The author practices archery, which is for him a form of meditation.

OPRAH: There are obstacles that take us out of the way. But as long as you know where you are going and what you want...

PAULO: Right.

OPRAH: So let me ask you this. Was Santiago in control of his destiny?

PAULO: More or less.

OPRAH: [Laughs]

PAULO: You need to...well, at certain moments you need to have discipline, and in others you need to just be guided by life.

OPRAH: By paying attention. To the signs.

PAULO: You have to balance your willpower with the capacity to relax and enjoy and go with the flow.

OPRAH: That is so important.

PAULO: There is a Zen proverb that says, basically, if you want something, step aside and let this thing come to you.

OPRAH: So we need willpower and enthusiasm, but then we need to surrender.

PAULO: Absolutely.

OPRAH: In the book, you write, "Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved toward that dream." You write that when the real tests come, "that's the point at which most people give up."

PAULO: It is. When they're so close. When that man told me The Alchemist wasn't going to sell, for example. Wow. Now that I've decided to be a writer, burned all my bridges, and walked 500 miles from France to Spain on the Camino de Santiago, you are telling me that this book is not good? I could have easily said, in that moment, "He's right. Let me write another book."

OPRAH: So when is a no really a no? Because sometimes, a no is a no.

PAULO: It depends. [Laughs]

OPRAH: Maybe if you're listening to your heart, it's never really a no. Or, at least, it's a good no—one that will send you in the direction you're meant to be moving.

PAULO: Absolutely. Can I tell you a very personal story, Oprah?

OPRAH: Of course.

PAULO: About three years ago, I had heart surgery. I had gone in for a simple stress test and my doctors told me suddenly that I would die in 30 days without intervention.

OPRAH: Whoa.

PAULO: But I went home and was very relaxed. I thought, "I'm going in for heart surgery. I may die tomorrow. But then I realized that if I die tomorrow, I've spent more than half my life with the woman I love. How many people on this planet can say that? She's my fourth marriage, but we've spent 35 years together. And I tell her "I love you" every day. The second thing I thought is, I did everything. I was crazy. I went to extremes. So I have nothing to regret, because I did everything.

OPRAH: You were a hippie on a Greyhound bus.

PAULO: Yes. And the third thing I realized is that I fought for my dream. I did not take no for an answer. I wanted to be a writer, and I wrote. So I thought, If I die tomorrow, it's all okay.


PAULO: That was November 30, 2011. I know that I will die eventually. And when I do, I want to die with the same sensation I had that night. Knowing that I fought the good fight and did not lose my faith.

OPRAH: That's a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. And thank you for inviting me to your home.

PAULO: Oprah Winfrey, thank you for coming. May God bless you.

Read more: 10 Life-Changing Lessons From Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist


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