5 Painful Truths About Living Your Dream in the Real World

by Alexander Heyne · 41 comments

house and car

My early 20s was like one kick in the nuts after another.

In-case you were living in a bubble, or you were raised middle or upper class, or you were sheltered, real life was probably a shit storm for you. It was for me.

I was raised in a mid upper class white area, went to a good school, yadda yadda, the typical scenario you see on front of a magazine advertising universities. Preppy little white boy goes to college. I was given a lot more than most people on earth from the start. Half the battle was already won.

… But it wasn’t until I reached my early 20s (and left college) that I realized how much of a disservice this was.

Except for getting good grades, I wasn’t used to working hard.

I wasn’t used to figuring out shit on my own.

I wasn’t used to solving problems that didn’t have equations to work with (Ahem… success… life… happiness?)

I wasn’t used to HUSTLING.

There were some really hard knocks and life lessons I went through in the five years between 22-27. I’m going to share those with you today hoping that the sooner you realize them, the easier your life will be – whether you’re in your 20s, 30, 40s or later.

#1 The Epic Battle: Your Passion Vs. Your Rent

Truth #1.

Most of what you’re struggling with is going to be two things:

A. Money

B. Fulfillment.

If you were raised in a wealthy family, you’re usually going to choose fulfillment, until you realize you aren’t making money, then you’re going to go for the highest paying job possible, then you’re going to email me because you’re unfulfilled (just kidding, I hope).

Caveat: Unless you’re an immigrant or someone who was brought up struggling – and was told to follow safe/secure routes – in which case you were probably pushed into a high-paying job you hate and wasn’t at all related to what you love.

So it’s going to keep coming back to:

Having enough money.

Doing what you want.

Usually you won’t be having both – the goal is to have BOTH situations occur 90% of the time.

So most days you’re waking up, doing what you want, and have enough money to do what you want.

Surviving #1:

Here’s how I survived #1:

First, I freelanced on the side for the extra $5-10,000 a year it gave me. That was plenty to do whatever I wanted, travel, etc. Learn to freelance if your job isn’t paying you enough (who knows, it might turn into a business too).

Second, learn to ask for raises and how to negotiate. I won’t give you any other resources other than Ramit over at Iwillteachyoutoberich.com. Just follow him, read everything, and buy his products. They’ll make you rich.

Truth: You will almost NEVER get a raise, unless you ask for a damn raise and prove why you should get one (hint: not just because you’ve been there for a few years doing a shitty job surviving).

Learn how to ask for raises and become the “linchpin” at your job. Read this book.


#2 No One Cares About You… Only You Care About You

Holy jesus if you learn this one principle you will succeed AT ANYTHING YOU DO IN LIFE.

Look: no one cares about you. They only care about what you can give to them. Yes, even friends. Yes, potential employers. Yes, ANYONE you email.

The sooner you learn this, the higher you’ll fly.


Emails: Don’t email someone important or busy and ASK FOR THEM TO DO SHIT FOR YOU. They will either A. Not respond B. Think you’re an asshole, C. Just push delete.

Also, anything over 5 lines instantly gets deleted or archived.

Want a mentor or want to meet someone influential?

Reach out and OFFER help. A book to read. Blog post ideas. Free help with something.

They WILL respond if you make an offer like that. Add value.

Reaching out to make connections:

Again, never tell a busy person “hey could I pick your brain?” Hell no, they’re busy and you’re a nobody – what do you think they’re going to say? (Don’t worry, I’m usually much nicer :-))

Offer something. Provide value. Add value to their life. GIVE.

Friends: Want awesome friends? STOP texting people only when you need something. Text when you have something to offer. A great book. A movie. A game. Free tickets.

They will become lifelong friends.

This is seriously one of the most important life skills you can learn.


#3 If You Want Your “Dream Life” You WILL Work Your Ass Off

(Note: Metaphorical nuts, if you’re female. Some readers have pointed out that I’m fond of “balls” jokes. Must be a dude thing. I’m sorry.)


Let’s do the math.

You want to pursue your passion and get paid millions for it, right? Or at least replace your day job income. All of the above are possible.. WITH WORK.

Most of the people I know building businesses do it WITH day jobs.

So you work 9 hours at your day job.

+1 hour commute.

You get home. It’s 6 pm. You only have so many hours left.

Do you:

A. Play Mario Kart

B. Work on your business idea/passion

C. Watch TV

… Well, you only have 3-5 hours, right? Less if you exercise, have a spouse, or do something else.

