9 Life Lessons to learn from Alchemist:

Alchemist is a fable about following your dreams. Paulo Coelho brings his best in this bestselling novel which has served to millions of readers worldwide. Following are my learning from this masterpiece:

 

Lesson 1: Simple things are the most extraordinary things and only wise can see them:

We all like to use jargon and talk sophisticated things but the fact is that simplicity is still the best and has no completion with anything at all. The way Alchemist deduces in plain simplicity things which are hard to explain by all scriptures combined speaks volume of its simplicity.

 

Lesson 2: There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure:

Doubt and fear of failure have killed more dreams than any other reasons combined. The way Alchemist trains the shepherd boy Santiago and asks him to remove this fear is awesome. The novel proves that all dreams are within reach if you succeed in keeping hope.

 

Lesson 3: If you start by promising what you don’t even have yet, you will lose your desire to work towards getting it:

This is what King of Salem tells San Diego when he is willingly giving everyone shares in the treasure which he has yet to achieve. We must not count our chickens before they are hatched.

 

Lesson 4: When we strive to become better, things around us become better as well:

Our eyes are the lens through which we see the world. Alchemist tells us to strive on bettering ourselves. How often have we heard that I could have done better had things around me been better or I was not given proper environment. Alchemist tells us that when we strive for betterment, things around us also improve.

 

Lesson 5: Have clarity in your life. Do not try to control life of others:

Alchemist tells us that if someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own. This is so true in our current lives. All we want is others to work as per our wish and understand us but we do not have any clarity on our own lives. It is so very true.

 

Lesson 6: People are capable at any time in their lives of doing what they dream of:

As they say, there is never a wrong time to do a right thing. There is no age to follow your passions and dreams. We can always follow our dreams like Santiago and live that life.

 

Lesson 7: Rise up every time you fall:

Alchemist proves that secret of successful life is to fall seven times and get up back eight times. Santiago does not have an easy journey. Though he does have the beginners luck but more importantly he fell many times and faced lots of hardships but he rose every time he fell. This is what champions do.

 

Lesson 8: The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve it. And if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better:

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery but today is a gift. Hence it is called present. We must live in the moment. More often than not, we are troubled too much by our thoughts of future that we fail to improvise our present. But we should strive to better each present moment and a good future will follow.

 

Lesson 9: My personal favorite: And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it:

The King of Salem and Alchemist both say this that when you want something, entire universe conspires helping you to achieve it. Have your goal with all your heart and you will achieve it.

 

For those who have not read this masterpiece, it is one of the must read book for anyone who wants to follow their dream!

 

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Image link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Alchemist_(novel)

Atlas Shrugged:

 

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Atlas Shrugged is yet another Ayn Rand classic. Ayn Rand brings her idealistic world back in action with Atlas shrugged.

It is about journey of few idealists who believe they can change the world. All the heroes of the story are compared with this Atlas (Titan who holds the world on his shoulder). The novel shows what will happen if they stop bearing that load.

Dagny Taggart is the protagonist of the story. She is vice president of Taggart Transcontinental: A rail road company. Her brother James Taggart, the president of Taggart Transcontinental is a collectivist. He buys steel from Orren Boyle who gives delayed order as he is in their gang and not from Henry Rearden. Dagny notices that one by one all the capable business leaders are disappearing leaving their industries to failure. Dagny and Rearden fall for each other in the process of backtracing these events.

Rearden has invented an alloy: “Rearden steel”. Economic dictator Wesley Mouch needs Rearden’s cooperation for a new set of socialist laws, and James Taggart needs economic favors that will keep his ailing railroad running after the collapse of Colorado. James appeals to Rearden’s wife Lillian, who wants to destroy her husband. She tells him Rearden and Dagny are having an affair, and he uses this information in a trade. The new set of laws included a ruling that requires all patents to be signed over to the government. Rearden is blackmailed into signing over his metal to protect Dagny’s reputation.

The collective looting strategy is: distribute all profits equally. For eg. Rearden produces 100 kg and Orren Boyle produces 20 kg steel, why should Rearden split his profits equally. But then they form groups and have Government support as well which forces Rearden to give up and join John Galt.

Another hero is Francisco D’ Anconia who has inherited copper mines. He shows publicly as if he is a playboy but in reality, he is a strategist who plans and extracts and moves all his copper away in hiding. In a party he gives an awesome speech on money while talking to Henry Rearden. Excerpt of his speech: “Money is the material principle that men who want to deal with one another with reason. The man who damns money has obtained it dishonourably and the man who respects it has earned it. If you ask me to name the proudest distinctions of Americans, I would choose- because it contains all the others-the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money’.”

But the main hero of the novel is John Galt. His entry is marked after half the novel is over. But he makes a significant impact in the part he is. He was the first one to give up because of the collectivist idealogy. He was later joined by his friends Ragnar Danneskjold and Francisco D Anconia. Later they approached to all the people of mind and reason on whose shoulders, their entire industries were operating and asked them to quit working on the collectivists and looter’s terms.

Galt had gone to work for a motor company in his early age. There he had built the prototype of the first-ever practical electrostatic motor. But his owner had died, and his three children inaugurated a plan to have everyone at the factory work according to his ability, but be paid according to his need. His friend Ragnar Danneksjold probably recognized that principle at once, from “Communist manifesto” by Karl Marx. John Galt had refused to work under such a plan. He not only quit the factory, but also announced to the three heirs that he would “stop the motor of the world.” He began, of course, by wrecking his prototype and carrying away with him those portions of his notes that would enable any future investigator to duplicate his work. And now he was asking his two friends to join him in what he called the strike of the men of the mind, and recruit others to do the same.

