It was during a time where inspiration was scarce, a period all artists and creatives experience where optimism is brutally beaten by pessimistic thoughts and bleak results. It was like being stuck in a cycle of inescapable doubt. The days were a hopeless gray, at every turn a new knife was lodged into my unsuspecting back, lies and promises that would never be fulfilled entered my optimistic ears, the idea of quitting kept recurring and looking more blissful each time. How much disappointment can one man take before realizing the roadblocks are a sign that this isn’t your path? I would lay in my bed and spend hours looking at the ceiling, the personification of my limitations, I had a lot of ceilings in my life, blocking my view from the sky. Christopher Wallace lied.
“There is only one way to learn. It's through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”
During this great depression, Will Smith changed my entire perspective. I stumbled upon an interview where he speaks about brain power, how we can decide what we want and the universe conspires with that idea. It was listening to the kind of positive reinforcement that’s needed to preserver into uncertainty. Art is uncertain, art is risk, there’s no promise of success and no blueprint for wealth. Will mentions a book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, as one of his favorites. I didn’t have much money at the time, I wasn’t trying to spend my pocket change on a book, but Will inspired me. He made it seem magical, the kind of book that will affect your entire outlook on life. It’s from 1988, ancient, so it wasn’t expensive like the best sellers. I was surprised by the length, 163 pages, compared to the Harry Potter’s and Lord Of The Rings’ on my bookshelf it looked malnourished.
“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”
It’s one of the stories that I couldn’t put down once I started. The text is drenched with magic and brilliance, Will’s interview was just a glass of water compared to the well of wisdom that I was now drinking from. The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, a shepherd boy who dreamt of a treasure far from his home and in the pursuit of that dream he discovers knowledge worth more than diamonds and gold. On that road, he would learn about sacrifice, betrayal, omens, and how fast your life can drastically change at any moment. Life is unpredictable, especially for the dream chaser running into the unknown. You can have a plan, map your entire life out, and in the short time between sunrise and sunset it can all be altered. Santiago gets knocked down a lot, yet, he takes something from each experience that makes him into a more keen and aware man. It’s a story of growth, how seeking what you want will turn you into who you must be to acquire the reward. There’s so much beauty in failure, feeling like you are falling without a parachute just to discover you had wings the entire time. By the book’s end, Santiago finds his wings.
“In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage. So he could not be hasty, nor impatient. If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.”
I remember a specific quote that punched me in the chest of my soul, “He wept because God was unfair, and because this was the way God repaid those who believed in their dreams”, and I can recall that very emotion. I remember the exact place and moment where those words were my life. I was in the W Hotel parking deck unable to pay the $3 fee, asking the disgruntled stranger behind me if he could lend me the money just so I could go home. Hours before, I got an email from a man wanting to meet, a man I considered a friend that promised to change my life. He had all the money and connections that I didn’t and a passion to aid my writing unlike anyone I had ever encountered. So I went to meet him, not a dime in my pocket, in a car with little gas believing it would be the pivotal moment everything changed. I waited, I waited, and as the minutes melted away so did any hope I had built up. I could feel my aspirations dying as my email and phone calls went unanswered. He never showed and I didn’t even have $3 bucks to escape from the parking deck. Pathetic, I had instantly plunged into the bottom of an abyss where light didn’t exist. As Santiago so poignantly said, “I’m going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I’m going to hate those that 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”.
“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.”
That’s the beauty of quitting, it’s easy. You can accept your faith, become a shrewd, miserable person, and hate that you weren’t able to accomplish the dream. We know those people that wear their hatred like clothing and are quick to interject their negativity. Quitting isn’t bad if the dream changed, chasing one dream you discover your true destiny, but usually, that isn’t the case. Near the end, Santiago is in a predicament that seems impossible to overcome. His life is on the line and he doesn’t see any possible way of achieving success in this situation. By this time, he has met the Alchemist who tells him, “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” He stressed that even if you die in the midst of pursuing your destiny, it’s better than dying like the million other people that were never aware of what they wanted. It’s hard for adults to channel that passion. We have too much to fear. We fear time, every second we are getting closer to death. We fear money, not having enough for the countless bills. These thoughts along with the word “can’t” will conquer and you’ll be accepting a faith instead of pursuing what you truly want. “They were seeking the treasure of their destiny, without wanting to actually to live out the destiny,” our dreams are deeper than the rewards and reaching the finish line. For artists, it’s the creating that outweighs the success and acclaim.
“People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.”
You can pull any situation or quote from the book and relate it to artistry. It’s like the inspirational guidebook for the creatively ambitious. It’s an easy read, the author’s word selection can be comprehended by children but will resonate with the inner artist of any adult. Since the day I bought the book, I take time to read it twice a year. To refill and refocus, a constant reminder for what I really want. The fact I’m living my current day's writing happily tells me that I’m on the right path. I needed that parking deck situation, it showed me how strong I could be. How much I really wanted this dream. There is no coincidences in life. If you look back far enough, the dots connect themselves. From the albums we discover to the people we encounter, it all plays some role in this crazy game of life. The Alchemist is a must read, a rare book that should be locked away in a treasure chest for being so rich with wisdom. Especially for when the bad days are overwhelming, hope has abandoned you, and there’s only fear of falling. We have to fall, to separate those of us that have the will to get up. The will to pursue their destinies to the very end.
“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight.”
[By Yoh, aka @Yoh31]