Book Review: Ten Lessons from The Alchemist

There! I, too, have read Paulo Coelho's Alchemist. I had been meaning to do so since I read Ben Johnson's, and also after hearing Will Smith recommended it once on some late night show. However, I kept forgetting. In a recent shoot of my bookshelves, I saw my copy of Ben Johnson's and though I was in the middle of To the Lighthouse, I stopped reading to look up Coelho's version. Luckily I found a copy online. As it is really short, only 94 pages, I put Woolf aside and finished Coelho in a few hours. It is a fast, easy read.

So here is the top ten lessons I gleaned from my first reading:

1. One needs an idea of what it is one wishes to do with one's life in order to have a meaningful life. Santiago dreams to travel. Though his poor parents gave him a good education, with the intension that he would become a priest, his parents' dreams were not his own.

2. One must find courage to do that which one wishes to use one's time for. When Santiago realized what his dream was, he had to muster up the courage to break the news to his parents. It crushed them and though his father tried to convince him to stay in their village and become a priest, Santiago's desire was so strong that he had a counterargument for every reason his father had on why he ought to stay. Eventually, "his father said no more. The next day, he gave his son a pouch that held three ancient Spanish gold coins." Even though  Santiago's father felt his son might be making a mistake, he gave his blessing because he was himself living a life of unfulfilled dreams and he wanted better for Santiago.

3. The ability to be willing and ready to learn is essential to fulfilling one's dreams. Santiago's desire was to travel, but in order to do so he had to become a shepherd. He did not know anything about the trade and had to learn everything. Then as a shepherd he learns other lessons, like noticing omens and patterns, which aided him in his future travels.

4. Time is essential. One ought to learn to appreciate the significance of the present in order to plan better for tomorrow. One ought to be aware of time in order to be mindful of how one uses it. And in all of time, choices have to be made. Even if the decision is to do nothing.

5. One must always work towards expanding one's comfort zone. First Santiago broke his parents hearts, that must not have been easy. He then had to leave the comfort of his village and bed for a rougher life of traveling as a shepherd. In order to go further, he had to give up his life as a shepherd which was by then comfortable, and sell his sheep which were like family to him. Then he had to leave Spain for Egypt. From one continent to another, from one country to another. Every time Santiago became comfortable in a circumstance that was once unfamiliar, he had to leave it behind and challenge himself in a new situation of discomfort. In so doing he not only fulfilled his dreams, he got more than he ever dreamt of.
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6. It pays to be observant. Learn of the ways and nature of the people and things in your environment. It gives one a powerful place in communication and understanding of how things work. At the crystal shop, his observance of the potential customers helped him to provide a solution to their needs and in so doing increased business for the crystal merchant. Then his observance of the shopkeeper taught him how to interact with him for both of their benefits.

7. To not go after one's dream is to refuse oneself the opportunity to reach one's potential.

8. The closer one gets to fulfilling a dream the harder things become. Do not give up. Santiago gets beaten up in the desert when he thought he had finally reached his destination.  The question of how much one's life is worth compared to the worth of one's desires is here answered. But Santiago also discovers that the location of the treasure he is searching for is not where he thought it was. That he came all the way to where he thought the treasure was to actually learn of the real location of the treasure, which is actually where he came from. Through the narration of a dream of one of the men who had beaten him, Santiago is rewarded. But talking about his dream was necessary for him to access the other's.

9. Above all, one must leave room to acquire more treasures on the pursuit of one's dreams and enjoy the journey. By not just focusing on the treasure he was after, Santiago picked up many useful lessons, friends, and love on his way to finding it.

10. When one fulfills one's dream. One must not forget those who were of help, nor should one forget the promises one made along the way. Hence Santiago goes back and pays his one tenth to the Gypsy woman.

What makes The Alchemist really beautiful is that so much is compressed in so little and in such a simple way that it is almost ambitious and ridiculous. But it seems to suggest itself as a metaphor of that which it commends. I suppose one could say the general message is that when one follows one's heart, one is in accordance with nature and in so doing finds treasures in life; in other words, makes gold out of nothing––in another sense what is free is the gift of life. But when a life has a passionate goal, through time of great perseverance, one is capable of turning dreams into actuality.

Got your own lessons to share? Please let me know in the comment section. I will be grateful for them. Thanks for reading and have a blast!
-
Jane

Comments

  1. I really enjoyed The Alchemist. I need to re-read it yearly! And I like your idea that the apparent simplicity of the book could be a metaphor in itself.

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    Replies
    1. Jhaneel, thank you for the comment. :) I agree, it would be really good to re-read The Alchemist yearly. I will aim to do the same.

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Jane

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