Reluctant to forsake her railroad, Dagny leaves Galt’s Gulch, but Galt follows Dagny to New York city where he hacks into a national radio broadcast a speech. Main points of his speech: “You have sacrificed justice to mercy and happiness to duty. So why would be afraid of the world around you?  We are on strike against your creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. Why is it moral to serve others but not yourself? To those of you who retain some remnant of dignity and the will to live your lives for yourselves, you have the chance to make the same choice. Examine your values and understand that you must choose one side or the other. Any compromise between good and evil only hurts the good and helps the evil. If you’ve understood what I’ve said, stop supporting your destroyers. Don’t accept their philosophy. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, and your love. Don’t exhaust yourself to help build the kind of world that you see around you now. In the name of the best within you, don’t sacrifice the world to those who will take away your happiness for it. The world will change when you are ready to pronounce this oath: I swear by my Life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine.”

John Galt is then arrested. In the end, the strikers come to his rescue. Francisco and Rearden, joined now by Dagny, assault the grounds of the State Science Institute where Galt is held captive. They kill some guards and incapacitate others, release Galt, and return to the valley. Dagny and Galt are united. Shortly after, the final collapse of the looters’ regime occurs, and the men of the mind are free to return to the world.

The main learning from Atlas shrugged is to value the people of the mind, the people who shoulder the responsibilities of the world.

The Fountainhead:

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“The fountainhead” is journey of an idealist. Ayn Rand portrays a perfect idealist hero.

The protagonist Howard Roark is an architecture student. In the introductory scene, he is called by the dean in his office. When asked, why has he not done his internship project like other students, he replies: “Here are my rules: No 2 substances are alike; what can be done with 1 substance cannot be done with another. But you see, I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.” To the conclusion of this discussion, Roark is expelled from college.

Howard’s senior Peter Keating also graduated that time. He is what Ayn Rand calls “second hander”. He rises in the ranks with diplomacy, politics and closeness with managing partners. He is one of those who will be willing to go to any level downside in order to rise in the organization.

Roark works for Cameron who was also an originalist like him. After Cameron retires, he briefly works for Francon with Keating, then with another firm and finally opens his own office. He even does inferior works like plumbing, wiring, carpentry. Howard Roark does not feel that these trasks are beneath him.

Keating once mentioned that Howard always wanted to be an architect. When asked what he would become if he could not become an architect he said: Howard would walk over corpses: anyone and everyone but become an architect and architect only. This is the level of determination which we should learn from Howard Roark.

Ellsworth Toohey, a philanthropist of sorts shapes public opinion through his column and his circle of influential associates. Toohey tries to destroy Roark through a smear campaign. Toohey manipulates one of Roark’s clients into suing Roark. At the trial, prominent architects (including Keating) testify that Roark’s style is unorthodox and illegitimate. Dominique (Howard’s lover) speaks in Roark’s defense, but he loses the case. Dominique decides that since she cannot have the  ideal world where men like Roark are recognized for their greatness, she will live completely and entirely in the world she has, which shuns Roark and praises Keating. She offers Keating her hand in marriage.

To win Keating a prestigious commission offered by Gail Wynand, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Banner, Dominique agrees to sleep with Wynand. When they meet, Wynand is so strongly attracted to Dominique that he buys Keating’s divorce from her, after which Wynand and Dominique are married. Wanting to build a home for himself and his new wife, Wynand discovers that every building he likes was designed by Roark, so he enlists Roark to build the new house. Roark and Wynand become close friends, although Wynand does not know about Roark’s past relationship with Dominique.

Keating pleads with Toohey for his influence to get the commission for the much-sought-after Cortlandt housing project. Keating knows his most successful projects were aided by Roark, so he asks for Roark’s help in designing Cortlandt. Roark agrees to design it in exchange for complete anonymity and Keating’s promise that it will be built exactly as designed. When Roark returns from a long trip with Wynand, he finds that the Cortlandt design has been changed despite his agreement with Keating. Roark dynamites the building to prevent the subversion of his vision.

Roark is arrested and his action is widely condemned, but Wynand orders his newspapers to defend him. The Banner’s circulation drops and the workers go on strike. Faced with the choice of closing the paper or reversing his stance, Wynand gives in; the newspaper publishes a denunciation of Roark. At his trial for the dynamiting, Roark makes a speech about the value of ego and the need to remain true to oneself.

Excerpt of his speech: “Throughout the centuries, there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. The great creators — the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors — stood alone against the men of their time. Every new thought was opposed; every new invention was denounced. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid. But they won.

The creator stands on his own judgment; the parasite follows the opinions of others.

The creator thinks; the parasite copies.

The creator produces; the parasite loots.

The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature; the parasite’s concern is the conquest of men.

The creator requires independence. He neither serves nor rules. He deals with men by free exchange and voluntary choice.

I am an architect. I know what is to come by the principle on which it is built. We are approaching a world in which I cannot permit myself to live. My ideas are my property. They were taken from me by force, by breach of contract. No appeal was left to me

Now you know why a dynamited Courtland. I designed Courtland. I made it possible. I destroyed it. I agreed to design it for the purpose of it seeing built as I wished. That was the price I set for my work. I was not paid. My building was disfigured at the whim of others who took all the benefits of my work and gave me nothing in return.

My terms are: A man’s RIGHT to exist for his own sake.”

 

The jury finds him not guilty. Eighteen months later, the Wynand Building is under construction and Dominique, now Roark’s wife, enters the site to meet him atop its steel framework.

I agree that Howard Roark is an extreme idealist and it is not possible in current times to become that idealist but there is a lot to learn from him. The dedication with which he works, the passion with which he works is awesome. He is crystal clear of his life and his goals. We should learn about goal setting from him.

Another thing, we can learn from fountainhead is to identify false altruists like Ellsworth Toohey who just seek power and attention.

We must retain our individuality like Howard Roark.