Recently I read Paulo Coelho’s international bestseller “The Alchemist.” I always wondered what could be so appealing in a novel to be declared a publishing phenomenon. The Alchemist is truly a masterpiece.
What does The Alchemist Teach Us?
Rarely do we come across novels that have simplicity as well as the power to inspire millions of hearts. An alchemist is someone who can transform any metal into gold and this novel has the power to turn your heart to gold if you can interpret the message this novel spreads.
The Alchemist is a story of a young shepherd, Santiago, who yearns to travel. He abandons everything and goes in search of a treasure he saw in his dreams. During his journey, he learns to listen to his heart, follow the language of omens and meets an alchemist who helps him to accomplish his dream. The story teaches you to follow your dreams by seeing the world through your own eyes and not someone else’s.
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1.) Whoever you are, or whatever is it that you do, when you want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it – The Alchemist.
My grandfather always said, “Stop dreaming. Dreams never come true.” It is not just my grandfather but each one of us, at some point in our lives, have heard people say to us, “this is simply not possible”, “you must be out of your senses if you think you can do this”, “many people have attempted doing this, before you, but failed”.
Why does everyone seem so prejudiced about dreams? Nothing can be worse than suppressing your dream. Before 1776, independence was a dream for America. If everyone had thought it to be impossible, Americans would still be living in slavery.
Everyone has a dream — be it to become an entrepreneur, or a successful employee, to marry the girl of their dream or own a house in the richest part of the world. It’s not the size of the dream that matters but the conviction with which we want it to come true. As a child, the first bicycle that you craved and your father gifted you on your birthday — wasn’t it a dream come true? It often happens, at least with me it does, that you are longing to talk to a friend and he/she calls you up or comes over to see you.
Seldom does it happen that you want something badly-keep thinking of it a night and day-and it never happens? If it ever does it is just because our desire was not strong enough.
I am not saying that getting a bicycle or meeting a friend is the ultimate aim of your life but I just want you to realize that whatever you wish deep in your heart always comes to pass. It’s the power of your conviction that makes it happen.
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2.) In the long run, what people think about us becomes more important than our destinies – The Alchemist.
As a child, we always know what we want in life because we are only concerned about those things that matter to us. A child never bothers about what others will think or say if he plays in the mud. He does so because he enjoys it. But as we grow old, others’ opinion matters to us more than our desires.
Most of us are in professions we never wanted to be in and very few of us are lucky enough to be doing what we love doing. Some of us are passionate about dance, and others are good at painting or writing but gradually these are restricted to being mere hobbies because as we grow old, other factors come to the forefront, suppressing our desires. We want to have status in society; people would rather marry their daughters to a businessman than a painter or writer. Even if our heart yearns, we are ready to suppress its voice to enter the rat race.
Most of the things in our homes are there not because they are a necessity but because our neighbour has the same. A small car might fulfil my requirements but I want a luxury car just because everyone else has one.
Due to our insecurities, we want to feel secure-to be accepted by society. What an irony! We all want to be secure in a life that itself is so insecure. A major part of our lives is spent pleasing others, trying to find happiness in these momentary pleasures and not realizing that the key to real happiness is the satisfaction of being able to do all that you love doing.
3.) Don’t think about what you have left behind. Everything is written on the soul of the world and there it will stay forever. If what one finds is of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return – The Alchemist
While climbing a stair, to move to the next step you have to leave the step you are standing on. You cannot expect to move on to the future without letting go of the present. The present is real and secure while the future is still a dream and we are not ready to risk what we have for something unreal. But you cannot eat the cake and have it at the same time. We desire more without realizing that to get more we have to risk what we already have. Even in business, to make more money you have to put in your money. If you are satisfied with where you are, you would never try to move ahead and your progress will be stagnant. To touch the new skies, you need to be innovative and experiment with new products.
In the Alchemist novel, Santiago was a shepherd but he decides to sell all his sheep and goes in search of his treasure. Had he been reluctant to give up his sheep, he would have always been a shepherd. On the other hand, whether he found his treasure or not, he would always be a shepherd because he knew how to tame sheep.
Similarly, if you want something, be prepared to risk what you already have. Most of the time people give up on their most cherished desires due to the fear of risking what they have. They are not ready to come out of their cocoons of security. To move on to the other side of the bridge, you have to cross the bridge. You cannot be on both sides simultaneously. And whatever you learn during your journey always remains with you.
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4.) At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie – The Alchemist.
