The secret to happiness from the world's wisest man

In his book, The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho tells the story of what the world’s wisest man reveals to a simple shepherd boy about the secret to happiness.

A shepherd boy went to visit the wisest man in the world to find out the secret of happiness. The wise man suggested the boy take a look around the palace and return in 2 hours. “Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something”, said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held 2 drops of oil. “As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.”

The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After 2 hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was.

“Well”, asked the wise man, “Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener 10 years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?” The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him. “Then go back and observe the marvels of the world”, said the wise man. “You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceiling and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.

“But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asked the wise man. Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.

“Well there is only one piece of advice I can give you,” said the wisest of wise men. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”

The sage’s point is to

  1. See and appreciate the wonderful things around you. In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, Psychologist suggests to leverage the power of positive by identifying things to be grateful for.
  2. At the same time, you must keep your eye on the bigger goals you want to achieve.