Living an Epic Life and Getting Un-Lost, Milk the Pigeon’s First Interview

by Alexander Heyne · 6 comments

I recently was interviewed by Tohami over at Transformational Motivation.

It’s only 16 minutes long, so it goes pretty quick if you get the time. However, I know It’s pretty hard for me to focus through some audio interviews, if thats also the case with you I’ve got a brief recap here of some of the important points:

What You’ll Learn:

  • What Milk the Pigeon means and what it stands for
  • Why I quit my job and moved to China
  • Why I felt my life was meaningless, and what I did to change that
  • Key traits of highly successful people, high achievers and quick learners
  • Ways to kill a meaningless life
  • How to kill the lost feeling
  • Closing thoughts on living a successful, meaningful life
Some Important Parts of the Interview:
On Life Feeling Pointless

– People worldwide are experiencing a lack of purpose … we feel we’re stuck into one life phase or life path, trying to please your family, stuck into a corporate job you can’t escape from… Milk the Pigeon speaks to doing bigger things than you feel like you are right now”

Basically my life felt pointless, that was the bottom line, and that is the bottom line with many people. We do jobs that are expected of us, but we don’t actually get any satisfaction out of them.  I have my car, apartment, life, money,. but what do I do now? There is no enjoyment, nothing to strive for. And that feeling of life being pointless is what really got to me

Finding Meaning

– How I managed to find purpose in traveling: It wasn’t that I traveled that was important, it was just trying something new that got me on back on the path.  Break the comfort zone and totally flip your world upside down.  Just do something that terrifies you — something that has the potential for failure.  And just do it – As scary as it is.

Traits of High Achievers and Fast Learners

– One of the key traits of high learners, high achievers and experts is that you always have to keep yourself in that state of uncertainty, keep yourself in the phase between where the task is too difficult or too easy and you’re a little stressed, where you keep improving. A lot of people once they get into that first job they lose the balance where they keep improving, and they lose the drive to learn more and develop. [Because of its importance in rapid learning] that’s the main reason why uncertainty should be your best friend.

On Ditching it All 

– I thought going to China was going to instantly illuminate what I was supposed to do. But only slowly did the pieces fall together.  Don’t think that dropping everything and going somewhere / anywhere will solve all your problems, and that’s a thing that a lot of youth can fall into because we don’t have many ties and can drop it all and go.  Just be honest with yourself about whether or not you’re really going on an adventure and want to try something knew, or if you’re running from your problems.

Finding Purpose

–  A lot of people have this idea of going out and trying to find our purpose.  But most of the time we already know and don’t realize it. There are activities we get engrossed in and time flies by.  One of my favorite authors – Dr. Csikszentmihalyi — has a book about people who enjoy jobs/lives that most people do not.  And he talks about flow as being one of the most important parts of whether or not someone enjoys their life — things like constant challenge or absorption into the activity to the point where you forget about time — these are the key characteristics you want to look for when you want to figure out purpose-based activites.  Find things (hobbies, work, people) that allow you to naturally enter Flow.

– I originally started writing about passion but I’m slowly realizing that it’s more about purpose – look for things that give life meaning to you.

Regarding the Lost Feeling

The lost feeling is very closely tied with work for work’s sake — you’re working because you should be but it’s not really towards anything. It’s pointless. It’s just to pay your bills and exist. Basically the lost feeling comes from two things: from entering a new phase of life where you don’t know exactly what’s going on.  In this case, the first time it happens is when college kids enter the real world.  We get our jobs, our apartments, our cars, our …. stuff.  And then we think “well, is that all there is?”  And we’re disappointed because we don’t know what’s supposed to come next, it’s like we’ve been tricked out of life.

There are two lost feelings: People who don’t know what they should do with their lives, and those who are already in a life where the basic needs are met but they aren’t feeling fulfilled.  Both are ridiculously common in the modern world.  Both are heavily tied to feelings of meaninglessness, like you’ve been tricked out of life. 

One of the most important things is know what you want from life — what will make me happy, what will define success, and then just go for it.  Remember they go both ways: if you want a lot, you’re putting a high standard on your happiness. The same goes for your success.

Books/Ideas & Things We Talked About:

— Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow (in my opinion one of the most important books ever written)

— Some about my year and China and the dangers of dropping it all and going

— Why even if you’re basic needs are met you may not be happy (Work for Work’s sake, the Consume-Purchase Cycle)

— Two posts about flow: If Your Work Sucks, Learn About Flow

— My 3 part series on accelerated learning using the principles of Flow  and Deliberate Practice: How to Learn Any Skill 2x as Fast in Half the Time

Getting Un-Lost And Re-Writing History

— Notes on how to define your success and figure out what it means to you


Tohami’s site is awesome in general and addresses a lot of the big questions on Passion Vs. Paycheck.

