5 Lessons I Relearned By Rereading The Alchemist

As I told you yesterday, I recently decided to re-read The Alchemist, the book I always cite as my favorite of all-time.

I finished Read #2 yesterday, and while the words and lessons contained in this marvelous little tale are obviously the same, I found myself relating to them much differently now than I did five years ago in 2006 when I read the book for the first time.

There are many, many different angles I could take for a blog post about The Alchemist, and it is somewhat daunting trying to choose one. How do you accurately yet succinctly capture the multitudes of lessons contained in this simple yet rich tale of a young dreamer named Santiago?

Solution: just sit down and start writing.

I didn’t take notes while reading through the second time, nor did I highlight or mark up the book. I just read. And enjoyed. And learned. And thought. So without any notes to go off of, I anticipate that by “just writing” I’ll allow the most prominent lessons learned to surface to the screen.

So here goes. Let’s see what comes out.

Image source: Here

In no particular order, and with as few spoilers as possible (because if you haven’t, you need to read this book for yourself!)…

Lesson #1: Empower yourself to dream

Above all else, The Alchemist is about the power and importance of following your dreams. Before you can follow a dream, however, you have to actually have a dream.

And to have a dream, you must want or desire some thing – whether it be an object, a place, a person, or something else – that you do not currently have.

And to desire something outside of your current realm, you must have learned of it somehow. Maybe you saw it before. Maybe you read it in a book. Maybe someone told you about it. Maybe this, maybe that. The point is: you learned.

And learning new things is essential for dreaming. By learning you empower the dreamer within you.

Then, once you’ve learned, and once you’ve fixated on a particular thing, you can want it and dream about; and you should allow yourself to do exactly that. Do not be afraid to dream, do not be afraid to think big, and do not be afraid to believe that your dream and your big thoughts can come true.

Lesson #2: Do not be afraid to fail

For those who have not yet read The Alchemist, I will not spoil the ending and tell you whether Santiago finds his treasure or not, but I will tell you that one of the lessons I learned is that it ultimately did not matter.

I will tell you that he goes after for it, and he does so with all of his heart and might. That’s what matters.

The path to achieving a dream is paved with lessons and memories that will stick with you and shape you for the better, no matter what the final outcome is. Because of this, there is no reason to be afraid of “failure”.

The only true failure is failing to go after your dream at all.

Lesson #3: Relationships should never hinder the passionate pursuance of a dream

This is applicable for a boyfriend/girlfriend, a spouse, a family member, a friend, or any other person with whom you have a relationship. Anyone who would get in the way of you passionately pursuing a dream does not have your best interests at heart…or their own.

Such a person is, in fact, harming the Soul of the World by standing in the way of a person whose actions would serve to nourish it.

True love will still be there, on both sides, once the journey towards a dream has ended and the dreamer has returned. Giving up a dream because of a contingency placed by a relationship may work out in the short-term but will become progressively negative over time.

Lesson #4: A dream worth chasing most likely involves something you are naturally good at doing

One of my favorite single passages in The Alchemist is this one:

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

Let’s discuss the first sentence first, as it is an oft-repeated theme in the book.

The lesson here is quite simple: when you embark upon the journey towards your dream, you will experience good fortune at the beginning. The specific reason for this cited most often in the book is the notion that the universe conspires to help those who go after their dreams.

I also look at it from another angle.

We all have natural skills, natural talents, and things that we naturally enjoy doing and naturally do well. There must be a reason for this, and the reason is that these natural abilities are all part of our Personal Legends. So as much as that “beginner’s luck” may be the universe conspiring to help us, it also is partly the manifestation of our true dream through the natural talent we possess that, when developed and harnessed, can lead us there.

So we all should pay attention to what we are good at and enjoy naturally. It is, most likely, a clear path towards what we are naturally passionate about.

Lesson #5: Don’t give up; don’t ever give up

This lesson relates to the second half of the blockquoted passage above: every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.

I can sum up my thoughts about this with one simple phrase, most notably and poignantly said by a man who I know beyond a shadow of a doubt would (and perhaps did) love The Alchemist:

In fact, I encourage you to watch the entire Jimmy V speech again if you haven’t in a while. It includes gems like this:

How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? You have to have a dream, a goal, and you have to be willing to work for it.

And this:

I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you…To be enthusiastic every day and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm,” to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.

I’m not sure if Paulo Coelho and Jim Valvano ever met, but they certainly have similar thoughts about dreams.

I could go on with more lessons, and perhaps I will in a future post, but this seems like a most fitting place to end.

