The Alchemist and the JMO

Several weeks ago I was on a recruiting trip in Germany to interview potential junior military officers (JMOs) for acceptance into the Cameron-Brooks Development & Preparation Program©.  During one of my conversations with a Navy officer stationed in Stuttgart, we discussed some of the books listed on the Cameron-Brooks reading list.  This candidate, Travis had read several of the books prior to our discussion and we talked about the value of applying lessons learned from the books to his military job in Stuttgart.  I asked about other books he has recently read and he mentioned, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.  He told me it is one his favorite books.  While I have heard of this modern classic, I made a mental note to research the book for our Development & Preparation Program©.  A few days later, in the middle of a discussion with an Army officer who has been in our program for nearly a year, the subject of reading reemerged.  This particular candidate, Jay, told me one of his favorite recent books is, The Alchemist.  As a JMO recruiter or JMO headhunter for Cameron-Brooks for over twelve years I have come to believe that highly productive, top performers share many characteristics. Professional reading is one of them.  I also no longer believe in coincidence, so I bought and read the book.

The Guiding Principles of Cameron-Brooks state that we believe in the hopes, dreams and goals of all we serve.  Having finished reading The Alchemist this morning, I not only believe the book is closely linked to our Guiding Principles, but also see its value for all those who live their dreams by making major changes in their lives.

In his introduction to the book, the author states four obstacles that prevent many people from ever realizing their full potential and personal calling in life. The first is the discouragement felt by listening to the ‘naysayers’ who tell us that everything we want to do is impossible or too difficult.  As the years go by, dreams are covered up with layers of criticism, fear and guilt. Coelho states, “There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there.”

If we have courage to pursue our dream despite the naysayers, we face a second obstacle: Love. “We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream.” We ignore the fact that those who truly care about us not only want us to reach our goals, but stand ready to accompany us on the journey.

The third obstacle is the fear of the unknown obstacles we will meet along that journey.  “We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, [than those who don’t have the courage to pursue their dream] because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: “Oh well, I didn’t really want it anyway.”  We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it and that the path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except our whole heart is in this journey.”  We will face obstacles and defeats along the path to our dream.  The key to success, as Coelho points out, is to fall seven times and get up eight times.  The fact that we work through the difficult challenges and fight the good fight makes achieving our dreams a richer experience.

The fourth obstacle to achieving our hopes, dreams and goals is the fear we face just as we are near the end.  “The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt.  We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel we do not deserve to get what we want either.”

Those who press on and fight through the obstacles will reach a euphoria that few people experience in a lifetime.  This message is not unique to The Alchemist.  Similar stories appear throughout fiction and non-fiction.  The quest that is told in this story is inspirational to all who face major changes to fulfill their dreams.

Steve Sosland