New Year’s Wisdom from Paulo Coehlo: Be Like Scarlett O’Hara

Carol Burnett was Miss Scarlett.

Reporter An Wilson spent time with Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho in March of 2010 for a Lunch with the FT column. She concludes with the following nugget from Coehlo that, while relevant for every day, is particularly noteworthy at the turn of a new year:

“You know something,” he says. “You did not ask me what all the journalists always ask – ‘Tell me the secret of your success.’ If I knew the secret, I would spoil the whole thing.”

I mention my theory that the secret of his success is his idea that we can all change our own destinies. I tell him how false I think this is. Imagine being a factory worker aged 40 with children. You can’t just escape, or change your life.

He looks hurt, and disappears into the Gents to mull over my heresy. When he emerges, and we say goodbye on the municipal lawns, he again crunches my hand. What he says makes me realize that there is another country – Bestseller Land – where dreams come true.

“You do have a choice,” he smiles. “Follow your path. So, you work in this factory, you have to adapt yourself like Scarlett O’Hara. She changes the curtains into a beautiful dress. Then you will have done your best. Then you become the king of your own kingdom.”

I look for him going down the drive, but he walks off beyond a shrubbery and then I see he has broken into a run.

So, one has a choice: to let circumstance sour you (“bestseller land”), or own them regardless (“change the curtains into a beautiful dress”). As it so happens, Scarlett herself said it best in one of the most memorable quotes in cinema history:

After all, tomorrow is another day!


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