Conversation with the master – The personal legend

By Paulo Coelho

(Here I continue to reproduce excerpts from talks with my master, from 1982 to 1990)

– What is the Personal Legend?

– It is your blessing, the path God has chosen for you here on Earth. Whenever a man does that which gives him enthusiasm, he is following his Legend. However, not everyone has the courage to face up to his own dreams.

– Why is that?

– There are four obstacles. The first: he has heard, right from childhood, that everything he wishes to live is impossible. He grows up with this idea, and as he acquires age, he also accumulates layers of prejudices, fears, guilt. There comes a time when his Personal Legend is so deeply buried within his soul, he can no longer see it. But it is still there.

“If he has the courage to unearth his dreams, he then faces a second obstacle: love. He now knows what he desires to do, but he thinks he will harm those around him, if he gives everything up to follow his dreams. He does not understand that love is an additional impulse, not something which hinders one from going forward. He does not understand that those who truly wish him well are longing for his happiness, and are ready to accompany him on this adventure.

“After accepting love as a stimulus, a man faces the third obstacle: the fear of the defeats he will encounter along the way. A man who fights for his dream suffers far more when something doesn’t go well, because he cannot use the famous excuse: “oh, well in fact that wasn’t exactly what I wanted anyway…” He does want it, and knows he is putting everything into it, and also that the Personal Legend is just as difficult as any other path – the difference being that your heart is present on this journey. So, a warrior of the light must be prepared to be patient at difficult times, and know that the Universe is conspiring in his favor, even if he does not understand how.

– Are the defeats necessary?

– Whether necessary or not, they occur. When he begins fighting for his dreams, man has no experience, and makes many mistakes. But the secret in life is to fall seven times, and rise up eight times.

– Why is it important to live the Personal Legend, if we are to suffer just as much as others?

– Because after having overcome the defeats – and we always overcome them – we feel much more euphoria and confidence. In the silence of our hearts, we know we are worthy of the miracle of life. Each day, each hour, is part of the Good Combat. We begin to live with enthusiasm and pleasure. Very intense and unexpected suffering begins passing faster than apparently tolerable suffering: that drags on for years, eroding our soul without us noticing what is happening – until one day we can no longer free ourselves of the bitterness, and it accompanies us for the rest of our lives.

– And what is the fourth obstacle?

– After unearthing your dream, using the power of love for support, spending many years with the scars, a man realizes – from one day to the next – that everything he always wanted is right there, waiting for him, perhaps the very next day. Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream he has fought for all his life.

– That makes no sense.

– Oscar Wilde said that we always destroy the thing we love the most. And it is true. The simple possibility of achieving that which we desire causes the soul of the common man to be filled with guilt. He looks around, and sees many others who have not succeeded, and so he thinks he does not deserve it. He forgets everything he overcame, all he suffered, everything he had to renounce in order to come this far. I know many people who, when they are within reach of their Personal Legend, make a series of silly mistakes and do not attain their objective – when it was just one step away.

“This is the most dangerous of the obstacles, because it has a certain aura of sanctity about it: to renounce to joy and the conquest. But if the man is worthy of that which he has fought so hard for, he then becomes an instrument of God, aids the Soul of the World, and understands why he is there”.

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  1. Rishabh Bhasin says:

    I have no idea where I’m headed but I have faith in God and I know he will take me some place good.

  2. […] the audiobook The Alchemist to remind me that what I’m doing here is attempting to live my Personal Legend, and I’m going to sit down and paint. My first watercolor after ~10 years, Dec 2011 My second […]

  3. Alexander says:

    Phillip I too at times feel this way in my early stage of life I was so sure on the path I was taking was the right path. Many people expected so much out of me as did I and with small success things look to be on the right path. Theses past few years I feel at time like I’m drowing in my failures. But more recent I have come to terms that in my life I avoid things that I didn’t want to own up too failing relationship, I lost respect in my family and friends and that I no longer have the light in my heart that once drove me. reading the achlemist brought new light into my life and I sure I made a correction in life. One thing I learn from the book is keep going in the direction you truly want to go in. I realize I may be single soon, less friends, even out work soon. I know deep down inside my path will show it self again. That what I have fail will be a minor bump in the road to my personal legend. We all feel as like kicks us down. You need to realize you can always get up from it.

