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I recently came to a realisation, how Vincent Van Gogh and Paulo Coelho are so much alike.

Though the Dutch painter passed on more than a century ago, while the Brazilian author is still very much alive, I awed at how similar theirs journeys to success were.

1. Both identified their passions very early on in life but only succeeded much later

Van Gogh had always loved art, and Coelho has always loved writing. However, it was only much later in life, that both found the massive success they are known for. Van Gogh died just before his art was truly recognised, and Coelho wrote his masterpiece, The Alchemist, when he was 40.

The lesson here is that, it doesn’t matter when you’ve discovered your purpose and passion in life. Sometimes, we put way too much pressure on not living a purposeful life, till that quest becomes a burdensome one. Sometimes, we try so hard to find that passion, that we miss the fact that we might already be living it. If you like doing something, even if it just feels like a hobby right now, pursue it. You’ll never know where it can lead you.

2. Both parents sent them to mental institutions

While Van Gogh’s family supported his passion, Coelho’s didn’t. However, at some point in their lives, both their parents decided that they were just too much to handle, and had them institutionalized in mental asylums.

Coelho went on record to say that he didn’t blame his parents and he accepted that they just didn’t know what to do. Van Gogh however, committed suicide at 37.

The learnable moment here, is that sometimes, on the road to find one’s self, support from your support circle, may prove to be a difficult ask. Sometimes, our parents are financially or emotionally unable to support our desires. Sometimes, our closest friends may think that we’re going down the wrong route. Our belief in ourselves must be so strong, so as to be able to weather any storm, which most of the times, might come from the people closest to us. It is also quite alright to start building a new support circle than the one you grew up with. Most successful people swear that they hang around other successful people. It helps if our support circle can understand our mission.

3. Both went through a journey of awakening.

Both Van Gogh and Coelho found an interest in spirituality, especially when things started becoming very confusing for them. They wanted to know more about themselves, and about life and while Van Gogh turned to religion, Coelho pursued meditation.

I believe that this was a turning point in both their lives. Because after this phase, both found deeper meaning in their work, and a larger strength to pursue what they believed, were their passions.

The lesson here is, that when there is a nudge for you to explore your connection with yourself, go for it. While some turn to religion, others may turn inward. It doesn’t quite matter what you do, as long as you don’t shut this nudge down. Periods of silence can help in your journey towards success, or even in the journey of finding out more about what you like doing and who you are. Practicing silence and just being everyday can help relax the mind, and prepare it to help us better live and respond to our environments. Silence gifts us with clarity to know the next steps.

Both Van Gogh and Coelho did not have easy journeys to find and realise their respective successes.

Van Gogh did not live to see his successes, but the 37 years of life that he did live, were filled with moments of brilliance, where he used his passion to fill his soul. He was unhappy in his relationships, but always found love in his craft.

Coelho wrote The Alchemist at 40. Many people I know and coach, ask me if 40 is too old an age to start something, and I give them Coelho as a role model. Actually, many of the successful people I know, achieved true success when they’re older, so age is never, and never should be a limiting factor.

I hope that the lives of Van Gogh and Coelho have given you some realisations too.

Success doesn’t depend on when you discover your passion in life or whether or not you have external support.

Learn how to become your biggest cheerleader.

Learn to support your cause despite rejections. Rise to the greatness within you.


If you’d like to know more about how we can work together towards making you your biggest supporter, drop me an email at info@risewithin.org

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