READ: The Alchemist

I know I’m a little late jumping on the Paulo Coelho bandwagon (20 million copies sold, 56 languages) but I read it in Mexico for obvious reasons – I needed inspiration to follow my dreams. Now I typically steer clear of fantasy books with male protagonists but I’m glad I broke the rules for this one. Regardless of your age or spiritual affiliation, you will get something out of it. Don’t believe me?  The book came highly recommended from the Eharmony Male Population, so it must be good 😛

A Little About Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

The plot and writing are quite simple (easy and short read) yet full of profound observations about life, love and following your dreams.  Here’s a Quick Synopsis:

A young boy named Santiago intends to become a Priest as dictated by his parents, but decides he wants to travel the world instead at 16. His parents support this new direction and give him enough coins to become a shepherd (the most realistic way to realize his travel goal). A recurrent dream propels him on a new quest for “treasure” during which time he sells his flock, encounters pivotal characters and persists against obstacles.

How often do we "judge a book" by its cover

Our Personal Legend in The Alchemist

Santiago is used to illustrate Coelho’s belief that we were all put on Earth with a specific path to follow – he calls it our Personal Legend, which is whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm. Amen. He identifies 4 obstacles that threaten our vision:

  1. We become aware of our Personal Legend as children but are made to feel like it is impossible to achieve.
  2. We are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream.
  3. We are afraid of the defeats we will meet on the path, because we do want it and have staked everything on it.  The secret to life is falling 7 times and getting up 8 times.
  4. We are afraid of realizing our dream, for which we fought all our lives (fills soul with guilt).

So many of us live in denial, with our heads down, buzzing around, achieving things but feeling a sense of restlessness. The World’s Greatest Lie is described as when we “lose control of what’s happening to us and our lives become controlled by fate”.

When you believe this, you have license to take a more passive approach to life. I believe in being proactive and taking risks but paying attention to see how much effort it takes to pry open new doors i.e. too much effort with little progress may mean it is the wrong door.

Beginner’s Luck According to Paulo Coelho

Coelho believes “Beginner’s Luck” – a force that whets your appetite with the taste of success” occurs so you continue to follow your Personal Legend once you’ve taken that first leap. He believes that “when you want something all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. Lisa and John’s stories pay homage to that theory.

Coelho continues that “Omens”, both good and bad, are left by “God” to litter the path of your Personal Legend in an effort to guide you. In order to perceive them your eyes and heart must be open. Hallelujah, I was beginning to think I was crazy looking for signs everywhere (okay maybe I take it too far sometimes).

Finally, Coelho warns that just before your dream is realized, “the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way” and that “Only the fear of failure makes your dream impossible to achieve.”  You have to steel yourself, find inner strength and put the pieces of your journey together to overcome the final challenge.

Everything worth it in life is worth fighting for.

13 Responses to READ: The Alchemist

  1. Elisa says:

    Easily one of my 5 favorite books of all time. My favorite of his quotes/premises you also picked out: “When you want something enough the Universe conspires to help you achieve it.”

    It is an important thing to remember. So often we assume that the odds are stacked against us, that we can ‘never’ make things happen. But if you want it enough, and are willing to travel across the desert for it, then the Universe will bring all its powers together to help you get it.

    The world wants us to succeed and be happy. So often we get in our own way though.

    • Vanessa says:

      Hi Elisa, thanks so much for creating a discussion on this post. You are a great example of someone working hard to get there Miss. Forbes Columnist! I often get in my own way – important to be conscious of your thoughts and your actions.

  2. Angela C. says:

    This sounds like a really interesting book. Some of the points you made reminded me of another book called The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. It is an allegorical story detailing the process of following your dreams. It comes from a Christian perspective but is incredibly identifiable regardless of one’s spiritual views.

    • Vanessa says:

      Hi Angela, thanks so much for sharing a book recommendation – I’m going to look it up on Amazon. Currently my book reading consists of screenwriting but I want to get back into a good fiction book + a good enlightening/how to book.

  3. Kate says:

    I’ve never read The Alchemist, but I think after reading your review of this book, I’m going to get this to read on my flight to Prague in 2 weeks!

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Vanessa says:

      Hey Kate, oh wow, love that I influenced you. Depends what type of book you are looking for. One Day is still my all time fave, but the alchemist is a quicker less emotional more philosophical read. Can’t wait to see how your move turns out, so exciting. Maybe I shall visit, Vienna is on my list!

  4. Hi there! I’m new to Dare My Truth, but I’m off to a great start. On my first visit, I see that you have written about my absolute-most-favorite-of-all-time book! Every time I have a friend who is stuck or in a rut, I recommend this book. Beautiful, no? I’m looking forward to reading more!

  5. Vanessa says:

    Hi Hasta,thanks so much for stopping by! I love how people can instantly bond over books or any art form. You have to be a certain type of person to be attracted to certain creations, no? I haven’t read for fun in awhile, any more recommendations?

    • It all depends on what else you like! Life of Pi was another beautiful book. Currently reading a book about a theory called “Flow”. Too soon to judge, but I’ll let you know :p

  6. Ex Lit Prof says:

    What an inspirational blog you’ve created! I also suffered a twenty-something career crisis and walked away from my miserable career as an English professor in order to realize my childhood dream of becoming a writer. Although it was scary and not without bumps, it was the best move I’d made in years.

    • Vanessa says:

      Hi – thanks so much for finding me. I love hearing stories like yours – how did you go about finding a publisher and an agent?? Was it difficult? I can’t wait to read your book and realize we currently live in the same lovely city of TO. Small world! I wanted to add you to twitter but I can’t seem to find that on your blog. I’m really motivated to make my for real switch as fast as possible 🙂

  7. jitendra says:

    I randomly arrived at you blog, and found that you have discussed about the alchemist, which is my most favourite book.
    I like your debate very much..
    liked your blog..

  8. Vanessa says:

    Hey – I’m so glad you randomnly found it. the internet is serendipitous like that. I love books hope to read a couple more on my vacation starting tomorrow! Keep in touch 🙂

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