4 Things I Learned About Life From Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho

I haven’t read The Alchemist.

Yeah, I know. For someone who writes an article about Paulo Coelho AT LEAST I should read the book that made him a success.

But the only book I read was Aleph and it was really good. After reading it, I had an image of him as a very spiritual and calm person.

To learn more about Paulo Coelho, I read his authorized biography, “The Warrior’s Life,” which was written by Fernando Morais.

The most interesting parts of the book were the stories of his youth, which were far from what I had imagined. They were inspiring and made me reflect upon my life.

Read further to know the four life lessons you can learn from Paulo Coelho’s youth. Trust me – it’s worth it.

 

1. If you have a weakness, learn to compensate for it with your strength.

Paulo was weak physically.

According to his biography he was “very thin, frail and short.” He had a nickname – Pele – which means ‘skin. It was given only to those who were always being bullied by their classmates.

Considering his physical weakness, it was hard for Paulo to gain the respect of his peers. Yet he found out that despite his weakness, he managed to gain their respect.

How?

I quote: “By knowing things no one else knew and reading stories none of his peers had read was one way of gaining respect.”

The lesson: If you think you have a weakness, you don’t necessary need to remove that weakness. Some weaknesses, especially physical ones, are hard to get rid of. A more effective way would be to find your strengths and work on them until you are at least above average.

Or better yet: Be so good they can’t ignore you.

 

2. Rejection doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do after being rejected.

Paulo believed in himself. He believed that he was a good poet and that his poems were not suitable for small magazines. So he sent his poems to the ‘Escritores e Livros,’ a reputable literary column in a newspaper called Correio da Manha.

After a week, Paulo looked at the newspaper and read the following:

“To all young show-offs who are desperate to get themselves a name and publish books, it would be worthwhile recalling the example of Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who only published three volumes totalling 144 poems in 15 years.”

Like any normal person, he took it personally, but managed to regain his confidence and write his own version of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If…”.

If you ask your friends and enemies for a chance.

If you can hear a ‘no’ and take it as a ‘maybe,’

If you can start from the bottom and yet still value the little that you have.

If you can improve yourself each moment and reach heights without succumbing to vanity.

Then you’ll be a writer.

The lesson: Rejection always hurts. Some say that rejection shouldn’t be taken personally, but honestly, I don’t think that advice helps. We value ourselves and the things we create, thus rejection brings a cognitive dissonance inside our minds.

Two conflicting thoughts, self-belief and self-doubt, wage wars to determine who will stay and rule the kingdoms inside our heads.

When there are two conflicting thoughts, we need something to guide us on what to do after the rejection. If you don’t know what to do or what to believe in, most of the time the evil side will win the war.

In the case of Paulo, his self-belief won and this is because of a certain obsession of his.

Paulo Coelho quotes

 

3. Be obsessed with your dream

Paulo was obsessed with the idea of becoming a famous writer. Yet, it was funny that the obsession only bore fruit in his later years.

This is because he was always changing his art: from poetry to acting, directing, writing about the occult, and lyric writing.

Although he gained success in some of his ventures, he kept reminding himself that he wanted to be a famous writer. That obsession made him what he is today.

The lesson: Sometimes, we think our dream lies buried under a pile of work or studies. I’m the same. I am going to a medical school, but I know being a doctor is not my dream. I want to be an entrepreneur.

For several reasons, I can’t cancel my entry to medical school. It looks like I don’t have a choice, but I actually have one: to choose to stick with my dream no matter what or to succumb to the path people ‘forced’ me to go on.

The same thing goes for you. Be obsessed with your dream and don’t let it die easily.

 

4. Your ‘horrible’ past doesn’t make you a failure in the future

One word sprung up inside my mind when I read about Paulo’s past – horrible.

Paulo failed in his studies, almost killed a boy because of his driving, was forced to stay in a psychiatry clinic because of his escalating problems, took drugs, was kidnapped by a secret organization and embraced Satanism.

There was more, but you get the picture.

Looking at his past, I was amused by the stark difference between his past and future selves. It shows how someone’s past is not a good predictor of his future because he is capable of changing it if he is willing.

The lesson: The problem with most of us is we focus on things we can’t change. It is true that our past can influence our future, but we don’t want to let that influence spread too much and work of its own accord.

We should stop doing that: Stop letting the past be our fortune-teller. What we need to do is to focus on the present and take control of our future.

Why?

We are the fortune-teller.

 

Conclusion

Let me leave you with a quote from the man, Paulo Coelho, himself:

“At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

Thanks for reading.

 

Paulo Coelho picture quotes

 

Question: What have you learned from reading Paulo Coelho’s  books?

 

Feature Image by: REUTERS/Eloy Alonso

Wan is a medical student and budding blogger. His blog, Overthinker's Advice, is the space where he shares no-nonsense, actionable, and interesting personal development ideas that helps people to improve their lives. He is also the writer for the simple eBook "21 Things You Can Do to Slow Down Time" which you can get for free here.

13 Comments

  1. Neerja gandhi

    June 3, 2014 at 8:14 am

    I have read his Alchemist….had been following, and was happy to read his Alchemist book :) would want to read his other books as well :)

  2. Susy

    April 14, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    And two months later Paulo Coelho himself featured this article on his blog and made it viral on his Facebook page… A virtue that goes full circle. Nice.

    • Joel Brown

      April 14, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Yes, great work on the article Wan :) You got Paulo’s attention.

  3. apurva prabhawalkar (@prapurva)

    April 12, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Hey Wan, thanks for writing this article. Cheers to you bro.

  4. iryne

    March 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    be so gud at your strength, replace your weakness that they just cant ignore u! i love that!

  5. festus Ogunrewo

    February 18, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    It take a lot of courage and effort to achieve your dream and most of don’t be deterred by the naysayers. Its your dream its your life

  6. @Zingcali

    February 17, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    This makes a perfect sense at some stage in our lives we realize our strengths and weaknesses but deny to deal with our weaknesses until to a stage that becomes registered in your mind that this is who you really are ,and that is followed by the stage where we fight or take flight …that is your last freedom to be or not to be …this is a very relevant story

  7. Naomi@businessstartups

    February 14, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Hi Wan,

    Like a lot of successful entrepreneurs he has been through a lot in his life. But that persistent drive to continue throughout the hardship and where others would fail – is what splits the men from the boys.

    I guess it just comes down to how badly to want your dream to become reality?

    Naomi

  8. Jeremy

    February 14, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    One thing I noticed about all these awesome people is that they are insanely obsessed with their craft. They are obsessed with living a passionate life. Sometimes I think about whether I’m obsessed enough to succeed. But then again, thinking even about something like that is quite obsessive, no? It’s crazy.

    I’ve just ordered The Alchemist. Great article, Wan, and thanks for linking to my article. :)

  9. Claudia Columna (@claudiacolumna)

    February 13, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Entrepeneurial freedom meets freedom of art. Excellent medication, too. Congrats!
    Claudia – fortune-teller – Columna

  10. Nikola Gjakovski

    February 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

    “At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie” I have to tweet this :) Shared this text everywhere very nicely written article

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