We all dream about what it would be like if all the stars aligned and we were able to work and live doing the things we love. We may enjoy the job that we’re in or the life that we are living, but if we had to sit ourselves down and think about what it is we want the most, would it be what we have now? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho really brings this into perspective by sitting us down and getting us to think ‘what is my Personal Legend?’.
I had never heard of this book until I heard it in a Macklemore song. Then, after hearing that, people around me were talking about this amazing little story that was inspiring them. Then, I was recommended to read it from someone at work. Now, here we are, and I am one of those people saying how inspiring it is. It is such a simple story. There are no extravagant passages of fancy descriptions. There are just simple, straight to the point paragraphs that tell an inspiring story about listening to our hearts and doing what we love.
It follows the story of a young shepherd, Santiago, who talks to a fortune teller about a dream he keeps having, who tells him to go search for treasure by the Egyptian Pyramids. This results in him meeting a strange man—apparently the King of Salem—who tells him to follow his ‘Personal Legend’. That’s a pretty short summary about the beginning of the book and there’s a little more to it, but that’s pretty much what happens! Suddenly, the shepherd starts his quest to find this treasure he has been foretold about. He sells his sheep and sets off, a journey which will not only shape his life but the lives of those who read and experience it.
Santiago meets many people along the way who are living their lives as we are. They are working in jobs that help pay the bills or put food on the table. They are content with what they do, although it could be better. With Santiago’s influence, dream and passion, he is able to transform their thinking to be about what their ‘Personal Legend’ is. What have they missed out? What haven’t they done? Through this, we picture ourselves in the characters and start asking the same questions. We might be the crystal merchant or the would-be alchemist. Nonetheless, we are able to connect with them on some level.
By the end of the story, Santiago finds what it is he is looking for, but it is different and unexpected to what he originally thought. Was it the journey that was fruitful or the result? It echoes the popular notion that life or goals are about the journey, not the destination. I think we can shake that off as something cliched and not realistic, but this story really provides a whole other perspective on it. And, providing the insight into how pursuing our own ‘Personal Legends’ can impact other people’s lives is inspiring in its own right. Imagine helping someone to become happy just by doing what you love?
I’ve heard a range of people talk about their reactions to the story. However, one common theme I’ve noticed is people feeling depressed because they don’t know what their ‘Personal Legend’ is or if they have missed the chance to follow it. It’s interesting to hear these kinds of responses since it shows just how powerful and thought-provoking this text is, and it opens the discussion of when or how we should follow our dreams. I don’t have the answer, but maybe this book can help you in realising it?
Personally, this story connected with me on a bunch of levels. The whole notion that we figure out our Personal Legend when we are younger but lose it when we’re older really struck me. I remember when I was younger being so profoundly in love with reading and writing, and back then I knew all I wanted in my life was to write, read and be surrounded by storytelling. I can’t say I necessarily jumped off that wagon, but I have definitely wavered in the face of being an adult and having to make those big, scary adult decisions.
Anyway, I must say I really enjoyed this story and would recommend everyone give it a go. Some might call it cheesy or unrealistic, but it still evokes some kind of response within us that I think is important and makes storytelling all the more powerful. For myself, this book has made me more motivated to build TaleInferno to be a place where storytellers can find inspiration and ignite the stories within themselves. What will it do for you?
I will finish this review with one quotation (from many) that I really connected with, so I hope you enjoy it and it makes you curious to read this little story for yourself!
‘If a person is living out his Personal Legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.’
That’s it from me. Remember to ignite the story and I’ll see you again soon!
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.