The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
One Line Summary
Boy follows his personal destiny and gets more than he could imagine
Why it’s Awesome
If you feel unsure about what your purpose here in life is, this book is for you. If you seem to have purpose but lack fulfillment, this book is for you. A beautifully written novel by Paulo Coelho, it follows the life of a young shepherd who embarks on a journey to fulfill his personal destiny.
Since this is a self-development blog, I won’t bother to go into all the minor details of the plot. Let’s just get to the practical advice.
The boy starts off as a young shepherd in Spain. He finds his occupation acceptable but by no means is in love with it. He is afraid of the outside world and seeks his happiness in other people. This is the average person’s life. They are coping, not thriving.
He learns from an old king that every person has a personal destiny and that “when a man truly desires a thing, all the universe conspires to help him”. Against almost all rationality, the shepherd decides to sell his sheep and give everything to following this destiny. This is the turning point.
Adventure ensues and a boy becomes a man. In the end, he finds that what he was seeking was right where he started the whole time.
There are a lot of spiritual ideas in this book but let’s ignore that for now. The main lesson, which is that “when a man truly desires a thing, all the universe conspires to help him”, could really just be a function of Reticular Activating System (RAS).
Your RAS is the mechanism in your brain that focuses on what has value to you and allows you to see solutions and opportunities. But regardless, anyone who has embarked on this kind of journey can attest to this.
I remember when I decided to forgo the traditional route and focus on learning social dynamics and becoming an entrepreneur. Looking back, such a decision would seem insane by any rational perspective. Yet I persisted despite any real clear path to success and suddenly the pieces began falling into place.
The hardest part is often taking the leap itself. After that, your passion will fuel your hustle. You no longer need external motivation.
Another major takeaway from this book is where fulfillment comes from. Much like Steven Pressfield talks about in The War of Art, fulfillment comes from following that personal destiny and the person who you become.
This is something internal that no one can give to you, which is why in the end our Shepard finds that what he was seeking was right where he started. He doesn’t need it anymore and so he finally achieves his goal.
Why Does It Suck
I know people who have taken the idea from the Alchemist and simply use it as a rationalization to be lazy, assuming the universe will just bring them things. This is not how it works. I like to think of it like you and the universe are co-creators. You bring the hustle and the work and the universe will sort the details.
There also is something to be said for rational examination of your opportunities. You don’t want to simply keep acting blindly on something because you believe it should happen.
The Wrap Up
This book is amazing but it’s not something you need to sit down and take notes on. Pop on the audiobook and just enjoy listening to this beautiful story.
Here’s the link to buy it on amazon: