Prospecting, it’s just a number game – right?

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Two brothers in the 1860’s worked in their father’s grocery store in Southampton. Their positions were secure but they had recognised for some time that the best they could hope for was that one day they would inherit the shop, and life would continue much the same for the rest of their lives.  Then one-day, a traveller came back off one of the ships and told them of a huge opportunity in California. Ambitious young men were arriving from all over the world to prospect for gold and some were making a life’s fortune in just a few months.

Excited by this opportunity the brothers decided to go to California and chance their arm. The journey was long and arduous taking over six months. When they arrived Paul, the elder of the two couldn’t wait to get started. He went straight to the hardware store, bought himself a pick and shovel, staked out a claim for the closest piece of land next to the existing prospectors and got down to work. “Look at all these other guys prospecting, this is where the gold must be” he thought.

He worked hard day and night. He was up at six every morning and worked until it was too dark to see. He dug and he dug. You could not fault his work ethic. He had some success, after the first four weeks he had found enough gold to pay for his board and lodging and he even had a bit of spare cash left over. He was feeling very optimistic. Every Friday he would drink with the other prospectors and they would congratulate each other on how successful they had been. “We are not rich yet, it’s a numbers game, if we keep digging we will hit the big money seams”

The other brother Mike, however, did not go straight to hardware store, he didn’t buy a pick or a shovel instead he spent his time talking to the bar owner, the hotel owner, he went on long excursions into the desert, he talked to the old-timers, who had ‘seen it all’ passing their days outside their lodgings. He even spoke to the clerks in the land registry office. His brother Paul was almost in despair, “what are you doing we have travelled all this way and so far you have not even tried to find any gold?”

His brother smiled and replied, “I have been prospecting just as hard as you have”.

Finally during the second month, the second brother staked out his claim on a piece of land, which well away from the other prospectors. He finally bought his pick and shovel and finally he went to work.

He started work at 9am finished at 5pm, and within 3 weeks he had found more than three times more gold than his brother had in 6 weeks. After the first three months, he had found enough gold to employ other men to do the digging. Within a year he had shipped mechanical diggers from the East and was well on the way to owning the largest and most profitable gold mine in California.

To be successful at prospecting, it is not how long or how often you dig, it’s knowing where to dig.

Steve Shergold