  4. anamaria says:

    El leer, todas estas lecturas me inspira a ser mejor ser humano y a centrar mi vida, es mi inspiración

  5. Ruchi says:

    once reading was my passion ,i read and used to enjoy and learn but ..after reading your thoughts,books,blogs i started my soul searching ,…i donot know how to write poems, i never write one..but now i know how to think by heart,as heart knows everything … for me it changed my life .
    with love
    dr.Ruchi (INDIA )

  6. All my respect for your work! God bless us in our personal legends from the Darkness to Light! taf D&D

  7. Phillip says:

    After having known about you and your books, followed you on twitter for a while I finally read The Alchemist.

    The story rang true to what I felt in my heart life is about. I’ve always believed that you follow your heart, your intuition and it will lead you to where you belong. Experience has shown me that too, many great people, things and experiences have resulted from seemingly random decisions that that lead to life’s gold.

    I however in my daily work part of my life have been traveling down a dark empty alley. Continually frustrated and angry that I’ve not achieved anything. It seemed like once upon a time I know where I was going and successful when all my peers were studying and lost, now I’m the one lost and everyone else is leading purposeful successful paths.

    It was find in my twenties, I always assumed I’d snap out of it or find my way but now half way though my thirties I’m feeling less secure, less purposeful and unable to find that personal legend. It’s as if I’m reaching around in the dark room, knowing that the light switch is close by and in the same room but not finding it. The helplessness is drowning me day by day, the negativity is clouding my once optimistic eyes, and money is becoming a fried I see less and less of.

    I feel guilty by being a weight in this page of optimism and positivity. I apologize for that. Maybe this is the first step in me allowing myself to ask for help or perhaps guidance. Perhaps I’m just asking the universe to true my internal compass needle.

    Thank you for making a difference.

  8. eunice says:

    dear paulo, you are really a master of conversation. i sent this text to my friend who feel lost and hope he will find his way to find the real man in him. thanks.

  9. […] are the obstacles.  The whole thing would’ve taken up a lot of space here, but I highly recommend reading it. […]

  10. Martha says:

    I want to find my personal legend, I´m seaching in my soul. If I wouldn´t read Paulo Cohelo´s books,I´ll never know how to find it. thak you Paulo!! it´s a mistery path! I really want to find my way!

  11. Joyce says:

    Paulo’s words always make my mind travel years from now. They even make me dream the impossible. But i realized, impossible things are meant to be impossible if we do not anything to make its possibility.. Dreams are always in our hands and it is indeed true that we don’t sometimes realize that everybody is afraid. And we are in fact the ones who create our own fears after all. If we do not try to over come those fears, then we will not be able to hold the dreams in our hands anymore.

    And the only way to do that is to follow what our inner voice is telling us and let our soul have its own solitudeness and happiness…

    Kudos, Paulo!

    Great Day everyone!

  12. Everyone has something to gain in this beautiful world, regardless it is expressed or hidden at the bottom of one’s heart. What I mean by something that may also be called dream by Paulo Coelho. With that something I keep it in mind, I carry out my life enthusiastically. However, in my culture it is not easy just to think to get only what I want in my life. Many times I have to think about others, before I think about my self. It is not a “true” obstacle I face, but it exist before my eyes and I cannot avoid it. I still try to work hard to get my dream though. My question, is there any limits for anyone to think about others?

  13. […] remind us of our childhood dreams and personal legends (and that we should continue to pursue […]

  14. […] source: Paulo Coelho Blog […]

  15. adriana says:

    The search never ends, and even when I feel no fear, I cannot see the way to follow my path… that’s why now I am away from my soul mate, spending all my time and energy looking for a way to get back to him, to share our life and our dreams together…
    Thank you for all the inspiring stories you share, I hope they’ll help me to re-connect my soul as a whole.
    Bless, love to all

    1. Dana says:

      Why do you feel you are away from your soul mate. How can you get to him? I feel this way to.

  16. Rollins says:

    In my part of the world, going after your Personal Legend would sometimes involve changing the status quo, and going contrary to certain norms, and many people are afraid of doing that for fear of becoming outcasts.

    I can’t help but say “Thank You”. Your books have been a source of inspiration for me and many close to me for Years.

    Thank You.

