A Dialogue on Self-pity

A Dialogue on Self-pity

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

Bernard Shaw is right. He claimed that people take a morbid pleasure in complaining every day about the conditions in which they live. I agree with him: true men and women are those who create ideal conditions.”


“Thousands of years ago a Chinese man wrote about this: by respecting five points. However, before talking about those five points, one has to know that the point of departure is respect for oneself, and to focus on what we want.”

“How do we know what we want?”

“When we feel well about performing a certain task. So everything that makes us lose enthusiasm and respect for ourselves is harmful, even if it means power, money or success. I have seen many people being suffocated by success, committing mistakes that ended up destroying the work of years, surrendering to monumental drinking sessions and becoming aggressive, hard and bitter. Such people are far from themselves, and far from others.”

“Let’s get back to the Chinese man.”

“Well, the Chinese man wrote a book on war, but the five points that he lists apply to any task performed by human beings.

“The first item is the law of will. We have just spoken about this: we must do only what really fills our hearts with enthusiasm. If we leave this aside, if we put off the moment of living what we dream about, then we lose the energy that is necessary for any important change in our lives. Someone once said very aptly: “I don’t know the secret of success – but the secret of failure is to try always to do the will of others.

“The second item is the law of the seasons. Just as a war waged in the winter calls for different behaviour and equipment from a war waged in summertime, human beings need to learn to respect their own seasons, not trying to act at the moment for waiting, not trying to wait at the moment of acting.

“Item three is the law of geography. A battle on a mountain range is different from one fought in the open country: likewise, favourable conditions are only found by those who pay attention to what is happening around them, the space they are occupying, what they have to do to get ahead, where they can be trapped, how they can escape if they have to retreat a little.

“The fourth item is the law of allies. No one can fight alone. Friends are needed to lend us strength whenever we need it, people to advise us without fear of what we will think. As a poet says, ‘No bird can fly high if it uses only its own wings.’

“Finally, the fifth item, which is the law of creativity. There is only one way of understanding things – when we try to change them. We don’t always manage, but we eventually learn because we seek a path never trodden before – and the world is full of such paths. The problem is that everyone is very scared of virgin forests and seas that have never been sailed, because the unknown makes us feel that that we may get lost.”

“But nobody gets lost – because the merciful hand of God always rests on the heads of courageous men and women who dare to be different because they believe in their dreams.”

© Translated by James Mulholland


1 Comment

  1. Maxine Silva says:

    Dear Paulo,

    Thank you for this insightful piece. I will be in Bali within a few weeks, a decision I made just a short time ago. I am so looking forward to experiencing your beautiful island and people.

    I presently live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I came her via the New York City area, but now know I must seek the “five points” you are referring to in your article elsewhere – hence Bali is calling me.

    Cheers, Maxine Silva

    I am a feng shui practitioner, amongst other things and I believe in following your heart and intuition, as life guides.

    I am not afraid, I have faith in my dreams!