Listen to the Serendipity Stories Podcast on your mobile phone (Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn) or on your browser (RSS Feed, Website, Soundcloud). Here’s the transcript for Episode 5 with our host YeSeul Kim and guest Mykel Dixon, featuring music by Kym Purling and Mykel.
HOOK: I walked after her. I grabbed her hands and I told her, “Hey, I’m going to see you.” And she looked dead in my eyes and said, “I know.” And then that was it. And then I lost her. And then the whole next you know, for the next three days, I was like, where is she? Where is she? Oh, my God. It just felt like, “Where is this girl?”
Welcome to the Serendipity Stories. I’m your host YeSeul Kim, here to share the beauty of life’s most unexpected moments.
In this episode, keynote speaker and author Mykel Dixon has had a lifetime of serendipitous moments. We have a conversation about how serendipity has shaped his hobbies, career, and love life. We also talk about the costs of chasing the unexpected. But first, we start in a sleepy town in Australia where he grew up. It was just an ordinary day…
Mykel: I was born in Adelaide and we moved to a little town called Port Augusta or an Australian that’s pronounced Port Augusta and then which is a strange little town in the middle of nowhere. And then we moved to another strange town called Port Lincoln, which is full of tuna fishermen.
Mykel didn’t have much access to the arts in his rural hometown. But he fell in love with music and experienced his first brush with serendipity when he met someone that would change the course of his life forever.
Mykel: So when I turned 5, we got a piano and I was just immediately drawn to it, like, what is this thing? I was lucky enough that I fell into a guy that was teaching at the school. He was the first ever Vietnamese baby adopted by Australian parents as a result of the Vietnam War or as the Vietnamese call it, the American War. And he was like a prodigy. He was just an absolute genius talent. He was amazing at classical and jazz on the piano. And he was only 19 or 20 at the time and I was about 11 or 12. And he took a few students and I happened to be one of them. We hit it off immediately.
I still remember the first time I ever heard a double bass live, you know, the instrument. And I laughed. I just never heard anything like it. I remember the color of the room that I was in. Do, do, do, do, do, do. I was like, oh my God, what is that?
Mykel had met Kym Purling, a pianist who would become a world renowned composer, conductor, and humanitarian. Kym was more than just a piano teacher to Mykel. He became a mentor and a pretty cool friend who nurtured Mykel’s curiosity.
Mykel: When I didn’t practice my scales or I didn’t do my homework, he wouldn’t, you know, yell at me or make me do them. He’d go, okay, cool, let’s go. And he put me in. His car was a little Fiat. It was cool as a speed through red lights and we’d go out for coffee. And he talked to me about how to how to get gigs and how to talk to girls and how to run a band and how to do all these all these skills and ways of being in the world that just weren’t conventional. Even when taking me off campus, it was just like, yeah, you know what? You don’t have to be here. You don’t have to be in these rules. You can do whatever you want.
That was a sliding door moment because the whole rest of my life changed from meeting him. I wasn’t just learning how to play the piano. I was learning how to be a musician. Not just here’s how to play this scale, but here’s why the scale matters. And what do you think about this scale? And why is that important to you? And this is where this scale comes from. And this is who else used to play this scale. It was such a gift because it just opened my eyes that there could be so much more out there in the world that I just was completely unaware of. And if that was just one kind of music that originated from one place in the world, what else was there out there that I had no idea about? So that was really the seed of my gypsy roots.
After the break, we find out how just how deep Mykel’s nomadic roots are and how following a sensation led him to his second seismic moment of serendipity.
Learning the philosophy of jazz opened Mykel up to other cultures and his own approach to life. He was attracted to new adventures and never hesitated to follow a path of spontaneity or to listen to his heart.
Mykel: I think it was 1999 actually. I went to a music festival in Victoria. It’s called Falls Festival, which is a big, big event, probably 10,000 people that go. Bands and four days of dancing and carrying on. On the way over, I stopped at a little town called Mount Gambier. And I happened to meet a girl at a pub in a bar. And we probably chatted for eleven minutes and I fell madly, deeply, wildly in love with her at about the seven and a half minute mark. Wow. And I think she did, too. Well, she was the quintessential Australian blonde, blue eyed, you know, beautiful brown skin at the time. Freckles and and very athletic and surfie, you know, kind of thing. And just she was just a vibrant, vivid bowl of sunshine. It was like — that its color and its joy and its freedom. And it was summer. And I was young and I wasn’t in school. It was very Hollywood. It was like, oh, my God, you’re it. I’m done. I’m out. You and me. Let’s go.
