The Oxford English Dictionary says alchemy is derived from khemia, which means “black earth”. It’s a reference to the fertile soil of the Nile, as opposed to red desert sand. It was an ancient name for Egypt, and means “the Egyptian art”.
Alchemists are famous for trying to turn base metals of lead into precious gold. Fortune hunters looked for the Philosopher’s Stone, believing it was the key to this miraculous change. Unfortunately, they had lost something in translation.
The path of alchemy wasn’t a get rich quick scheme. It was a spiritual path of self-improvement that transmuted lead into gold, or the ordinary into the extraordinary. Let’s look at the etymology of philosopher to better understand this important point.
Philos means “lover” and Sophia means “wisdom”. Philosophers are lovers of wisdom. Wisdom, like knowledge, can be learned in books or from teachers. Both help us understand the world, but wisdom comes from real-world experience. It understands the repercussions of our actions, and thus it seeks to maximize harmony and wealth.
Unwise actions are selfish, shortsighted and cause unnecessary drama. They are an unstable foundation for a better life. Wise actions are positive and cooperative. They lead to long-term prosperity. For example, you are wise to negotiate by building and maintaining trust, because it leads to a rapid and stable resolution.
Anybody can use the alchemical process to improve their craft. I’ve been using it to transform my ordinary speech into something extraordinary. The speech’s theme is “step outside your comfort zone because that’s where the magic happens”. I’m doing just that by practicing magic and comedy, which are two skills that will give me a major edge in my presentations.
I put the lead of my first draft into the crucible of practice, practice practice. First, I memorized it. Then I gave it to myself over fifty times. I performed it in front of a mirror and a camera, to get the best feedback.
Then I turned up the heat and pressure by joining Toastmaster’s International Speech Competition. I’ve performed it at least fifteen times in front of a group and won the first round of the competition, but I know I have to do better.
The next step was to refine my 5-7 minute speech over and over and over, trying to remove all the junk. I’ve now rewritten it over twenty times, and have really tightened it up.
Finally, I applied the wisdom I gained from feedback and experience, and hopefully, I will turn my lead into gold. Right now it feels like brass, so I’ll keep polishing.
This alchemical process can be used to improve anything. It is the process we all have to go through to make the ordinary extraordinary, but it can take a long time, so be patient.
To maximize the impact of your learning experience, step outside your comfort zone, because that’s where the magic happens.