The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Summary

Through an elegant narrative about an Andalusian shepherd boy, Coelho communicates essential life lessons, including the importance of pursuing your passions, living in the present, and doing things with love and enthusiasm.

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Key Takeaways

Possibility

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Without possibility, life is meaningless. We know we won’t achieve everything we hope for, but the hope that we can achieve at least some of it can keep us going.

Advice

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

When your friend asks for advice, how obvious is the path forward? Probably a lot more obvious than if you were looking to solve the same problem yourself.

Happiness

“The Soul of the World is nourished by people’s happiness.”

Be happy. Help others be happy. Spread happiness.

Adjusting to new realities

“I left my father, my mother, and the town castle behind. They have gotten used to my being away, and so have I. The sheep will get used to my not being there, too, the boy thought.”

People quickly adapt to new circumstances. Are you scared that someone won’t survive if you leave or that your company won’t thrive without you there? If so, remember that people are more resilient and adaptive than they might seem.

On betrayal

“I’m going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I’m going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine. And I’m going to hold on to what little I have, because I’m too insignificant to conquer the world.”

“As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.”

If you’ve been wronged, you have a choice. You can become bitter and distrustful, or you can find a way to learn a lesson and move forward without being permanently jaded.

On decisions

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

When you decide to pursue a path and start walking along that path, you have no idea where that will lead you. You may think you know, but there will all kinds of twists and turns that carry you to new places.

Be present

“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present.”

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.”

The present is where life happens. To fully enjoy life, you need to find ways to escape the tendency to obsess about the past or the future. The past is done, and the future is made through your actions in the present.

Fear of failure

“It was my fear of failure that first kept me from attempting the Master Work. Now, I’m beginning what I could have started ten years ago. But I’m happy at least that I didn’t wait twenty years.”

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

If you have delayed pursuing a dream for 10 years, that doesn’t mean you should never do it. Sure, it would have been better to start it 10 years ago, but starting now is better than waiting another 10 years.

What you believe is what you see

“Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.”

If you think the world is full of angry and selfish people, then you will experience the world in this way. You’ll find all the ways to interpret the events you see and experience through this lens. However, if you believe the world is full of grateful and giving people, you’ll start to see more of this in the world. What you believe is what you perceive.

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