  17. wanbliska says:

    One day, a man told me that I was not afraid to loose, but that I really was in fear with success. He was right.
    The word written in this correspondance are quite true I think. A mirror of myself.
    Many experiences shows us the strength and the magical chance we are brought by , then.
    It’s true I don’t know many conquest, as I often have a lack of something just before it. Suddendly, just before the proof.

    In my work, I don’t do all. And I’m not at ease in all. As an example I love to write a movie, but I know all the work for the production then, so it can discourage me. Then I can bear the montage, so I have to find money to, and I’m not good at that either. Untrue, it’s better to say I don’t like it. I know the path is not a always a garden, but it goes down deep against my way of sight.
    Just now, I just begin to have people that are ready to rely on me. And like my art needs only my body, I can go everywhere, I will always have work.

    For art generally, the worse moment for me is definitely showing myself. I have gifts, but I’m afraid of what? What I’m saying? What people could feel? Both. And maybe other fears I can’t see now.
    That’s why maybe, I stop before the end.
    I’ve contented my heart a “beat”, to return to the place, where I’m asking in eternity: “what I’m doing here?”

    Also, I understood here, that I have to feel enthusiasm. I could feel afraid to make the same mistakes again. But now, I know things appeared in cycles in my life. I’ll just have to be careful. Anyway, there are too many signs due about a prayer. And I’ve always been a stranger in this town.
    I’m thinking seriously about quitting that energy, by going where it shares with me, in a good alchemy. Like a diver, I take that risk.

    Thank you Paulo.

  18. Harmony says:

    The fourth obstacle is the one that describes my greatest freedom in the last several years….
    to realize that by waiting for another moment to find my contentment, my moments slipped away into waiting. Oh the joy of the moment!

  19. Alexandra says:

    Now I am really ashame,because you are so right.Sometimes when I am very near to reach a dream,I can help making stupid mistakes,and even if I dont destroy the dream,I change everything.Now I see why,maybe I was told that we must sacriffice us for the other,so I thougt it was no good in arriving at the goal.Is very interesting the presentation of the good fight,I love it,I keep it in my mind.The best wishes to everybody,Bye.

  20. Liara Covert says:

    To learn to listen to ourselves is exactly what we need to do to deepen self-understanding. That journey is infinite and life-transforming.

  21. Liz says:

    I have first encountered that word when I turned 16. It was in a letter written to me by a mentor. A wonderful mentor who happened to give me a nice token along with the story in his letter.

    He explained to me what a personal legend is. He then asked me if I have already discovered what my personal legend is at that age.

    Well, I have nothing to contribute or comment on this post but this just struck me (once again as the Witch of Portobello has struck me) and I remembered him once more. It also reminded me to move or else I will be too late for everything.

  22. Agnieszka says:

    Oh touch my heart too, always, thank you, love to you.
    and Clover, I’ve never seen the 5th element. I know it is science fiction kind, that’s all.

  23. Clover says:

    Agnieska I’m watching the film the 5th element right now, your last sentence sounds something like that.



  24. brian says:

    This is great. It makes me reflect on the nature of the Personal Legend, and what stands between our realization of it. “When the doors of perception are cleansed, things will appear to man as they truly are…infinite.” – William Blake

  25. Paul says:

    I wish all people could understand what this means for their day-to-day life. But everyone has to find his own way to its own personal legend, and this may take more than one life…

    Anyway, your words are always very inspiring to me. Reading this note tonight, I wondered if you had come across “Conversation with God” by Neale Donald Walsch?

  26. Agnieszka says:

    There’s something inside us that doesn’t let us believe in…dreams, fairy tales, magical moments.
    Even if it’s right there before you, even if the door is open, it’s still hard to believe that we are the ones.
    We wish to believe and we almost do, yet something, maybe this other side of us, tells us…’s not true, you are going to get hurt, you are going to be disappointed, so maybe will be better for you not to step forward.
    But….if we close our eyes, listen to the music of the heart, we may hear the sound, a whisper…of…something bigger than this whole world, bigger than this Universe…something or Someone…and…believe..
    What do we have to lose? Life with no time?
    Life will go on, whether we’ll cry or smile, and.. every tear, every smile….they… just drops of immortal feelings everyone has inside.
    They can only tear up the sky and open the gates to…paradise.