As a teenager, Paulo aspired to become a fiction writer.
His insistence on fulfilling his untraditional dream, coupled with his rebellious behavior, led his devout Catholic parents to commit him to a mental hospital--on three separate occasions.
In a last-ditch effort to appease his parents, he enrolled in law school, but dropped out after a year and became a hippie. Political activism landed him in jail three times, where he was tortured, and he began drifting between jobs, eventually settling into song writing.
A spontaneous pilgrimage along Spain's road of Santiago de Compostela led Paulo to have a spiritual awakening, which inspired him to revisit his teenage dream of writing fiction.
The first book he wrote entitled, The Pilgrimage, collected dust.
His second book, an autobiographical allegory about a boy finding his destiny against all odds, was written over two weeks, and purchased by a small publisher in his hometown. It also flopped.
After the publisher realized that he could earn more money playing the stock market than he could selling Paulo's books, he handed Paulo back his publishing rights.
Deflated, Paulo re-read his own book, and was motivated by the line, "When you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you."
He decided not to give up and went to the biggest publisher in town, proclaiming, "I have a book that was previously published and did not sell. But I trust this book is going to sell."
To his amazement, the publisher agreed to re-release it.
This time, the book became a hit, eventually selling more than 150 million copies worldwide. It currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most translated book by any living author.
Maybe you've heard of it? It's a little book called The Alchemist.
"Years later, Paulo Coelho asked his publisher, 'Why did you accept The Alchemist after it had already flopped?' His answer: "I don't know."
Maybe the universe conspired?