Friday, April 25, 2014

'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho Changed My Life

I read the book "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho in 2004.  At the time, I was working as a marketing executive at Johnson & Johnson in their consumer division, home of some of the best loved brands in America.


Anyone who works in marketing knows that the hours are long and the stress is high.  I loved my job, but I was struggling to balance work with family as my two young children were 6 and 8 years old.  I didn't want anyone else raising my family for me, I wanted to do that myself and was really struggling with how to keep a semblance of balance while working at such a high pressure job that warranted long hours.

I had recently joined a book club in town and on a particularly stressful week, the book that the group decided to read was 'The Alchemist.'

It literally changed my life.

The allegorical story focuses on a young Andalusian boy named Santiago who wants to travel around the world in search of worldly treasures.  He journeys throughout Tangiers and Egypt and finally comes to an encounter with the alchemist of the title.

Through his journey and his encounter with the alchemist, Santiago finds the courage to follow his personal legend.  He finds helpers and fairy godfathers at every turn in his path who help him learn to keep up his courage, to read the omens he is presented with and to find and follow his own heart.

This simple allegory opened my heart and mind to the fact that as the young Santiago learns, "To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation."

I was so moved by the lesson in the book that I came to the realization that I wanted to follow my heart and quit my job at Johnson & Johnson and start a consulting firm so that I'd have more flexibility to raise the kids.  It took me about 2 more years after reading the book to get the whole plan in place and find the clients but the dream was born and formed during the reading of "The Alchemist."

The book and Santiago's journey gave me the courage to leap out into the unknown and trust that it would all work out.  Which it did.  I've been steadily self-employed since 2006 when I resigned from J&J to start my own company.

It's made my life wonderful, I have an incredibly flexible work life which has allowed me to work full time while able to balance raising my two kids, who are now teens.

I'm there to meet my kids every day around 3:00 when they come home from school with their back packs full and all their teenager attitude.  They tell me how boring school is and how stupid their classes are and I get to hear all the latest school gossip.  And they actually open their mouths to talk to me a little and let me know what's going on.

So I owe Paulo Coelho my transformation from a tightly wound corporate business woman to a relaxed (or as relaxed as I can ever be) home based marketing consultant.  Still making good money.

How about you?  Have you read "The Alchemist" and did it transform your life?  Or was there another book that did that for you?  Please share!  I'm always looking for good books.

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12 comments:

  1. Isn't it amazing what a great book will do for you? I don't have a similar story but I think Coelho is fantastic.

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    1. I had never read any of his work before this (don't know how I missed him!) and loved it. It was perfect for the time I was going through.

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  2. Hi Claudia! Yes I have read most of Paulo's books including the Alchemist. How great that is was a key to giving you the courage that you needed to step out of the box and live the life you were meant to live. I can't say it "changed" my life because I was already on the path when I found it--but who can't be encouraged by reading it? I find it helpful to continue to read books like this to keep my courage up! Thanks for the reminder! ~Kathy

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    1. Hi Kathy,
      Me too, I find certain books, at certain times just make things come together.

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  3. I have to check out the Alchemist. I have never read it. I think one of the best gifts that we can give our children is our presence. How fortunate we have been that we can do that for our children ... and for ourselves.

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    1. Yes, we sure are, Jodi. It was just the thing for me at that moment in time.

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  4. Full disclosure: I read The Alchemist and really really really tried to be moved by it.... I swear I did. I think I read it at a time in my life when I wasn't able to receive deep messages...mostly because my kids were small and my brain recognized absolutely nothing other than coffee and smelly diapers. I need to try this one again....

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    1. HI Christine - You know, I was just wondering yesterday if I read it today what I would think. I might think it was too corny, but I have to tell you that at the time I read it, it was SO dead on for what I was wrestling with that it made such an impression.

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  5. How great that you go so much from reading a novel. Fiction being my first love, it's wonderful to see it can have such an impact. Years ago, I read one of his books, but I can't remember the name! What I remember most about it was a girl playing the piano. She was in a mental hospital, so institution of some sort.
    Paul Coelho keeps cropping up for me just now. Someone on Twitter asked if my books were similar. Maybe it's time I read some more of him!

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    1. I liked The Alchemist, and read 1 or 2 others after that but they didn't have quite the same impact for me. I think it was just the right book, at the right time, for me.

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  6. I have never read the book but certainly will have to add this to my reading list. Can't say I have had that experience but for you it was certainly the right book at the right time. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Hi Kathy, I hope you get a chance to read it, it's a wonderful book if you're in a state of transition as I was back in 2004.

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