Colm is a writer, mentor, speaker, alchemy trainer and adventurer.
For the last 50 years I have been on my alchemist journey and am learning
something new everyday about how Love can turn the ordinary in our lives into gold.
Once we find our treasure it is vital that we give it away to the benefit of our world.
This is true empowerment and the path to the gold is personal transformation.
Join me as we make the journey together so you can be the alchemist in your world.
Preface: My encounter with The Alchemist
In 1993, I was a member of the international marketing team at one of the world’s leading
publishers in Australia. On Friday of every week, I received a pile of manuscripts in the mail from our editorial
department in San Francisco. It was my job to review and decide which upcoming books we should distribute
These books were part of our New Age list, and back then there was only a fledgling market for these in
Australian bookshops. The best sellers of the day were mostly sports biographies, gruesome crime fiction, action
thrillers and racy romance novels. How times have changed.
In one such pile of esoteric manuscripts, I was struck by the cover art of a title called The Alchemist, a
novel by Paulo Coelho, who at the time was an unknown Brazilian author. The notes to the book explained that this
was the first English translation of the original Portuguese text. The cover design was a strikingly colorful and naive
drawing of a one-eyed figure in traditional Arabian dress and a young pilgrim against a purple background. I
instantly found it mesmerizing. So much so, that I broke my rule of not taking work home at the weekend and
slipped the manuscript into my briefcase as I closed the door on another long week in my office.
It was after lunch on Sunday afternoon when I remembered the manuscript. I set myself up on my garden
chair under the shade of a large gum tree in our backyard at home in Sydney to read a few pages.
The sun set and the light faded on the final page of the manuscript as I completed the read in one sitting.
There was no doubt in my mind I had just read a book that would become an international bestseller!
Here was a simple story of a young shepherd named Santiago who is able to find a treasure beyond his
wildest dreams. Along the way, he learns to listen to his heart and, more importantly, realizes that his dreams are
not just his but part of the “soul of the world.”
The following Monday I was on the phone to my colleague in California waking him at home at seven
o’clock in the morning.
“Hi Colm,” he muttered, “It’s great to hear from you, but can’t it wait at least until after I’ve had my first
“Tell me more about Paulo Coelho.” I ignored his pleas for consideration. I was convinced we were sitting
on a once-in-a-lifetime literary phenomenon.
My colleague turned on his coffee grinder, and over the noise he began to explain that Paulo was a well-
known author in Brazil. His books were in Portuguese, and The Alchemist was a local success. Our firm had bought
the world rights.
“The plan is to release a small print run in hardcover and see how the English language market responds,”
he explained. “How many do you want? Two hundred or three hundred copies?” He was used to those sorts of
numbers from Australia.
Without hesitation I told him, “I want twenty thousand copies in paperback and a backup print run of at least
thirty thousand ready for when that sells out.”
I could hear him gasp and half choke on a mouthful of coffee.
“Colm, are you serious?”
“You’ve read the book. You know I’m right!”
“OK, I’ll see what the rest of the English-speaking territory thinks of your assessment. Now hang up and let me take
a shower, or I’ll be late for the office!”
My colleague had published hundreds of books and was skeptical of outlandish sales predictions and print
runs. Publishers quickly lose money from that sort of unreasoned behavior. However, he was a man of his word. He
called me back three days later and said we were going to print one hundred thousand copies—and that most of
my global colleagues agreed with me that this book had a great chance of selling well.
Within the first month of publication, the entire quantity had sold out of the bookstores and has since gone on to sell over
eighty-five million copies worldwide. It has been translated into more than eighty languages and
remains a New York Times bestseller twenty-five years after its initial publication. Paulo has more than twenty-eight
million Facebook followers and fifteen million Twitter followers.
Like millions of people, including broadcaster Oprah Winfrey, President Bill Clinton, actor Will Smith and
more recently the singer Pharrell Williams, The Alchemist has influenced my life. For me, the influence came not
just from reading the book but from meeting its author.
Paulo Coelho had become an overnight literary sensation across the world. In Australia soon after
publication, he received his first English language review and was invited to keynote at the annual Adelaide Writers’
Festival, where he was greeted with huge acclaim. On his way home to Brazil, Paulo and his wife Christina stopped
by Sydney and graciously invited Naomi, our head of publicity, along with me and our respective partners, to a
I was excited for two reasons. It was only the second time in my career that an author had taken the trouble
to thank me like this personally, and to spend time with such a creative spirit was an unmissable opportunity.