That means you sit down and HUSTLE. Put in those 12 hour days as long as it takes. That’s what I do, that’s what just about everyone else I know does. Because that’s what It takes.

The learning curve will be fucking huge at the start – enormous, terrifying, confusing – it will scare you shitless.


Promise to put in those 3 hours each day after work – 3 hours of WORK, not reading, not studying – GRINDING.

Just take a tiny step forward each day.

This is why you’re going to have to work.

No one will be there to motivate you. No one will say “good job lassy!” No one will be there to sympathize if you mess up either. You have to drive yourself forward.

Momentum is critical in this stage.

That’s why I don’t even SEE my house until 10 pm on average.

I get up at 7 for my morning ritual, cook all my food for the day and pack it, get to work by 9, work till 5, go right to the gym until 6:30, then drive to a cafe until they close at 10 to work, then go home.

… And then I often do that on weekends. You’re going to have to work – just do whatever it takes to figure it out. It’s that simple.

Some of you will have to work harder/longer than others. Some of you will have to sacrifice more than others. It’s just the name of the game.

#4 Only YOU Are Responsible For Your Happiness: So CULTIVATE Those Habits NOW

Your 20’s might really suck.

I hope they don’t for you, but a good portion of my 20s did.

This is one of the highest risk periods for depression during your entire life.

Maybe the single most important thing you can do is cultivate the habits of happiness.

Here are my top 5:

#1 Exercise. Do it INTENSELY at least 4 days a week. It’s like hitting the crack pipe – instant happiness hormone release (yay endorphins).

#2 Meditate. Get over the bullshit swirling in your head.

#3 Morning ritual. Wake up every morning and start with a list of your top life goals – every single day begin by reviewing them. Make sure success is ONLY one of those goals – not all of your goals.

#4 Daily ritual. Do at least ONE thing every day that’s awesome, that helps you decompress. Exercise, reading, sex, whatever. I just don’t recommend alcohol or drugs because you can’t work 12+ hours a day on those. :-).

The bottom line: nothing is worth it if it doesn’t make you happy at the end of the day.

You can’t “store up” happiness for the future. That’s not how it works. So be happy today (for no reason) or you never will be happy.

Sometimes you’re going to want to put off happiness, thinking that you can’t possibly work 14 hours a day and be happy. FIND A WAY.

If you get in a “I’ll just be unhappy for a few years” rut, be careful – that’s how many people die.

#5 Study – And Practice – The Habits of Success

Success is actually really simple.

There’s a reason why so many books are written on it – because here’s the SECRET:

It’s simple, and it’s un-sexy, so no one wants to do it. They look for a fancy, new shiny book with new principles that hold the promise of a shortcut.

It’s called “The compound effect” (book here).

Here’s all it is: It’s the results of DAILY success habits, done a thousand times.

Getting a six pack (or weight loss) = compound effect.

Business success = compound effect.

Happiness = compound effect.

Great marriage = compound effect.

Fulfillment = compound effect.

What do you wake up and do every day?

Do you exercise or not? No? Well then that’s your daily habit which is leading to disease and being unhealthy.

Do you come home and watch TV or work on a side business? Watch TV? Well then that’s your daily habit which is leading to an unfulfilling work life and long-term misery.

I don’t really need to go into detail because you know the habits – if you don’t, just type “success” into Amazon.

Or better yet, find someone successful, and ask about their daily routine, and do that.

What you’re doing TODAY will tell you EXACTLY how you’re going to feel when you die.

Was today the life you wanted?

Did you have enough money?

Enough passion?

Enough fun?

If not – today holds the answer. Because what you did today is what you’re going to do tomorrow and the next day.

Understand this, and you’ll be a hit success at anything you do.


Leave a comment below.

These were my top 5 tough revelations in my 20s – what are some of yours? Let me know below.



I currently have clients paying $300+/mo to work intensively on building an epic life – finding dream jobs, discovering their passion, determining which

But I also wanted something more affordable for most people that still wanted to hustle and make their dreams a reality.

So I’m thinking about launching a program with a small, affordable monthly fee which would include:

A 10 step video course on the core principles in:

– Figuring out which freaking path to take in life
– Finding your dream job
– Getting unstuck; getting out of a crappy life situation
– Finding your passion in the next 90 days


– An intro 30 minute session with me (1 on 1)
– A private, insider community of people that are making shit happen (to inspire you and drag you away from your lame-ass real world friends – sorry! just kidding :-) )
– Daily challenges and tasks, weekly and monthly new trainings, and a lot more
– 24/7 access to me, every day

Say “HELL YES” or “NO” below… and please say which aspect of this DOES or DOES NOT interest you.

