As a book that has sold alzillion copies, has been translated into so many languages, and has been read by so many people, The Alchemist needs no formal review. Instead, here are 3 quotes from the book, that are phenomenal. While no replacement for reading the book, the quotes do convey what I as a reader took away from the book.
Quote 1: Part I, Page 39 of paperback version.
I’m going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I’m going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine. And I’m going to hold on to what little I have, because I’m too insignificant to conquer the world.
These are Santiago’s feelings right after being robbed of all his belongings. The three fears that Santiago has are quite distinct: (i) fear of becoming apprehensive of strangers, (ii) fear of hatred of successful people, (iii) fear of becoming petty and miserly.
Readers identify with different aspects of the protagonist, and this fear is the aspect that I identify with the most. I certainly hope that small or big setbacks will not set me back in this sense. Whether this is the ideal or my current self may be irrelevant.
Quote 2: Part II, Page 64.
The hills of Andalusia were only two hours away, but there was an entire desert between him and the Pyramids. Yet the boy felt that there was another way to regard this situation: he was actually two hours closer to his treasure … the fact that the two hours had stretched into an entire year didn’t matter.
What could be more literary way of articulating the economic theory of sunk cost? In the preface, Coelho mentions 4 major obstacles in realizing your destiny: (i) the notion of impossibility, (ii) the shackles of love, (iii) fear of defeats and (iv) the fear of success. By the time we overcome some of these obstacles, we can think – Oh, but we have already lost too much time. Or, we can think: this is where we are, now what?
Quote 3: Part II, Page 68.
But he was able to understand one thing: 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.
Each decision is the starting point of a new journey – a fork in the definition of a new parallel universe – a realization of our potential. Whether we realize our potential positively or negatively is subject to interpretation. Similarly, decisions themselves are rarely right or wrong – mostly it is just our interpretation of the result of the decision that was taken, and our estimate of the road not taken. How can we compare a road taken, with all its rewards and its pitfalls that we experienced concretely, with a road that we never took and of which cannot reasonably guess rewards and travails? Yet, we do it all the time.
And how about the indecisive ones amongst us? It is uncommon sense that not making a decision is akin to making a passive decision of maintaining status quo. This is true in a corporate sense as well – decision making is a key distinguishing reason for companies performing average, and companies performing well.