“Where are we meeting tonight, and how many are going?” I asked Naomi, as I stuck my head inside her
office the afternoon of the meal.
“I’ve booked the Waterfront for 8 PM, and it’s just the four of us with Paulo and his wife. He said to book the
best restaurant in town.” Naomi smiled.
“Wow! That’s very generous.” I was especially pleased there would only be a small group of us. So often,
author dinners were dominated by a host of must-be-invited company executives.
“And Paulo said he has a surprise for us both,” Naomi said with a wink.
My sense of anticipation was growing by the second. “I can’t wait. See you there!”
The evening was everything I had hoped for. The six of us chatted and shared stories together over a
wonderful meal as if we were lifelong friends. Paulo was a warm hearted and generous host and obviously in love
with his wife, Christina. He took a genuine interest in each of us, asking about our families, our hopes and
aspirations. The three hours flew by, and I was sad when things started to draw to a close. I had completely
forgotten about the surprise Naomi had mentioned.
“Before we all depart, I want to express my sincere thanks to my two new friends Naomi and Colm,” Paulo
said as he reached inside his jacket for a small gift-wrapped box.
He placed the present in front of Naomi.
“This,” he exclaimed, “is a small token of thanks for all the care and attention you gave me and Christina in
Adelaide this week and for the wonderful press coverage you have generated for me this year in Australia. I asked
God, and Christina, what you would like. I hope they got it right.” He smiled his famous boyish grin.
For once Naomi was speechless and I detected a tear in her eye. The table was silent as she carefully
unwrapped the box to reveal an amazing diamond dress ring. She was genuinely shocked and as she struggled to
hold back her emotions, it seemed exactly what she would have wanted. Naomi was the one of the best publicity
managers I have ever worked with. She went the second mile on a regular basis for all her authors. It was as if
Paulo’s gift was given on behalf of the hundreds who had failed to say thanks so generously.
We all broke into spontaneous applause.
I was shaken out of my joy for Naomi by Paulo’s voice, which I suddenly realized was directed at me.
“Colm, what can I say?” His words hung in the air. His smile turned to a more serious look as he continued.
“I heard about that early morning phone call you made to California, and the belief you placed in my book. If you’d
not done that, we would not be sitting here tonight. I was unknown outside Brazil and you helped to change that.
For this I will always be grateful.”
Now it was my turn to be speechless. When I made that call to California, I had believed I was simply doing
my job and that this truly was a great book. I also knew that others would agree with my judgment and, without
feeling smug, it was a good to know I had been right.
“Thanks Paulo,” I finally managed to say, “but I can’t take the credit for the fact that you wrote a wonderful
“Even so, Colm, you caught the vision of what I had written, and so I have asked God how I could thank
you.” Now he had me guessing. I caught my wife’s eye and she looked as clueless as I felt while we waited to hear
God’s answer. Would he reach into his jacket a second time and produce a mystery gift?
Paulo’s focus was unchanged as he continued to look me in the eyes. “I’ve spent many hours asking God
what I should give you, and I was told to spend a whole day of my time to call on the universe to give you
everything you need to become the alchemist in your world, so that whatever you want will come to pass.”
He paused for a moment as if he was recalling the miracle he had performed. He continued, “All you need
is to decide what you want.”
He fell silent and it was as if something tangible and yet invisible had been called into being right there at
the table. I had no doubt we had just witnessed a moment of true sincerity which was infinitely more valuable than
any material gift. Almost, dare I say, as if God had just spoken.
Paulo broke the mystical moment he had just created. He stood and began to shake our hands and said
they must be going, early flights to catch and thanks for a wonderful evening all round; and he was gone.
I was in a daze. We congratulated Naomi on her beautiful ring and made our way home. As we drove along
the freeway, I remember asking my wife Ann what she thought about what Paulo had said. She wisely replied, “It
doesn’t matter what I think, it’s what you think that counts.”
And that was the problem. At that moment I had no idea what I thought, except that something completely
unique had just taken place. What if Paulo was right? What if he had performed a miracle on my behalf, and the
universe would give me everything I needed to achieve whatever I wanted?
My very next thought was, “What do I really want in my life?”
The answer came instantly from deep within my soul:
“I want to fulfill all my dreams!”
In this book, I will reveal The Secret of The Alchemist and how by applying it I have seen my life
transformed and my dreams fulfilled.
Excerpt from The Secret of The Alchemist.
Copyright ©2019 Colm Holland. All Rights Reserved.