Book review: The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoAn amazing thing happens when you start reading positive, inspirational, motivational readings and books. The infamous Amazon recommendation engine kicks in and starts recommending more. It should be no surprise then that an inspirational classic showed up in one of my Amazon recommendation emails – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I added it to my reading list at some point during the first half of 2016 and decided to make it a priority for 2017.

I enjoyed the story in the book, but that’s not its focus. The primary point is about following your dreams, or your “Personal Legend” as Coelho calls it. I found this post on Paulo Coelho’s blog which is an excellent summary of the 10 Powerful Life Lessons in the book, but here are the top three which I took away from it.

1. As my good friend Steve Hudson told me recently, life is about “progress, not perfection”. Rarely do things in our life go exactly according to plan. We have to be comfortable realizing that life isn’t a quest for perfection. The sooner we realize it, the easier it becomes for us to make progress towards our goals and dreams. If we stay focused on the end goal, we may not get there according to our plan, but at least will make progress towards it. As we make progress, we will learn and grow. We will discover new ideas and opportunities. At the end of the day, we may never reach our intended goal. In fact, it’s possible we may reach even higher heights. The point is that we have to have the courage to take that first step and be confident that we will eventually end up in a better place.

2. The fun of following your dream is in the journey, not in reaching the destination. Often, reaching the destination can be anti-climatic, even a let down. It’s all the things that happen along the journey that we remember and cherish.

3. While chasing our dreams, it’s important that we are alert and ready to act when opportunities and signs are presented to us. For whatever reasons, our human tendency is to wait for things to happen for us when the answers are right in front of us if we would only act on them. Rarely do things happen when we our passive in our approach to life. When we act, opportunities open up and are presented to us.

I found the book to be very similar to Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach, which I liked a lot. I don’t mention this because it’s a bad thing. It’s a positive trait of The Alchemist. If I were to choose between the two, I would prefer Illusions, but it’s a tough choice. I’d recommend both books as food for the soul, and which one you like will be a personal preference. Just as with Illusions, The Alchemist is a good read. It’s a book I would recommend, but not one I would consider a Must Read.

If I were to summarize The Alchemist, it’s a book about following your dreams. As Paulo points out, we all are, or should be, in search of our “Personal Legend”. Some of us have made the decision to go after it, while others are sitting back as life passes them by. For those that take the chance on chasing their dream, they may not achieve it, but they’ll finish in a different place than where they started. As I said above, the fun is in the journey, not in reaching the destination. The sooner we realize this life lesson, the more content we will be.


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