The Alchemist in an amazing book about reconnecting with your life purpose told through an epic journey of discovery across Spain and Africa. I made the below video to discuss the main themes of the book along with the 3 key lessons I took away from it, I have also included all the details below for those who’d prefer to read. For those who haven’t read it, let me know your thoughts on the below, for those that have, let me know if I missed anything from your interpretation.
The Alchemist is the international best seller by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. This allegorical novel has sold more than 65 million copies in 56 different languages, making it one of the best-selling books in history and setting the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.
So why should you read it?
This book has 3 key lessons to teach you, but to understand them fully, you first need the background of the story…
The novel follows the journey of Santiago a shepherd boy based in Andalusia, who while sleeping near a sycamore tree in the sacristy of an abandoned church, has a recurring dream telling him that he will find a hidden treasure if he travels to the Egyptian pyramids. He believes his dream is a prophecy; however he is uncertain, and reluctant to leave his comfortable life as a shepherd.
However Santiago then meets a mysterious old man, claiming to be the King of Salem. He tells Santiago about good and bad omens and says that it is the shepherd boy’s duty to pursue his Personal Legend. He then gives Santiago two stones, Urim and Thummim, with which to interpret omens and help guide him on his journey.
Santiago sells his flock and purchasing a ticket to travel by boat to Tangier, in northern Africa. Shortly after he arrives there, a thief steals all of Santiago’s money, the boy finds work in the shop of a crystal merchant, where Santiago makes improvements that reap considerable financial rewards for the owner.
After eleven months of working in the shop, Santiago journeys with a caravan party on to cross the vast Sahara in pursuit of the hidden treasure, during his time with the caravan Santiago meets an Englishman who wants to learn the secret of alchemy, the ability to turn any metal (primarily lead) into gold, from a famous alchemist who lives at an oasis on the way to the pyramids.
While travelling, Santiago begins listening to the desert and discovering the Soul of the World. The caravan eventually reaches the oasis, and there Santiago meets an Arab girl named Fatima and falls in love with her instantly. The caravan leader gathers the travellers together and tells them that tribal warfare prevents them from continuing their journey.
Santiago wanders from the oasis into the desert and, seeing two hawks fighting in the sky, has a vision of an army entering the oasis. Because attacking an oasis is a violation of the rules of the desert, Santiago shares his vision with the oasis’s tribal chieftain. They arm the men, and they are well-prepared when the oasis is indeed invaded. Soon afterwards, Santiago is confronted by a black-garbed, veiled stranger with a sword, who sits atop a white horse. It is the alchemist, who offers to cross the desert with Santiago. While travelling the Alchemist shares many teachings of wisdom.
Soon the two men enter into an area of intense tribal warfare. Warriors hold the two men captive, but eventually allow them to continue their journey, following a demonstration of the 2 men’s powers to control the elements. The alchemist tells Santiago that he needs to return to the oasis, and that the rest of the trip is Santiago’s to make alone so that he can claim his Personal Legend.
Santiago arrives at the Egyptian pyramids and begins to dig. He finds nothing buried in the ground. Thieves beat Santiago and rob him of his money. After he tells them of his dream, though, one of the thieves recounts his own dream about a buried treasure in the sacristy of an abandoned church.
Returning to Andalusia, Santiago goes back to the church where he dreamed of the treasure near the pyramids at the start of the story. He digs where he slept, beneath a sycamore tree, and there it is Santiago’s treasure.
There are a few key lessons to be learnt from the Alchemist, many you pick up on the second reading. This is an individual process, but here are my key take away points: -
Lesson #1: Have a dream
Above all else, The Alchemist is about the power and importance of following your dreams. Let’s be practical however before you can follow a dream, you have to actually have a dream. You must want or desire something — whether it be an object, a place, a person, or something else — that you do not currently have. Really visualise it, is it £1 million in the bank, that new house or car?
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 believe that your dream and your big thoughts can come true.
Lesson #2: Failing is part of the process
Those that don’t fail also don’t achieve. 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.
"Experience is what you get, when you didn’t get what you want."
Lesson #3: Don’t give up; don’t ever give up
Towards the end of the book Santiago is severely tested, he’s walking through the desert losing sight of his goal far in the distance and having to navigate the deadly terrain. He maintains his perseverance by focusing on the obstacle in front of him and working out the best way to scale the mountain or go around it, always keeping faith that he will achieve his goal. Knowing if he gets set back 1,000 times, but he goes 1,001 he will achieve his goal.
The Alchemist will change help to your outlook on hardship and understanding what motivates you. As with all books it is a conversation with the author told through allegory so that we can really analyse and understand the key points.
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I wish you well on finding your own personal legend.