That’s it!

– Alex

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris May 9, 2014 at 5:01 am

Being on the “wrong” end of my 20’s, much of this advice definitely resonates with me.

Personally I feel as though #4 has brought me the most fulfillment, as it is the one that you can exert the most control over. Creating habits, structure and mindfulness adds so much value to life, as (in my opinion) the root of unhappiness for most 1st world people is basically laziness and procrastination.

Everything else is life is such a mindf***, that envisioning a “dream” lifestyle and chasing after it will leave many spinning their wheels, and frustrated. Present happiness vs future happiness, time vs effort vs reward, fluctuating moods – these are all things that are mind-blowingly difficult to quantify.

We all tend to over-analyse things to the point where we feel completely numb, but the genius of your #4 is in its simplicity. Create enough order in your life that you are giving yourself the BEST CHANCE of being happy, most of the time.

Love this website, keep up the good work.


Alexander Heyne May 9, 2014 at 11:59 am

” Creating habits, structure and mindfulness adds so much value to life, as (in my opinion) the root of unhappiness for most 1st world people is basically laziness and procrastination”

I could not agree more Chris. 100% with you there.

The 20s are not easy – there’s no doubt about it.


Jascha May 9, 2014 at 10:15 am

Well…if by the time it comes out I figured out a way to stop being broke…HELL YES!


Alexander Heyne May 9, 2014 at 11:59 am

Hi Jascha,

Haha sounds good!


Violetta May 10, 2014 at 10:19 pm

HELLL YES…..but i m stuck in a country called Thailand…any way u culd help me out here? the ebook is fantastic btw! thank you!


Alexander Heyne May 12, 2014 at 10:21 am

Awesome Violetta! And regarding Thailand, what do you mean help you out there?


Lauren May 10, 2014 at 10:37 pm

I think all of that sounds great, especially the community part and the challenges! Hell yes! Sick of being stuck and feeling like a sloth!


Lauren May 13, 2014 at 7:20 am

And I’m going to be cool and comment on my own post. Alex, can you help people get out of the sea of indecisiveness? I enjoy so many things, I don’t know what to choose, and so do nothing. Then I feel apathy. The milky abyss of apathy! How does one conquer this? I’m travelling to the other side of the world next week, maybe that will help…but after reading some people’s posts on travel, I’m not so sure! Any advice would be grand :) thanks


Alexander Heyne May 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Hey Lauren,

The only way is really to start testing each of your paths to see if it’s right for yo. What are some of the things you are considering?

Also, ACTION, not thinking, is the way out of indecision and confusion.

Mau Nunez Jimenez May 11, 2014 at 1:49 am



Alexander Heyne May 12, 2014 at 10:21 am

Awesome Mau!


RebeccaLynn May 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

This is a hell yes for me. I am 28 and actually on my 3rd career path. I thought I wanted the first one. It was fun and exciting but the emotional stress and fear on a daily basis was not healthy. So I went to school while I worked. I graduated. Got the job. Hmmm this wasn’t as exciting as I thought and has limited flexibility. At this stage I realize my 2 kids are way more important but I still have to make the family income. Finding the passion isn’t as easy as I once thought…


Alexander Heyne May 12, 2014 at 10:26 am


It’s definitely not easy – I won’t lie to you and say it is. What’s the biggest barrier preventing you from finding your passion right now?


RebeccaLynn May 12, 2014 at 10:35 am

I guess it would where to start. The last two searches didn’t go well. I am looking at starting my own consulting company on time management soon. Actually I test run it with a local company next month. This is my third try. I have been successful at the last two but it hasn’t given me what I need as a whole.

Nicolas R May 12, 2014 at 10:00 am

Good article.
I was raised in a typical middle class European family. For too long I was sheltered from reality and simply told to follow my passion. However due to my character, I left home at 17 because I wanted to experience the world and earn my own bread.

I think that no matter how much you are a “Middle class white boy”, class and race doesnt matter in the end. What matters is how quick you are confronted to the real world.

I learned quickly by being metaphorically slapped in the face by reality, and I adapted. Regardless of my background. The only sad thing is that often parents shelter their kids from this reality too long and they learn too late.