And then she left. She had to go with her friends. I had to go with mine. As she was leaving, I grabbed her hands and said, “Hey, I’m going to see you.” And she looked dead in my eyes and said, “I know.” And then that was it. And then I lost her. And then the whole next you know, for the next three days, I was like, where is she? Where is she? Oh, my God. But it just felt like. Where is this girl? And lo and behold, about 5:00 on New Year’s Eve, thousands and thousands and thousands of people. And, yeah, walked around a corner and there she was. Just standing there. Listen to that with her friends and music and I walk straight up and it would have been. It was like, hey, how you doing? Hey, how you doing? Great. Just really hoping to see you. Yeah, you too. Three minutes later, we were holding hands.
YeSeul: And how did you feel when you found her at the festival right before midnight?
Mykel: Yeah. You have a birthday party and you got your wishes, candles, it’s OK, you can make one wish and obviously you’ve got a wish for world peace. I think I would trade that wish. And if I could give everyone on the planet. This same feeling suggests, you know, a moment of how I felt. Seeing her again. That would be my wish, like it was like what? I don’t need anything else. No one needs anything else. This is the absolute pinnacle of the human experience. I can’t believe that I’ve found you.
Mykel: And then seven days later, we decided to move from Adelaide to Brisbane together. And I quit about five bands I was in and packed up everything I owned and she packed up everything she owned, which wasn’t much because we were 19 years old, 20 years old. Put it in the back of my van. We drove up the coast and surfed our way to Brisbane and then we lived there for a year.
YeSeul:And what is it that you fell in love with? Now that you kind of look back at it like what was it that attracted you to her that made her unforgettable?
Mykel: It’s got to be a question of timing. You know, I do think that there’s a mystic, cosmic forces at play. Because I’m sure that I’ve met other people that I could have fallen harder in love with. But it just the timing wasn’t right either between them or I. Or maybe I sat next to the wrong person on the bus because of some other infinite number of choices that had to take place that we didn’t quite get that moment together. And for some strange reason, it was just the right moment. Driving four thousand kilometers with someone that you’ve known for seven days. And you’re twenty and you’re thinking, oh my God, have I made it like a terrible mistake here? But then you just keep surrendering to it and keep going you know what? I’m going to go with it and a trust and I’m going to lean in and I’m going to really own it. Own the decision
YeSeul: And what were the reactions of your parents and your friends and your band mates?
Mykel: Yeah, I’m sure a lot of people behind the scenes probably said they’re crazy, it won’t last. We’ll be back in a month. But no one’s said that to us. And even if they did, it wouldn’t have mattered. I think that there was such a deep conviction in who we were, what we felt and what we were doing that. We wouldn’t have even heard it even if you were shouting in our face.
Mykel Dixon fell in love at first sight with a girl he had just met at a music festival. He then spent a year traveling the world fearlessly with his new love. They were chased by a black rhino, escaped knife fights started by drunk locals, and survived bus rides along dangerous mountain roads. But like many things in life, all beautiful things had to come to an end and the couple broke up when they came back to Australia.
Mykel: I don’t think break ups are ever beautiful. It was horrible. You know, that’s the cost, isn’t it? It’s like, yeah, it’s. It took ages to get over that and probably never will in some ways, which is nice. It left a scar. Left a beautiful scar. Yeah. Those break breakups are never fun. I don’t recommend them.
After the break, we learn about Mykel’s third significant serendipity moment thanks to a group of Italians and a Swede.
Mykel came back to Australia and stayed for a while, playing in bands and touring the country in sold out shows. But after 7 years, his wanderlust came back in full force. At 30 years old, Mykel sold everything he owned and booked yet again a one way ticket to travel across the globe.
Mykel: My plan was to go to Berlin and live in an underground club making electronic music. So, you know, 7:00 AM. Ja Ja came to make the music, you know, all of that. And again, chance meeting. I never, never made it there. Ended up in Thailand, in Southeast Asia. And then I felt myself through the mystical dance of choice and chances on a beach in Cambodia. And I met a bunch of Italians and a Swedish guy. There were a couple of Aussies. And they all owned a beach bar. There was a place called Oches Beach. It was idyllic. It was like. Why not? So three days after that, I found myself with the keys to a beach bar and then built a guest house with 8 little huts and a Mexican restaurant.
Mykel ran the beachside bar and restaurant for a year and some change. At a certain point, he fell into an opportunity to buy a private island in the Gulf of Thailand for a mere $50,000. It was yet another chance to go all in and surrender to serendipity. Instead, Mykel decided to forego one adventure in search of another and returned to Australia.
YeSeul: This is twice now where you went abroad, had these amazing adventures that you continue to see in a positive light. But every time you come back to Australia. Why?
Mykel: It’s a good question, you know, for a very long time, I never I never felt like I had a home. And it’s probably only in the last probably since having children….Yeah, I mean, I tried. I tried multiple times to leave, you know, go on one way tickets and see what happens. But each time I came back and whether that was family or it is a very beautiful country here. And there is it’s very, it’s a very wonderful lifestyle.
YeSeul: Tell me about the cost of all your travels.
