Stories & Reflections
One of my favorite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The first time I read it was on a train from Beijing to Xi’an in China. An interesting train ride to reflect upon one’s dream. To say the least.
Imagine thousands of people on a platform, all eager to get a seat. Unfortunately, we were late booking tickets, and we could only get 3rd class seats, instead of a bed on the train. The train ride took 14 hours.
The people fighting in front of the train doors apparently bought standing tickets in 3rd class. I didn’t know such a thing existed. They brought foldable chairs and literally sat everywhere. Even in the toilets.
There I sat. A Chinese man nodding to sleep on my shoulder, reading the Alchemist. But I didn’t care. The story was mesmerizing. Now, 7 years later, I finally re-read it. And it all clicked.
I’m not a woolly person, but now I’m finally following my dream of becoming a writer, I just understood some things about following your dreams. I identified the following 8 steps from quotes from the book in order to successfully go after your dream too.
Coelho: “The boy didn’t know what a person’s “destiny” was.
It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their destiny is. […] It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.”
I used to hate that word: destiny. But why should I? Call it whatever you want, fate, your calling, a dream or a goal. It’s not some esoteric hocus pocus. It’s SOMETHING that moves you from where you are right now to where you should be heading. And one would do well to follow its directions.
So what do you dream of doing?
What was it you wanted to be when you would grow old? In kindergarten, we always wrote in each other’s journals to answer questions about our favorite things in life. In addition, we had to write down what we wanted to be when we would be adults. I always wrote down: to be a writer or a chef.
Coelho: “We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them?—?the path to their destinies, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.
People learn, early in their lives, what is their reason for being,” said the old man, with a certain bitterness. “Maybe that’s why they give up on it so early, too. But that’s the way it is.”
It’s like asking an adult: what would you do with your life when money is no object?
We have responsibilities, bills, we need to “fit in” or please our parents. I went to Business School because I figured I’d always be able to find a job with a degree in business or perhaps ‘make it big’. With that, I lost sight of what I wanted to do most.
Coelho: “Making a decision was only the beginning of things. 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 I read the phrase above, I had to put the book down. It’s so true! One and a half years ago, I finally decided not only to write but publish my work too.
Initially, I was working on a novel, but something just wasn’t right. Then I had an idea for a short story about a man who one day found a money tree growing in his garden. My short story blog was born. This decision let me on a magnificent and exciting path.
I found a hidden alley on the road that is my life. I knew it was there, but never before had I been able to find it. Let alone dare enter it.
When I entered the door, I found there to be a new trail. It was raw and wild, without a road. A huge difference to the road I was used walking on, which was neat and well walked on.
Coelho: “He had to choose between something he had become accustomed to and something he wanted to have.”
Go through your own hidden door. What is it you always wanted to do but never did because life happened? How could you make it work given your current lifestyle? Make time for it.
When you decide to take the plunge, you have to leave your comfortable life. You have to do something outside of your comfort zone (I know, a big fat cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason). It’s always scary, and I’m not going to talk about the magic that happens outside of your comfort zone. You probably read about that somewhere else.
Just take one small step. If we stick to writing, write 100 words a day.
Coelho: “I don’t want to change anything, because I don’t know how to deal with change. I’m used to the way I am.
Why ask more out of life?
Because we have to respond to omens.”
Who knows how to deal with change? Just let it take you somewhere new. Ride the currents with grace. You can be that person who follows his or her dream.
Ask more out of life because you deserve more. You have one shot at life (presumably, but let’s not go there).
Coelho: “There is only one way to learn,” the alchemist answered. “It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”
Enough said. Please DO.
Coelho: “I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.
How do I guess at the future? Based on the omens of 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.”
So you’re taking a chance upon one of your dreams, you’ve listened to your omens. It’s a journey full of obstacles, lessons, and, inevitably, growth.
Don’t dwell on the fact that you didn’t act sooner, you’re acting now. Don’t linger on future daydreams either. I get it, you see yourself achieving your dream, but that alone won’t get you there. Make a plan, take incremental steps to achieve your goals. Do this every day. The only moment you can do something is now.
Coelho: “When someone sees the same people every day, […] they wind up becoming a part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
This happens a lot. When you follow something you’re passionate about and chase a dream some people will discourage you. Know that most of them do this because they haven’t done anything about their dreams.
However, accept people’s honest advice when things aren’t working out. You’ll hate them for saying it, but deep down you know if something is working out or not.
Coelho: “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.
If a person is living out his destiny, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
If you don’t know how to do anything, you have to learn it. If you try, you’ll one day die knowing you tried. That’s always better than thinking what could’ve been.
Ask for help. Google. Follow courses. Read about the subject you’re interested in.
Maybe it’s just me, but this book resonated with me so strongly the second time I read it. Perhaps it’s because I feel such a powerful pull into the direction of writing. Like an invisible magnet is pulling me towards the North, the place where I achieve my dream.
I just need to act upon it, become better, face my fears and see where that new alley takes me. Hopefully, I can turn it into a beautiful, well-trodden path of success.