The control of our lives lies in our own hands. Everything in this universe exists in duality. Where it is good, there is bad. Where there is light, there is darkness. The choice is always available, it’s up to us what path we choose and our destiny depends on these choices. Destiny is nothing but a reward for our deeds. We attract what we think. Whatever is going on in your mind is what you are attracting. Whatever you give comes back to you. If you keep thinking of what you want, your thoughts radiate that energy and the universe manifest your desires. If I say, “Do not think of the Eiffel Tower”, I am sure you all would do exactly that. Words such as no, not, and don’t are filtered out by our subconscious mind and we radiate energy for that which we don’t want. In the same way, people think about what they don’t want and attract more of the same.
If everything would be governed by fate why would wise men preach about positive thinking and doing good deeds? Positive thoughts and good deeds radiate positive energy and therefore attract positivism. Therefore, whatever happens in our lives is completely the outcome of our actions. Our thoughts and choices shape our destiny.
5.) It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary – The Alchemist.
Life becomes rich as love grows. We keep accumulating all worldly riches to grow richer. Unfortunately, it is everything other than worldly riches that make a man rich. All the things that you have that money can’t buy are your real assets.
Who can say that he does not feel happy watching a child play? Have you ever stopped and listened to the chirping of the birds or rustling of the leaves, feeling in harmony with nature? Try to feel the touch of God’s invisible hand in everything beautiful. These simple things cannot be bargained for all the riches of the world. Stretch your arms and feel the breeze kiss your face, get wet in the rain and feel the tiny drops as they caress you. Take a walk on the beach. Nothing in this world can give you as much pleasure as these simple things. And the best part is that you don’t need to count the pennies in your pocket for these exquisite pleasures.
Recently, I read a novel in which a famous Hollywood actress gives up her glamorous life to be with her childhood friends and family. She wanted a name and fame in life but when she becomes a Hollywood heartthrob, she realizes that without friends and loved ones and the most cherished success, overnight becomes a nightmare. It seemed hollow and deceitful. And she gives it up for the simple pleasure of being surrounded by family and friends, getting married, being loved, and having kids.
To be able to celebrate your joys with your dear ones and to have a shoulder to hold on to during tough times is the biggest pleasure you can ever have. All of us need someone to celebrate our achievements and share our sorrows. They are the ones who care for you selflessly and must be treasured!
6.) The darkest hour of midnight comes just before dawn – The Alchemist.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where the world seems to come to an end. It seems that the results are not worth the effort and most of us decide to quit. It is at this point that we are nearest to our goal. In the words of the alchemist, it is the point at which one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared at the horizon.’ If you feel that nothing can be worse than the present situation, why quit? If nothing can be worse, the next moment will surely be better.
If you have ever tried a hand at gambling you would know better, when you have lost everything and are about to give up, a weak hope tells you to try one last time and you win! Many times when you are looking for some address and after wandering several streets when you are about to quit, you decide to take one more chance and you take a turn and BINGO!! – You are there!
Before we reach our goal, the universe tests us to be sure that we are worth the reward. Even to get a certification in a particular course you need to pass an examination. Similarly, before a dream is realized, you have to pass certain tests. And it is this testing phase that is the most difficult part of your journey and most of us decide to quit at this time. If you quit at this point, you can never accomplish your goal. So, the next time you feel as if it’s all darkness, remember that dawn is just around the corner.
7.) When you possess great treasures within you, and you try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed – The Alchemist.
Yesterday, someone gifted me a box of chocolates. My younger sister saw the box in my hand and looked at me questioningly. I knew she would try all frivolous methods to get the box so I simply said, “Chocolates! Want them?” And to my surprise, she said, “Who would give you chocolates?” She shrugged and went away. It’s not just my sister but it’s true for most of us. The more you try to hide something, the people are more eager to get to it. If you conceal yourself, people will search you, whereas you might be in front of their eyes and they wouldn’t even notice you. Did it ever happen to you that you went with some great idea to your friends and you were met with reactions like: “Sounds good but I don’t think it will work!”, “Are you crazy?”, “You must be joking!” Do you believe that it was not great that idea?
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Great ideas are borne out of great men and great men are ordinary-looking people like you and me. Do you think Thomas Alva Edison was encouraged when he said he invented the electric bulb? NO! Instead, people mocked him saying that many people had attempted that and failed and that it was a futile effort. What if Edison had taken it seriously? Can you imagine a world without electricity?
If others don’t believe you, it does not mean that you are wrong. It’s just that you need to try a little hard to make them believe you. So, have faith in yourself and everything will fall into place, that’s what The Alchemist teaches us.
The Alchemist Summary