The Alchemist

I've been meaning to write a review on The Alchemist. Good thing I waited (er... was busy with work) because a good friend from HKG gave me her review: it wasn't satisfying. Everybody else loved the book, including yours truly. Anyway, The Alchemist is basically about pursuing dreams. It's that simple. Hence my HKG friend's reaction. She thought it was too simple and was a book for people who were too lazy to read. I tend to agree with her. Because I am too lazy to read... like many of my MBA classmates. (We read the book for class)

Nonetheless, lessons well taken from The Alchemist. Everybody has a dream. Not everybody follows it for various reasons. There are subjective and objective reasosn, and some reasons are hard to overcome. The book makes an attempt to say nothing is impossible (thank you, Adidas) and that we should pursue our dreams no matter what. This is, of course, debatable. Nonetheless, The Alchemist makes me think about the paths that I have taken so far and whether those paths are by design or by luck and, most importantly, whether it's leading me towards my dream.

The one thing that bothered me is that the book thinks that everybody has a dream. It doesn't really tell us how to find or formulate this dream. The very nature of a dream, the book says, indicates that it should come to you naturally (bad English, apologies). Nobody can teach you how to identify your dream, for you are the one who knows yourself the best.

This got me thinking: what is my dream? Is it being a consultant? A partner? Travel photographer and writer? At Chicago GSB, I'm working towards the first and second maybe. Just maybe. But that's hardly my dream! The last may be a dream, but I'm good at neither photography nor writing... maybe because I'm focused on career and knowledge. By working as a consultant, am I diminishing my chances of achieving my dream (assuming that it was true and all)?

Let me end with my mother: she use to teach. Following her dream of running her own business, she quit her stable teaching job at the university and started a supermarket business in Hong Kong. Later, she started a beauty salon business. Then, she started a travel agent, capitalizing her dream of learning about other cultures and art and history. She now runs specialty tour groups for museum goers. Maybe there's more to her path... maybe there isn't... I doubt she knew she wanted to be a travel agent, and I doubt she knew of her dream of learning art and history. But by quiting teaching and being an (serial) entrepreneur, she seem to be one step closer.

So maybe, just maybe, I am one step closer. Meanwhile, at the GSB, something counter-productive to my "dream": I left my camera in the classroom. When I found out later in the afternoon, I had a temporary heart attack and felt like the biggest dumbass for not taking care of my favorite electronic equipment. Arg.


Huckle Cat said...

Interesting. I don't remember anything about the Alchemist except that when I read it years ago I thought it was intended for stupid people. Maybe I'd appreciate it more now as a student : )

Josekin said...

Yeah, that's exactly what my friend in HK said...!

Anonymous said...

And that's the reason why I refused to read it!


shmoo said...

Your HK friend and Huckle Cat echo my own thoughts. I read it years ago, don't remember anything about it except that I thought it was too simple and allegorical.

April said...

I will suggest professor to remove "The Alchemist" as required reading in final evaluation form. This book is for people with (firm) dream already, and with knowledge to tell which is omen or not.Everyone knows we should follow our dream, but there are too many stories behind to stop you.I think this book is too optimistics and full of bull-shit. It's just like tell Asian people to follow Fortune Teller at Temple.

Anonymous said...

Ah...Following what fortune teller tells you is actually better. At least you have something to go after.

I don't have a dream right now. Or does going to Peru count?


Helen said...

it seems not many people like the book you recommended to me. =P however, i did find something reflecting my status, my thoughts, my fear, etc. i don't have specific, clear dreams either, but i have a clear view that i was not heading for the possible direction. for me, the book is more about confirming test. i may need some disconfirming test though.
another point, i thought there were still some concepts from the book i need to think about more. or it's just that i'm too stupid to see how simple it is.

Anonymous said...

Your dream may not represent any "one" thing in life. Maybe your dream may be to have a successful career while still doing what you enjoy. Maybe you're a great photographer but definitely you weren't born gifted in photography. Then it's probably a very good hobby or what I'd call a "balancing serum" to your life. You can't only have work. You're well balanced. For some, you can be always chasing after a dream or you can be enjoying your achieved dream now. I used to teach a class called the art of living. Here's the story...

There once was a man who worked really hard in life. He had the perfect job and did perfectly in his job but he worked feverishly everyday. Finally he could take it anymore and he took a day off. "This day is to be perfect," he said. Therefore, he quickly went out and drove to the music store and bought himself some relaxing music. Then he went to a candle shop and bought some scented candles. After that, he said he wanted a good nap so he went to a bedding shop and made sure he selected the best linens and the darkest curtains he could find. After that, he went to the grocery store and bought himself some fresh ingredients for a good meal. He was out all day. When he got home, he prepared his meal, changed his curtains, put on some soothing music, did his laundry, meditated, had a good meal, changed his sheets, took a nice long bath...

and then.... the sun came up. His day was over and it was now morning and it was time to go back to work. No sleep, no relaxation, just a bunch of preparing for that ultimate "time."

The point of the story was to wake yourself up and say "enjoy your dream today." Don't work towards a dream so you can enjoy later. You can enjoy it now. Life doesn't need to be so philosophical. By the time you're done thinking, your life is over.

Yes, plan for that test tomorrow and study and yes, prepare for your client meeting but never get confused about what your true passions are because you may already be living it. Passions change as you change with experience. In a way, there really is no true dream, passion or goal because it's all dynamic. What's most important is today. I leave you with the fact that you guys may think too much. Just enjoy life.

- JL