I was surprised and impressed by how people would light up when I told them I was reading The Alchemist. Even folks I didn’t know, or folks who I never pegged for being big readers were telling me how The Alchemist impacted their lives. And this is the legacy of Paulo Coelho’s work over 25 years later. This makes me question what kind of literary rock I’ve been living under all these years!
I’ve noticed a surprising and fun trend in my reading lately. Books seem to arrive in my life at the exact moment I need to be reading them, absorbing their wisdom. Lets use Coelho’s vocabulary and call them omens. With The Alchemist there were so many omens shooting my way I finally said “okay enough already, I hear you Universe!” I bought the book immediately and punted it to the top of my reading queue.
The Alchemist is not a hard book, it’s not cerebral. It is humanizing. The Alchemist is about the swirl-y landscape of the personal journey we are each living. Day in and day out we exist in the grind of the decisions we make: how we spend our time, who we spend it with, and all the ramifications and blessings that ping-pong around us. It’s easy to get lost in the swirl. Many people do, and they get stuck in that place forever. I believe it would behoove every single one of us to zooooooom out, WAY OUT, to examine the successes, failures, and non-linear landmarks along our way. That’s hard to do unless otherwise prompted, but The Alchemist does just that. The Alchemist is like a mirror. Coelho has a way of presenting the Hero’s Journey to us in a highly-identifiable way.
hat only works though if you know what you want. And I don’t mean that boat or those shoes or that vacation. Those are fine I suppose, but only if they align with your values, the core principles with which you move through the world. One of my values is financial freedom, and I’ve turned my whole life upside down in recent months to get to a healthy place. The plan alone though doesn’t guarantee success, and in fact there have been some demoralizing obstacles already dropped at my feet. Like a dead rat. Dead rats at my feet courtesy of the IRS. You know those moments when life shocks you with shit and your world starts to close in and your airways constrict and you have an internal panic attack while your negative self-speak starts to scream so loud you can’t hear the voice of reason anymore? Yeah, that. It’s happened to me and it will happen to you and it will continue happening. The thing about having strong values that align with your goals/treasure is that The Alchemist acknowledges that dead rats get dropped at your feed sometimes. This acknowledgement is a big freakin' deal in the glossy world of social media where everyone is perfect and beautiful and skinny and wealthy and traveling, because (I can’t say this enough) the path to our treasure is not linear!
I’m reminded of one particular scene in The Alchemist in which the Shepherd, after having risked his entire livelihood to move to a new city to pursue his Personal Legend finds himself the victim of theft. The Shepherd is now (1) broke, (2) alone, and (3) in a city where he doesn’t speak the language. If we’re going to draw parallels here (and we are) this feels something like the IRS tracking me down and asking me for more money than I had in my bank account. Big, fat, dead rat.
I’ve taken it as par for the course now because my dream is so damn clear. My financial freedom is WORTH IT despite a setback or two (or three or four). Getting good with your obstacles is important because while they may slow you down or pivot you, the goals you have are so much bigger and more important than any of the barriers. The dreams we cultivate are how we make our lives worth living, and no IRS agent should slow you down.
You must decide which dreams are worth the work. The Shepherd did, and he gives me courage. Reading The Alchemist is like a soothing balm for the soul and a mantra for LIFE. I suspect this is why so many people have found solace and validation and inspiration in these pages.