The Alchemist

By: Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is the story of a young shepherd who follows his "Personal Legend." After reading Joseph Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces, I've realized that it's just a simple, artfully told version of the hero's journey, but few books illustrate the steps and pitfalls of the hero's journey with the wistful clarity that Paulo Coelho does. If you have a dream, a "Personal Legend," or anything else you want to call such innate ambitions, this book will bring you to tears and serve as a straightforward guide on your quest to fulfill it.

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The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. ‘When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery and put some money aside. When he’s an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.’ ‘He should have decided to become a shepherd,’ the boy said. ‘Well, he thought about that,’ the old man said. ‘But bakers are more important people than shepherds. Bakers have homes, while shepherds sleep out in the open. Parents would rather see their children marry bakers than shepherds.’ The boy felt a pang in his heart, thinking about the merchant’s daughter. There was surely a baker in her town. The old man continued, ‘In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.’
‘If you want to learn about your own treasure, you’ll have to give me one-tenth of your flock.’
’What about one-tenth of my treasure?’
The old man looked disappointed. ‘If you start out by promising what you don’t even have yet, you’ll lose the desire to work towards getting it.’
But the sheep had taught him something even more important: that there was a universal language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time that he was trying to improve things at the shop. It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired.
He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really driving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.
But all this happened for one basic reason: no matter how many detours and adjustments it made, the caravan moved toward the same compass point. Once obstacles were overcome, it returned to its course, sighting on a star that indicated the location of the oasis. When the people saw that star shining in the morning sky, they knew they were on the right course toward water, palm trees, shelter, and other people. It was only the Englishman who was unaware of all this; he was, for the most part, immersed in reading his books.
‘Once you get into the desert there’s no going back,’ said the camel driver. ‘And once you can’t go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward.’
‘Because my eyes are not yet accustomed to the desert.’ the boy said. ‘I can see things that eyes habituated to the desert might see.’
‘They were looking only for gold,’ his companion answered. ‘They were seeking the treasure of their personal legend without wanting actually to live out the personal legend.’
Usually the threat of death makes people a lot more aware of their lives.
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

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