When I started writing, I definitely did not envision this post involving Jimmy V and one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard, but on a micro level it fits quite perfectly with the lessons of the The Alchemist. My dream when I sat down this afternoon was to write a post that captured what I learned about in a book. I did that, at least to my own satisfaction (and hopefully yours too), despite ending up in a far different place than I thought I would.

But that’s why we can never overlook the importance of the journey and what can be illuminated along the way.

The Alchemist taught me that.

For those of you who have read it, what did The Alchemist teach you?


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  1. ooli says

    The Alchemist teach me that the central story was stolen from the 351 night of the Arabian Nights. That in 1951, the great author Jorges Luis Borges wrote a short story about that night (in his “history of infamy and eternity”) and with great humility call it a rewriting while he did in fact create the twist that end the Alchemist.
    I learn that Coehlo never ever thanks Borges nor recognize the Arabian Nights influence. I learn to never trust someone who preach humanism with such a mean and disrespectful behavior.

    • Jerod Morris says

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. I must say that I have never heard this complaint against Coelho, but I’ll look into it.

    • says

      I found the connection between both the moment of finishing the novel.
      One word that NEVER came into my mind was Plagiarism. Although some people thought so.
      The reason
      1)The central story has very less to do with the Novel, relatively.
      2)The stories in Arabian Nights are not one person’s property. Most of them (and maybe the one mentioned) were already renowned in Arabia. You can’t copy a fairy-tale, But they are incredible sources of inspiration.

      I did not know that Coelho never spoke about this connection. But even if he did or didn’t. It makes no change since, The central story has very less to do with the Novel,

  2. says

    Coelho is my most fav. author, I must say. And like you, I adore The Alchemist very much, already read it for 3 times, with the latest one was just last week. In the middle of reading it, sometime ago, I tried to find some insights on the book over the Internet, and that was when I found out that someone claimed it was “adapted” from one story in the Arabian Nights. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed at the beginning. I did believe that someone brilliant like Coelho could have been come up with “an original idea” (I know others would agree on this…) but then later on, like you said, I did realize that if not because of him, I wouldn’t know about that particular story in the Arabian Nights, and to be more precise, I wouldn’t know the “magic” behind that story. I must say that the Arabian Nights’ version is very short, and a bit naive (although I could quickly grasp the moral of the story, which is “we can find our treasure at our own doorstep”). I actually thank Coelho to bring more meanings to this story :) — oh btw, I am still curious on what Coelho might say about this (I tried to search online about his comment on this, but haven’t found any).
    Anyway, thanks for this post, though. It reminds me again on the great things I have found in The Alchemist!! ~Cheers!

    • Jerod Morris says

      Thank you for commenting Dee! I very much appreciate it. I agree that it would be interesting to see Coelho’s reaction to the claims about Arabian Nights, but I certainly see no reason for people to disparage him about it, even if The Alchemist was inspired by the shorter story.

  3. Rob says

    I read this book in school but forgot about it. Your post inspired a 2nd reading and i’ve already ordered a few more copies to hand out to friends. Thanks Buddy!

  4. Ravi says

    I read the first few pages y’day and i was stunned by the way he described all the plot

    i plan finish this book today night

    i will tell my views on this

  5. Ryan says

    I learned about this book after searching up Laurence Fishburne. I wanted to learn others’ perspectives on the book and that led me here. I could relate the story to your perspectives above. Here’s one more I’ve wondered: “What does the boy do after he goes back to Fatima?”

  6. Victor says

    It’s shocking how few people know after reading the book, that the crux of the plot comes from fables that most children (atleast the well read ones) would be familiar with. Not only Arabian nights, I’ve read that this folk story also exists in England as “Pedlar of Swaffham” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedlar_of_Swaffham It is also equally depressing to note that many of the readers of the book – whose prose is elementary & characters simple – have not been able to figure this out. It might point to two things, that people who find this book great are not ones who have read anything worthwhile up until this point or that they have very short memories.

    The next step would be someone writing another allegorical book based on aesop’s fable or the Indian Panchatantra or Jataka tales with lots of embellishments & expansion of plot to sound like a novel. Coming to think of it, I’d better start writing one, just that I’d give credit for the original story concept its due, when I write one.

  7. irfan khan wazir f.c says

    i belong to South Waziristan Agency Wana. I had dream but never tried to tell to someone due to different factors. Sometimes i felt wory that i could not do this, as i belong to a very backward area of pakistan and born in poor family. But now, after reading this novel i realized that everyone has gifted with different talents and can do everything in the life, if we are determined and accept the reality that we have some responsibilities rather to think about that who he/she is, from where we belong or what we have or lack? After reading the alchemist, my life changed and more encourged to realize my dream that i had and a day will come when i find my own treasure.

