Monday, February 19, 2007

Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This is a pretty famous book, and had been recommended to me by quite a few different people before I read it. On the cover it is deemed an "International Bestselling Phenomenon." I can certainly see why: the language is colorful, and it's a quick fun read.

That said, I have to disagree with one of the main ideas presented in the book. It calls on people to follow their "personal legend" in their life, the one specific thing that they are destined to accomplish. I think that such is a constricting way to live life. In a broad sense, focusing on accomplishing just one thing takes your mind off of what might happen to you in between, denying you of interesting opportunities that may arise in your wake that you want to pursue. But even worse is the idea that if you focus too much on accomplishing that one thing, whatever it is, you will be less likely to enjoy your journey there.

Think about it. Even a mundane thing like driving to the gym has tons of little things in it that make less more fun. You might run a yellow light and see a cop on the other side of the street, and worry that you will be caught for a couple of minutes. Maybe it will be raining outside and you won't be able to decide which setting to put your windshield wipers on. Maybe you will be about to cross the bridge and won't be able to find your Fastrack until the last second. But once we get to the gym, we tend to forget all of this juicy stuff almost immediately, because all we are focused on is getting to the gym.

So just imagine if one were to go through life like that, just focused on your "personal legend." Imagine how much stuff you would miss! I think it's much more fun just to have some loose plans and always be open to change. This is a nice fast-paced book. Read it, enjoy it. I just wouldn't take it too seriously.

(By the way, this post was sort of sparked by my friend Ben's recent post about what happens when your passion becomes your career. The only way I would disagree with his post is that I'm not sure that we really have passions--just things that we've explored more than others. I think anything can become a passion if you devote time, energy and enthusiasm to it. Check it out, his blog is like sort of popular.)