This book changed my life, twice, and I think it can impact anyone in a profound way because of the following lessons from the brilliant Paul Coelho.
1. What you are seeking is seeking you.
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
2. You can always go back to being a shepherd. In the book the main character must make a choice as to whether to travel to the Egyptian pyramids in search of a sacred treasure and leave his current life behind, or to stay in the comfort of the life he knew. As we get older we tend to take fewer risks. However, as Gary Vaynerchuk states below there’s a tremendous amount to risk by playing it safe.
Want to go back to school? Move across the country? Start a business? Do it. You can always go back to being a shepherd if things don’t work out. I left a solid paying job (two jobs technically) to go back and play baseball again at 26, with no scholarship I may add, because we just didn’t know if my arm could actually hold up. It seemed crazy, and I felt like it was too crazy to go through with. I mean – who the hell does that? Then I happened across the Alchemist (which I do not think was a coincidence, rather the universe nudging me in a certain direction) and my decision became easy – I realized even if things went disastrously poorly I could always return home and start again in virtually the same spot I was currently at.
I’ll say it again, you can always go back to being a shepherd.
3. The “Treasure” is right here, right now. Without ruining the book, if you decide to actually read it – Cervantes’ quote, “it’s the road, not the inn” perfectly captures Coelho’s most important lesson.
Andy Bernard, from The Office, emphasizes this lesson as well.
Lastly, even in the most difficult of times, there could be treasure right in front of your nose – to borrow Coelho’s overarching metaphor from the book. As Freud said, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”