But it would be a mistake to think that lower class or non-white kids are advantaged because they grow up in tough environment. After living by myself in tough environment because I chose to live in one through my own means, I realized that tough environments also suck you in really badly and you can never get out of them. They mold you into a bad person unless you are really strong.

So…I think its not so simple as being either lower class or middle class.
Its more about quickly learning the ropes from good parents. Its not like middle class parents have struggled less than lower class parents. In my experience middle class actually struggled more to get where they are than lower class (at least it was like that with my parents, who never went to university and my grandparents, who were lower class blue collar workers).


Alexander Heyne May 12, 2014 at 10:27 am

“I think that no matter how much you are a “Middle class white boy”, class and race doesnt matter in the end. What matters is how quick you are confronted to the real world.”

Great point Nicolas. Couldn’t agree more.


Jonathan May 12, 2014 at 10:39 am

A lot of this is stuff I’ve personally experienced and it’s a great representation of how you’ll get where you want to be. I’m nearly 28 myself so I know that your 20’s can be pretty crazy no matter what path you take. I joined the military a year after high school and traveled to some pretty awesome places but hated what I did for a “career”. Ironically I went into the military to pay for school to become a game developer and eventually just “lost” myself and forgot about that dream I had and stayed in the military for about 8 years.

Bounced around a few different jobs and realized I didn’t want to be in the military at all and left about six months ago. I’ve slowly gotten back into my passion by teaching others how to develop games and even started developing my own and just published my first about a week ago. It’s been tough without a doubt but I’d rather work 12 hours a day on what I want than 8 hours on something I hate.


almost dead May 12, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I cant do this. I am 20 years old and my life is miserable. I am afraid of living my life. I AM SOOOOOOOO SCARED LIKE A BITCH. I hate my past and i don’t see my future. My present is constant depression. I guess I am going to die soon :/

Damn, ALex are you really happy or just faking? Just wanna know

And how to stop being such a pussy…

AFFF…i know, but i cant change, its too late


Alexander Heyne May 12, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Hey almost dead,

” I am afraid of living my life. I AM SOOOOOOOO SCARED LIKE A BITCH. I hate my past and i don’t see my future. My present is constant depression. I guess I am going to die soon :/”

What are you afraid of in particular?

“ALex are you really happy or just faking? Just wanna know”

I’m a human haha, which means I’m sometimes happy and sometimes unhappy. Life isn’t easy, I won’t lie – there are lots of ups and downs, and a LOT more downs if you aren’t willing to work hard.

What is it specifically that you want?



almost dead May 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm

it doesnt matter.
I wasted 20 years of my life, and i cant move on.

Ken July 7, 2014 at 5:57 am

In response to ‘almost dead’,

“and i can’t move on”

YES YOU CAN. That’s step number one – think different.

Am I happy? No. I’m a uni grad with a worthless degree and a boring childhood. And I’m currently living with my folks and driving them nuts.

But I’m four years older than you. I’ve ‘wasted’ 24 years of my life being boring, but I know I made that stupid choice, so I’m looking to get back on track.

Can’t say it’s all peaches and cream from here – I’ve been a lazy butt my whole life, but we gotta keep fighting.

Btw Alex, how would you combat that ‘dead’ feeling? I was stupid enough to let years of past negativity get to me and so I currently feel no drive. I’m short on cash so I don’t know if I can do much exploring to find myself.

Ironically that’s why I wanted to travel – to find my inspiration. But I currently can’t afford it.

I’m convinced though that as Paulo Coelho put it, once we find our calling we’ll dive headlong into eventual success. Although I’m pretty scared of entrepreneurship – that requires a 180 degree turn on psychology for me.

So my question once again – how to bring back the fire when you’ve had a limited degree of experience and may not be able to explore much atm in order to stoke it?

Chandra May 12, 2014 at 8:36 pm

And what if you’re in your late 50’s? Will those rules work for me?


Alexander Heyne May 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm


Yep :-). These are general life principles.


Derfliw May 12, 2014 at 10:56 pm

I am always be a fan of this website.
Great article sir, always realistic and I can always relate.
Really fits my situation right now.


Alexander Heyne May 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Cheers Derfliw!


Jaleh May 13, 2014 at 8:07 am

And while I don’t have a weekly Star Bucks budget, I’d still like to say (erm… type:) “Yes please!”

