from those you don’t. Carefully handle your newfound treasures and store them in your long-term memory for future use.

My parents were poor and had very limited formal education. They did not have the skills to immerse me in a language-rich environment that would fill my brain with the wealth of words. Parents who never learned how to mine books for golden nuggets cannot teach their children how to prospect successfully. Your parents cannot give you what they do not have. This does not mean you cannot learn the art of prospecting through another means.

Identify someone in your classes, sport teams or neighborhood who can become your partner in learning how to read with the purpose of accumulating verbal wealth. Look up terms you do not know. Carefully observe how the new words are used in different contexts. Use the new words you learn in your discussions and reflections. Stretch conversations. These are all significant ways you can build your word power. Putting words in your brain is like putting gold in the bank.

A dear friend and colleague in Saipan in commenting about our push for literacy advised that we use all angles imaginable to get the message out about the importance of literacy in mitigating learning loss and growing intelligence. Words have become our most powerful asset in this effort to share the wealth.

Loling is fond of saying, “The most enduring form of personal wealth is one’s intellectual power, accumulated from birth, word by word. Word power is the kind of wealth that no one can take away. It’s a priceless asset that grows in value. Banks may be able to foreclose on a house. Car dealers can repossess your car. Money lenders can call in a debt and leave you penniless. Thieves can beat you up and strip you of your possessions. But, no one can rob you of your word power and steal your intelligence.”

The American writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote, “The desire of gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit.” Being verbally rich frees you to explore your passions and vocation and continue to accumulate intellectual wealth, tax free.

For those of you who are eavesdropping, partner with the students in your life on this great adventure. Help them discover the golden nuggets that are hidden between the covers of great books or in meaningful conversations. Help them build their treasure.

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