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.
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?