My Encounter with Paulo Coelho and The Alchemist

In 1993 I had the honor of meeting New York Times bestselling author, Paulo Coelho. Our brief encounter did not occur at a book signing, nor did I happen to recognize and approach him on the street. I had no idea who this internationally-known Brazilian novelist was or what to expect from our chance meeting.

It was a brisk afternoon in November in New York City, and at the time I was working as an administrative assistant at the Latin American Capital Markets desk for JP Morgan Securities. Determined to finish work from the night before I arrived at the office at 7:30am and didn’t think to grab anything for breakfast. By 1:00pm I was famished, and couldn’t wait another minute to eat. I grabbed my purse and walked over to my manager Beth to let her know I’d be taking lunch.

I turned to walk away when Beth quickly grabbed my arm. “No, wait!” Her eyes widened with excitement. “My friend Paulo will be here any moment and I’d love for you to meet him.”

Beth was a portfolio manager and worked directly with other executives in JP Morgan’s São Paulo, Brazil office. She traveled to São Paulo at least twice a month, and my initial thought was her visitor might be an employee from that particular office.

“Does Paulo work in the São Paulo office?” I asked. I was getting antsy and wasn’t about to stick around if it wasn’t worth the wait.

He lives in Rio de Janeiro and doesn’t work for JP Morgan. He’s actually an author…He wrote this bestselling book called The Alchemist..He’s…”

“I got it.” I hissed; the hunger pangs seemed to drown her out. “When will he be here?” “Soon.” she replied.

A few minutes later Beth received a call from the reception desk and scurried into the hall. I arose from my chair and proceeded to straighten my suit. Regardless of who this Paulo was I wanted to make a nice impression.

Beth turned the corner, and following closely behind was an older gentleman wearing a black turtleneck under a beautiful tweed coat. Donned with salt and pepper hair, his presence seemed noble, yet reserved. As they both approached my desk I confidently extended my hand.

“Michelle, this is my dear friend, Paulo Coelho. Paulo, this Michelle, the one I told you about.

I glared at Beth for a moment, puzzled by what she told her friend. I considered myself a very private person and cringed at the thought of being the target of gossip. “Hello,” I smiled.

“Hello Michelle.” As Paulo reached for my hand he looked deeply into my eyes. It was as if he could see (or feel) something I could not.

He cupped his other hand into mine. “You are beautiful energy,” he said. I blushed and looked away. Beth smiled and reminded Paulo of their lunch date. He then reached into his briefcase and pulled out a copy of his book, The Alchemist. He placed it gently on my desk and personally inscribed it.

When Paulo handed me the book I quickly skimmed through the first few pages. While I was tempted to ask the premise of his novel, I instead hesitated and put the book in the side pocket of my purse.

As the noble gentleman waved goodbye I couldn’t help but wonder…”What did he mean by ‘a beautiful energy?’ Could he see something other than what I was projecting? Did he know my terrible secret? How could he know?”

For two years I had been involved in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. I was exhausted from the effort in hiding the bruises I received week after week, and shared this secret with no one—especially anyone outside of my inner circle. My corporate life seemed poised and structured, but my personal life was toxic and engulfed with pain, anger and resentment.

I spent the remainder of my workday feeling anxious and distracted, but was excited to read Paulo’s book. I wasn’t much of a reader at the time, but because of my passion for the Wall Street game I made exceptions by glancing through The Wall Street Journal and the Sunday New York Times. But there was still a part of me that longed for more substance and inner truth. Perhaps in reading book on spirituality I would finally discover the answers I was so desperately in search of.

As soon as I was able to grab a seat on the subway I took The Alchemist from my purse and delved into the first few pages. Unfortunately my mind was so cluttered with thought I was unable to grasp the words, much less the overall message. I was discouraged, yet determined to finish the book. Upon arriving home that evening I kept it at my bedside table and vowed to read at least a few pages each night before falling asleep.

The book was never opened again, inevitably collecting dust until I moved out of my apartment in 2000. When I unpacked my belongings however, I was shocked and disappointed to find that I never packed my autographed copy of The Alchemist. “Of course,” I thought. “Just when I was ready to read it, now it’s gone.”

Years had passed since I thought about the book, until I recently came across one of its quotes…

“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The memory of meeting Paulo over 20 years ago began to vividly appear in my consciousness. After years of self-discovery I came to the realization of what he meant by “a beautiful energy.” We are all beautiful energy; an intrinsic part of this Universe. And as the sun rises, good things do happen every day of our existence.

Paulo Coelho was recently interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for her Super Soul Sunday segment. Below is an excerpt from her 2-part series called, “Why the Universe Is Conspiring to Help You.” Part 2 of the interview will be aired on Sunday, September 14.

One of my favorite quotes from this episode: “If you don’t fear the unknown, the unknown will be kind to you.” Indeed.

It was a great honor meeting Paulo Coelho and I can be sure The Alchemist won’t collect dust ever again. 🙂


About Michelle Cruz Rosado

Michelle Cruz Rosado is a professional speaker and bestselling co-author of "Pursuing Your Destiny: How to Overcome Adversity and Achieve Your Dreams." Follow Michelle for inspiring messages and quotes.