Tohami’s site Transformational Motivation.

Again, you can check out the interview here.  Some fun food for thought.



Image courtesy of Fanz

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie Andre February 3, 2012 at 2:49 am

Congratulations on your interview. I am amazed at how enlightened you are and how easily you are able to articulate yourself. Throw in the fact that you are so young, makes it double impressive. I have been tip toeing around the subjects you talk about because 99 percent of my friends live in the world which caused me so many mixed feelings. I’m slowly opening my mind to the fact that i just need to speak my mind even if it means alienating some people.

What i really hate hearing is that i’m living my life this way because i’m going through some mid life crisis. REALLY? When i was 18 and moved abroad to Japan, i was told i was lost? WTF?

So Keep shouting about your beliefs. It helps to hear from other people, especially young smart up and coming people as yourself that we’re not crazy and that it’s ok to want to be happy and status quo isn’t the only way to do it.
Looking forward to more like this. HOOT HOOT. As my step mum used to say.
Ni SI HUN HOW. totally botched phonetic spelling.


Afheyne February 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Thanks Annie,

Ha, don’t know about the enlightened part, I’m like anyone else – disillusioned, it just hit me decades earlier than most people.

And like you said — I used to tiptoe a lot regarding what I said and whose feelings I might hurt, especially around friends.

But something I’ve noticed that has naturally occurred to me in the past 1-2 years is that I’ve become increasingly blunt with people. There’s so much smoke and mirrors type talk these days — we’re all armchair philosophers about life but so few of us know things by experience.

Everyone deserves a chance but not all people deserve to steal your time..

Hahah, and like you said: moving abroad when you were in your teens, and now, are BOTH considered mid life crises to other people. Wait, what?? I live in one of those Stepford Wives-type areas (The movie was filmed right here, rich white suburban Connecticut), and that is such a typical response. If you aren’t working a 90hr /week corporate Wall-Street job you’re a loser, and if you decide to send your kid abroad to go on an adventure, it’s just a break from life to “figure out what to do.”

Never does “living your freaking life” ever show up.

I’ve had so many parents tell me “live it up, party, have fun, because it’s all work from here on out…” haha, sorry guys. I intend on enjoying my life.

And like you, when I told people I moved to China they’re always like “figure out what to do with your life right? Party, drink, travel, etc.” I got tired of fighting them, and now just use it as a long-running joke haha.

Sometimes the best way is to “lead without followers” as Dave Ursillo says. That phrase has been stuck in my head recently for some reason.

And your Chinese! That was pretty close :) Ni shi hen hao 你是很好! 说得不错!

I think you Benny and I are going to have to meet and have a Chinese conversation some day !

Always good to hear from you


M. Tohami February 3, 2012 at 3:39 am

Thanks for being my guest Alexander. You’ve a great wisdom to share.


Afheyne February 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Thanks again Tohami, how are things going with you? As I recall you said Jan./Feb. you were making the move to self-employment, how is that going?



Paul February 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I really look forward to your posts and it was like karma that I had just went into a store and found an old tape from Nightingale Connant on leading the pack. In it he talks of people that have been a success but still have no purpose. It’s wild that when you talk with people and ask them what they want for the future for their own self they have no idea and have never taken the time to set a true path for the future.
It then becomes like the Alice in Wonderland when she asks the cat which way to go and his reply is where do you want to go. Her reply is I don’t know. Then he tells her then any path will get you there. I also like the quote (Those without a vision shall perish from Proverbs). So many people have no goals or purpose and thats why they have the deer in the headlites look.

Looking back on some of the great stars who died of a drug O.D. and they had it all but a for lack of a purpose. When you look at Sean Penn who has taken on the Hatian peoples plight and works to help re-build the counrty you have to think that a life of service to others is bigger than all of us.


Brasilicana February 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Finally got around to listening to this :-) Congrats on your interview!

Have you ever read the book Delaying the Real World? It’s all about outside-the-box, alternative paths – and there are three things I like about it:

1) It has interviews with people who have taken those “atypical” paths, where they tell how they did it and what their experience was/is like;

2) It has practical links and resources for actual programs / organizations / companies / scholarships to check out (“Here’s where you can get your wilderness training certificate if you want to work in the great outdoors in a national park” type of thing);

3) Every time I read the book, I get all inspired and want to go teach in Guam or trailblaze in Costa Rica or bike across Europe! Then I’m like “oh wait, I’m already teaching English in Brazil, and this is where I want to be for now.” But seriously, the book is inspiring. Makes you want to get up and DO stuff.

Based on your blog, I think you’d like it :-)


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