Book Review on Will Smith’s Favorite Book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

For my second book of the month I am rereading The Alchemist. It’s currently 11:29 on Sunday August 13th and I just got done reading the book. I read that book at least 3 times a year. I read the book to keep me grounded and to also keep me inspired and positive while on this entrepreneurship journey. I read the book for the first time a couple of years back after seeing an old Will Smith interview where he stated that it was his favorite book ever. Will Smith stated that he made his kids read it several times.

The Alchemist is written by Paulo Coelho. It’s about a shepherd named Santiago following his dream or personal legend as it is described in the book. The shepherd starts the journey with a dream about finding treasure in the Pyramids of Egypt. He goes to a gypsy woman and an old man claiming to be a mysterious king and they both advise him to pursue it. The quotes that stuck out to me in the first chapters were: “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation”, and “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I relate to the story because I feel that currently I am pursuing my own personal legend. Like the shepherd my journey started with an initial vision and my willingness to pursue it. I didn’t have any idea of how I would achieve the goal but I knew that I had to do it.

Throughout the shepherd’s journey he learns different lessons. The first lesson he learned was about individuals who don’t pursue their own personal legends. The King told him that everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. He states “At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”

One of my favorite passages is:

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.”

That passage speaks directly to me because I see a lot of people settle in life. This relates to everything from where they live, who they are in a relationship with, what job they have, their current goals, and what they want out of life. I have seen firsthand individuals who say that they will work until they get old and then retire off social security. I watched my grandmother retire and get too sick to travel and enjoy life at that age.

I am of the mindset that an individual can do anything that they put their mind to. Like Will Smith said, “greatness is not this wonderful esoteric thing that only a few of us have access to, it actually exists in everyone.” I really believe that statement. The ones who achieve greatness are just the ones who are willing to go through the shit and smile while doing so. They are willing to do the things that others won’t. Most individuals don’t want to pursue a business of their own because you are vulnerable. Your income depends on how good your business does. You will have months, sometimes years to where you can’t afford to pay yourself. You must get comfortable being uncomfortable. Most individuals think about pursuing their dream but then they think about giving up their comfortable and routine life. You can choose to pursue your legend like Santiago and go through a lot of shit to get there or you can choose to be the baker. You can decide that pursuing your dream is too risky, and any other ideas that you use to rationalize not going after your dream. But, like the book states, once you don’t listen to your heart and soul telling you to go after your dream, that feeling will reappear randomly over the course of the next year or two. If the individual doesn’t act after those 2 years the heart will just stop talking to the individual and he will cease to have the dream. The dream will disappear totally.

The book is a must read for any individual who is currently trying to figure out what they want to do in their life. The book will resonate more with individuals who are currently pursuing their dream. Any of those individuals will relate directly to Santiago. I encourage any individual who is currently on a mission trying to make something happen to read this book. Whether you are discouraged or have high optimism, there will be a time when you are discouraged and you will immediately think back to this book and the shepherd Santiago and you will smile knowing that you will go through shit but “the universe conspires to help any individual trying to achieve their personal legend.”