  8. know_how says

    hey…….. how do i introduce myself ……….actually right now i’m in complete chaos ……as i have just finished the complete book and that too without a break ……to be true , i tried readind this book before but could never read more than few pages …….but today was a different day ….and something inside of me in search of something (say my personal legend wanted to read) and i just followed ….. though i understood the theme and got hold of the moral …….but i just want the to confirm want it actually meant and teach…..seeking a alchemist in you as you seems to be lot more resolved than me …….i really expect some teaching in very lucid language …….

  9. Srishti Ahuja says

    Hey! I have also learned a lot from the book… about following omens and they really exist in real life. Ask a question and wait it’ll be answered when the timing is right.
    I also learned to follow my heart and trust the soul of the world to guide me to my destiny

  10. maria says

    thanks for the summary on the lessons from my favorite book so far. i have read the alchemist several times and in each i come out rejuvinated. in fact, being a christian, at some point i felt like coelho’s book was replacing my love for the bible. so, despite the apparent plagiarism coelho may have committed, i think there is something uplifting in the book. thanks.

  11. AliciaM says

    I’m on my second read of this book, after being encouraged to do soby 2 different sources.
    Wished I got it when I was younger, but I’m on the path which truly makes me happy.

  12. Mika says

    Hello. I am not very familiar with this webpage but this morning my sister who is visiting from Boston handed me the book and I starte reading it. Here I am a few hours later, the book completed and myself truly inspired. I learned my own lessons as well whih is what I think is unique about this book. Every one can take their own aspect from it. I also found it in some sense it to be a bit humourous when I perceived the things that we human beings do an go through in life and some of us never finding true happiness or achieving our dreams. Although it seems that persons believe that the plot was adapted from another short story, I think that at some point I time there will be people with similar ideas or even if it was adapted, there is nothing wrong with being inspire just as this book has inspired me.

  13. Milissa says

    I really wish this book would have inspired me like it has so many others. In the end, I just kept asking, “what was all the hype about”?

  14. Mikel says

    At 52 years old I feel it is not to late to recognize a Personal Legend after reading the Alchemist for the first time in English 99. I wont be going back to pouring concrete because of my injuries; hence Eng. 99, I am pursuing a AA in Construction Management. I could remember certain portions of Santiago’s journey rang some bells with regard to children’s fables my grandmother read us. The variations of this read apply to many common aspects of realizing one’s dream. My 99 essay is based on the fact that no matter where or when Santiago lived, he’d have pursued some dream, of some type. I think charging Coelho is ridiculous, how many versions of Jack and the Beanstalk can you name?

  15. Bonakele says

    What I have learned from reading this book is something that I knew already. Every body exists for a reason and that reason can be realised only if one truly listens to one’s heart and listens to the signs that are given to one. The book just reiterates that and truly gives you back the belief that already exists in your soul. This book is truly amazing and life changing and it was beautifully written. Those who get an opportunity to read this book are blessed because it just opens up your eyes and you start to see things differently.

  16. Paul Phillies says

    The book is about spiritual enlightenment and how the nature of the universe is formless, empty and therefore full of potential.

    If man did not exist gold would be gold. Since man exists gold turns into copper.

    Why does no one bother to notice that, lol, its the whole theme of the book, wake up people.

  17. says

    Alchemist is symbol of Islamic heritage – culture, science, philosophy and general wisdom – scraped under the rag by Spaniards and Portuguese, ever since the Inquisition.
    Story is a metaphor for human transformation, and in this case it’s a society on the Iberian peninsula which had undergone that transformation, through the process we all know as “Reconquista”.

    Even today, most objective among western historians explains this “Reconquista” as a very balck & white endeavour, mostly 700 years prolonged military invasion, war against foreign (Muslim) invaders and occupiers.

    But too often certain aspect of that endeavour are scraped under the rag – like a fact that Inquisition burnt over 1 million Arabic books !

    However, every now and then, some woman or man decide to critically speak about this process and it’s main instrument, the “Inquisition”, like late historian Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo (21st Duquesa of Medina Sidonia) who tried to correct views Spaniards have about their past, and mitigate damage made by history revisions and inventions, for example; or on the other side, like many artistas and authors who spoke through metaphors and symbolisms about transformation of the Iberian societies, transformation which was otherwise interpreted so that fits modern accepted history narratives.

    Coelho’s story is tricky though, it could be viewed both ways – about lost or found wisdom – thats my only problem with the guy.

    Read 1001 (Arabian) Nights, night by night, there is much more to learn about common wisdom from there.

  18. Colin o'flaherty says

    I agree with the points, but I would add another.

    6# life may take you around the block looking for something, only for you to realise it was right under your nose already.

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