#805 The Alchemist Says

The Universe Is Conspiring to Help You

Have you ever read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?

It’s amazing. I’ve read it a bunch of times.

Guess how many copies the book has sold since Paulo wrote it over 30 years ago…

65 MILLION! (!!!)

It’s been translated into 80 (!!) languages (which takes the prize for the most translated book by any living author) and is widely considered one of the ten best books of the twentieth century.

But you know what? Before becoming one of the best-selling books of ALL TIME, it was one of the WORST-selling books of all time. (Hah!)

In fact, here’s a little story Paulo shares in the foreword to the 25th Anniversary edition of the book (it’s almost as good as the story itself!):

When The Alchemist was first published twenty-five years ago in my native Brazil, no one noticed. A bookseller in the northeast corner of the country told me that only one person purchased a copy the first week of its release. It took another six months for the bookseller to unload a second copy—and that was to the same person who bought the first! And who knows how long it took to sell the third.

By the end of the year, it was clear to everyone that The Alchemist wasn’t working. My original publisher decided to cut me loose and cancelled our contract. They wiped their hands of the project and let me take the book with me. I was forty-one and desperate.

Then what?

He says: “But I never lost faith in the book or ever wavered in my vision. Why? Because it was me in there, all of me, heart and soul. I was living my own metaphor. A man sets out on a journey, dreaming of a beautiful or magical place, in pursuit of some unknown treasure. At the end of his journey, the man realizes the treasure was with him the entire time.

I was following my Personal Legend, and my treasure was my capacity to write. And I wanted to share this treasure with the world.

As I wrote in The Alchemist, when you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you. I started knocking on the doors of other publishers. One opened, and the publisher on the other side believed in me and my book and agreed to give The Alchemist a second chance. Slowly, through word of mouth, it finally started to sell—three thousand, then six thousand, ten thousand—book by book, gradually throughout the year.


Eight months later an American visiting Brazil picks up a copy of The Alchemist at a local bookstore and asks if he can translate it. One thing leads to another which leads to another which leads to Bill Clinton leaving the White House with a copy of the book and Madonna and Will Smith raving about it.

Then it hit the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for more than three hundred weeks.

He says: “People continue to ask me if I knew The Alchemist would be such a huge success. The answer is no. I had no idea. How could I? When I sat down to write The Alchemist, all I knew is that I wanted to write about my soul. I wanted to write about my quest to find my treasure.

That’s Today’s +1.

Two parts.

First: If you’re one of the 17 people on the planet into Optimizing who hasn’t read The Alchemist yet, what are you waiting for? 🤓

Second: What’s your personal quest? What do you REALLY (!) want?!

Remember: “There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth… And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

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