Today is January 4 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “How long will you wait?” People who navigate the chaos like best-selling Brazilian author Paulo Coelho had to go through one valley after another to translate his dream into reality. For over three decades he faced one obstacle after another to become a successful writer. Because he went against his parent’s wishes who wanted him to be a lawyer, they sent him to an asylum where he received electroshock therapy. Coelho escaped three times between 16 and 20 years of age, and eventually appeased his parents and went to law school but dropped out to become a hippy traveling through South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he wrote lyrics for Raul Seixas, the Brazilian rock star, and other artists. In 1974, Coelho was arrested for “subversive” activities by the ruling militia (bundled into a car, taken to a secret headquarters, and tortured with electric shock to his genitals). Upon being released, and looking for some normalcy, he went to work for Polygram record company.
He eventually met his first wife, moved to London in 1977, but Coelho was unhappy and wanted to write, so he went back to Brazil and they divorced. He married twice more before settling down with an old friend, Christina Oiticica. In 1982, he published his first book, Hell Archives but it failed to make an impact. In 1986, at 39 years of age, Coelho walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in northwestern Spain-the turning point in his life.
The Camino de Santiago known in English as the Way of Saint James among other names is a network of pilgrims' ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups.
The following year he wrote The Alchemist, an allegorical novel that tells the story of a young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago in his journey to Egypt, after having a recurring dream of finding treasure there. The first edition of The Alchemist sold only 900 copies and the publishing house decided not to reprint. So, to make his dream of literary success happen, Coelho decided to knock on doors.
As he recalled in an interview with Oprah in 2014, “The first door that I knocked, the guy opened. A very important publishing house in Brazil. And I said, ‘I have a book that was published and did not sell. But I trust this book is going to sell,’” Coelho recalls. “The guy said, ‘OK, I’m going to publish it.’” Today, The Alchemist has sold 65 million copies and been on The New York Times bestseller list for more than 315 weeks. It has also been translated into 80 different languages, setting the Guinness World Record for the most translated book by any living author.
And yet, that Brazilian publisher still cannot explain what made him take a chance on Coelho and the book. Coelho believes it was the universe conspiring to help him. According to Coelho, “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation. One day you will wake up and there won't be any more time to do the things you've always wanted. You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. DO IT NOW.”
Coelho’s call to action is certainly a strategy many people use to navigate the chaos, but for retired paratrooper Arthur Boorman, waiting for 15 years was easier then moving forward. Boorman served as a paratrooper and sustained injuries that left him unable to walk without the aid of crutches or canes. For 15 years physicians told him that he would never walk unassisted. His fear of taking action molded him into someone he could no longer recognize as he was depressed, sad, and overweight.
One day while surfing on the internet he stumbled upon the Yoga for Regular Guys DVDs by Diamond Dallas Page. He immediately connected with the style of yoga and spent the next ten months managing his fear and practicing as much yoga as possible. He would ultimately lose 140 pounds and earn his yoga teacher certification. To record his progress his son Warren created a video “Never, Ever Give Up: Arthur's Inspirational Transformation!” They uploaded Arthur’s story in 2012 and it went viral as one of the most inspirational videos that year.
As of January 2020, over 78 million people watched Arthur’s transformation from an overweight veteran unable to walk unassisted to an active yogi and runner. Recognizing how difficult his transformation was, Arthur mentioned in an interview that “a lot of people contact me looking for some magic pill to help them get motivated to lose weight but there is no such thing.” He merely decided one day to take action and do the hard work that was necessary to navigate the chaos and translate his dream into reality.
As Walt Disney said: “the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Boorman waited over 15 years to change his life. How long will you wait to change your life?”