I am mostly interested in finding out more about which friggin’ path to take in life and/ or find my passion. I tend to flit from interest to interest, never really-really ‘pushing on’ when it comes to a potential passion or hobby.

Given the fact that I am perfectly able to go to a not-that-challenging job week-in-week-out and get up for said job at 04.15h – I think I am simply one of those people who ‘play it (too) safe’. Even at the cost of their dreams.

So bring on those challenges! :)


Alexander Heyne May 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Awesome Jaleh! Hope to see you on the inside.


Allan May 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Hell Yeah! Wish I had your advice 10 years ago when I was in my 20s.


Alexander Heyne May 15, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Hey Allan,

The next best time to start is today, right?


David May 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Dear Alexander, I just want to clarify that you were being sarcastic about Ramit? Iwillteachyoutoberich.com. As it appears to me he is one of those people who declares he has some sort of magic secret to success you just have to pay through the nose to get it.


Alexander Heyne May 15, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Hi David,

Haha, I was quite serious. He’s one of the smartest people on the planet.

No magic secrets – and yeah his products are expensive, but you’ll get 10x more out of them. Would you rather pay $47 for a crappy ebook or $2000 for a world-class step by step program? That’s his thinking.


Niki May 18, 2014 at 11:22 am

Great article Alex ! That number 2 it’s so true! No one cares what problems you have …all they want to see are results !

From my experience I’ll only add 2

1. Don’t freak out if you’re in early 20s and you don’t have a clue about what to do.
There was a time when people around me were doing something and I just didn’t fit! I was like ” what is wrong with me?”
If you feel the same don’t let this push you to do things you don’t want just to fit! Instead give yourself time and explore your talents. You don’t have to be in the same line with everyone else.

2. If you don’t like your 9 to 17 …don’t let it drag you back. We all have ups and downs in life.There are times when you just have to work that job you don’t want to. But here’s the mistake many people do. They get used to it, they lose focus and give up on what they wanted to do.

Hope they help :) Have a great week !


Alexander Heyne May 19, 2014 at 11:56 am

If you don’t like your 9 to 17 …don’t let it drag you back. We all have ups and downs in life.There are times when you just have to work that job you don’t want to. But here’s the mistake many people do. They get used to it, they lose focus and give up on what they wanted to do

This is huge, thanks for sharing Niki!


Alan May 25, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Hey Alex,

Thanks for the website I have to say amongst all the crap on the internet all of the self help webpages I’ve visited you’ve managed to make this one unique and genuine. The fact you reply to each comment means you care, this is why I disagree with number #2. I think you care, and for anyone of us here confiding and talking to someone who cares (for me it’s my mum who also suffered her life with depression) is important. It’s the people that don’t know you that don’t care and unfortunately it is these people we often try the most to impress. It must be a massive commitment to maintain this site and read and reply (with very good suggestions and insight I must admit) to everyone. just want to say thanks. Of course I’m not gonna claim that reading this that I am now cured and live life to the full but for sure it’s nice to know I’m not the only one suffering and your advice is golden. So if I don’t follow it, it’s just me to blame. fingers crossed I can summon the will to try it.


Alexander Heyne May 27, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Glad you found a new home Alan!

It’s not easy, but working your ass off towards living the dream can be the most fulfilling thing you ever do.

– Alex


Bastian June 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm

My relationship of 11 years just ended, I feel that with your great posts I don’t really have the time to feel sorry of myself, my life is going to take a great turn.

Keep up with spreading those great advices!


Alexander Heyne June 13, 2014 at 11:05 am

Keep it going Bastian :-). It’s not easy – just hustle and push yourself towards your dreams. It’ll happen.


Alexander Heyne May 25, 2014 at 12:23 pm

“I wasted 20 years of my life and I can’t move on.”

Sure you can, today is brand new. Start “leaning in” to the new life you want.


Alexander Heyne July 7, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Hey Ken,

I would start with a 30 day flow test – find something even tiny that you enjoy doing daily. Just start with becoming more happy, and figuring out what puts you in “flow” : http://milkthepigeon.com/2012/12/03/why-getting-drunk-for-30-days-will-help-you-figure-out-what-to-do-with-your-life/

From there – start experimenting – pick up a new hobby/book each month, see what inspires you, and what doesn’t. Tweak, test and improve.


Ken July 8, 2014 at 3:55 am

Thanks Alex!

Wish I’d done it earlier – but you’re right. Thinking my way into it won’t work.

Thanks again.


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