Mykel: Hmmm. Well, sometimes I romanticize about the idea of still having the same friends that you’ve had since you were eleven and how cool that would be. And I’m still friends, close with a lot of people that I’ve known my whole life. But there’s a lot you miss, you know. And when you miss weddings or you miss a lot of birthdays or you miss buying your first house or you miss, you know, these achievements or just even the ordinary moments, just the volume of them. There’s there’s going to be a cost to the depth or the intimacy of those relationships. Not all the time, but I think, yes, sometimes you can feel lonely. You know, sometimes you can feel like you don’t fit anywhere and that you’ll always be on the run and always chasing something new. This new experience, this new relationship, this new person.
Since coming back to Australia, Mykel has gone to translate his experiences as a musician, traveler, and serendipity super fan to build his career as a keynote speaker who focuses on sparking inspiration for businesses. I met Mykel by chance at one such conference in the fall of 2019 and I’m telling you, the man is a genius at engineering serendipity for large audiences.
Mykel: I’ll then put the microphone in the middle of the room and I’ll say, who’s got something to share? And I want to invite someone that’s never spoken on a microphone before. And it’s that moment when the hair goes up on the back of your neck, where everyone in the room leans forward and the eyes open up wider. And someone will share something and someone will connect or something will happen that will be the most memorable moment. That’s the thing. They won’t remember the food. They won’t remember, you know, that the content they were supposed to get, they won’t remember any of the key messaging from the organization or blah, blah, blah. But they’ll remember that Tony got up on that microphone. He shared a story about his father, you know, and it was vulnerable and courageous and beautiful. And it endeared the whole team to Tony. And they’ve never been the same since. And it’s those magical moments of serendipity that make life worth living.
YeSeul: I don’t know if this is a fair assessment, but I feel like you’re addicted to serendipity and that you chase serendipity. What’s your reaction to that? And also, what’s your philosophy in our relationship to serendipity? Because it should be unexpected moments, right. So he can’t plan for it. There’s no control. And yet you can put yourself in circumstances that maximize serendipity. So is that the right way to live? Or should we just let it happen? And I think it’s a question of passive vs. a proactive way of living. So I just called you a serendipity addict.
Mykel: I love it. I need a fix regularly. A serendipity fix. No, I agree with you. And I think you’re on the money in terms…It seems to just arise out of nowhere. But I think that you can prepare for it. And I think that you can almost invite it in. I think it’s all frequency. And I think if the whole universe is just a sound wave, it’s just a vibration. Or if you think about it like music, to bring it back to jazz music If you’ve got a chord, you know, there are certain notes in that chord that are going to be resonant and certain notes that are dissonant. Some that are gonna sound like UGH. I don’t like that. And others that are gonna sound just beautiful. And it’s about training yourself to be able to hear those notes and then choosing. Well, do you want to have a chord that’s a bit kooky? Oh this little dark alleyway looks like fun! I’m going to walk down that and it’s going to make me uncomfortable because there’s something I’m curious about. I want to follow that.
For now, Mykel seems content in his pocket of the world, still finding ways to search for the unexpected while grounded in Australia. But as he reflects on his history with serendipity, he leaves us with one last important message.
Mykel: Yeah. Well for every hello. There’s a goodbye for every choice that you make. There’s an opportunity that you’re letting go off that you’re losing. And I think that’s what makes them so meaningful. You know, the fact that you know that nothing is forever. The fact that you can’t hang on, that this might be the last kiss, that this might be the last meal with someone makes it just makes you cherish it even more. If we can be more aware of that and bring that into every hello, knowing that at some point we are going to die. I mean, this is the irony of life, is that we’ve already said our hello. There’s the goodbye coming. And to really acknowledge that nothing lasts. So, stay. Stay for one more drink. Stay for one more kiss. Stay, stay for as long as you possibly can.
That was Mykel Dixon, an award winning speaker, author, and musician. Special thanks to Kym Purling and Mykel for sharing their music, which you heard throughout the episode. Check out Mykel’s book Everyday Creative: A Dangerous Guide to Making Magic At Work and visit his website at www.mykeldixon.com. That’s M-Y-K-E-L-D-I-X-O-N dot com.
Thanks for listening. I’m your host YeSeul Kim. Our podcast is co-produced by Ben Severance and Nora Connidis Boydell. Editing also by Nora. If you’re enjoying our podcast, please write us a review and rate us and don’t forget to subscribe to Serendipity Stories. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @serendipitystories.podcast.
To close us out, here’s Mykel Dixon and his band again with their song “Why Not,” because — hey, why not say yes to serendipity?
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The Serendipity Stories shares the beauty of life’s most unexpected moments. We might call it luck, fate, a freak accident, or a coincidence. But over time and with a bit of reflection, when we find meaning in those special events, we call it serendipity. Expect stories that are full of irony and whimsy, love and tragedy, and despair and hope.