This week, I would like to write an uncharacteristically personal article. There are basically 2 schools of thought on this topic: A:“Do what you love and the money will come” and B: “Do what is most lucrative and save so you can retire early and do whatever you want.” At some point most young people starting their careers are encountered with these two concepts. I am going to break down why after being person B, I am now switching sides.
I am a 21 year old Civil Engineering student. According to Business Insider UK, this is the highest paid degree in the UK. There isn’t a single list that places my degree outside the top 5; I was hard-pressed trying to find one that puts Engineers outside the top 3. This actually wasn’t purposeful, I wanted to do aerospace engineering but I didn’t get the grades. Ironic that lower grades forced me into a slightly higher paid niche. I digress. At 21, I find myself in second year of university. I did a foundation year and I repeated first year. Why?
Because I hate this damn course!
Here’s a rare picture of me in the library. That’s not uni work on the screen, it’s music. To the untrained eye this looks like an unserious candidate. But you can bet your bottom dollar I was working on *something*
I walked my way through school. I mean GCSE time my revision was turning up on the day, grabbing a friend’s textbook because I had lost mine and skimming through it, then walking into my science exams and getting all A’s. A*’s in Maths, English and English Lit with minimal revision. The hop up from there to a-levels however stopped me. Suddenly, for the first time in my entire school career I was required to work hard. I failed miserably at this. I was pushed into dropping Art and Music and doing Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths and English Literature for a-levels. Retrospectively this was a wise decision on the part of my parents. The problem was I had terrible habits and out of those subjects I had a passion for none. I couldn’t scrape together the work ethic and discipline to work hard at these, and ended up cramming for all my exams in the week before for 2 years running. I scraped the grades ABD and was offered a place in my insurance choice university on the condition I did a foundation year. Now this is not a sob story. A key lesson in life is that if you’re successful for a long term at doing the wrong thing and do big things with bad habits; eventually when those habits catch up with you you’re due for a royal screwing. I’m still learning this lesson almost 4 years later. However… I am not lazy. I have proven that to myself beyond any shadow of a doubt. My school experience contributed to my depression and part of that was giving me a very low view of myself.
However when given something for which I can truly assimilate the purpose of and attack with passion, I throw myself into it with a sickening work ethic and drive. I’m no stranger to 30 hour days. With my music I have been known to fall asleep at my desk learning production and sound engineering. I truly love music and see it as a long term fixture in my life. It’s ultimately what I want to do. When I got into property I was exactly the same. I would spend hours on the phone making calls, trying to pull deals together, travelling up and down going to viewings and meeting clients. I have no concept of work-life balance; as far as I’m concerned if I’m working I’m working on my purpose and my purpose IS my life. So why is it that with this kind of drive, the brainpower I have, my appetite for learning and my desire to be wealthy; I cant seem to get the wheels going on this lucrative course I’m on?
Because I hate this damn course. Please, don’t take this as me regretting doing the course. Ultimately my parents are right and a STEM degree is going to be excellent on my CV and for my future, even if just as a safety net. The people guiding me have absolutely done the right thing and I just have to suck it up.
Let’s fast forward to 2018. This past week I have been to every single lecture and lab scheduled. I’m behind, I’ll be honest. I don’t know if I can salvage this year. But for the first time ever, I’m genuinely trying. Putting legitimate effort into formal education. My mentor wants me to start putting 4 hours a day of study into this course. We’re negotiating. I’m writing this at 10:31pm on a Thursday, absolutely exhausted. I WILL absolutely get something out of this university. By fire, by force; by hook or crook I am going to get this stupid degree. Today I ran into an early music mentor of mine and I showed him some songs I mixed and mastered and he was genuinely blown away at how professional they sound. He was there 6 months ago when I first decided I wanted to learn sound engineering. He heard the terrible early day mixes. He’s a music industry professional himself who does big budget work freelance so he has a true understanding and appreciation for what good mixing sounds like. Chuffed, I got to talking with him. He himself just graduated university last year. It turns out, he had been offered a 70K per year job fresh out of university. He turned. It. Down.
My jaw dropped as he related to me how he came to this decision and why. Ultimately it boiled down to this: he didn’t enjoy his uni course and he wasn’t about to tie himself for 3 years to a job he wouldn’t enjoy which would monopolise his time and make him as unhappy as university did. No matter what they offered. At this age, it’s crucial for him to have freedom and also time for his music outside of his job even if music becomes his job. I didn’t know this but he was also dealing with some depression whilst in uni. Since leaving he had lost a lot of weight and was getting back in shape. Suddenly, I understood completely.
This conversation made me look at my own situation and realise,I feel exactly the same way. On Monday, my new speakers arrived. For the first time ever, I have some really nice speakers to mix on and I can afford them because I have the clientele. Humble brag. I haven’t been able to actually use them properly yet because trying hard at uni has utterly drained my time this week. This feels terrible and 70K wouldn’t ease the pain. Why? Because if you gave me 70K a year I’d spend 25% of it on music equipment. Minimum. That’s how much I love my music. If I didn’t have time to actually use the equipment I would vomit on my way to work every day. The fact is, in 2018 there is absolutely no reason I should have to work an office job I hate if I don’t want to. Especially when I have done my research and found what I am passionate about can be equally (in many cases more) lucrative given time. I’d honestly rather wait a few years working for much less and honing my craft and eventually earn that amount. Ultimately, I will get to a point where I earn 6 figures or more a year. That’s not a point of contention in the slightest. The question is, when?
To any prospective employers reading this, if you want to offer me 70K a year for flexible or part time work, I will approach the offer with a very different energy. But otherwise, factoring in my years of suffering in school doing things I hate and how soul-crushing this lack of music time feels; I would have to decline a rigid and time consuming job, no matter how lucrative. The fact is, I would take 20K a year working in a studio over 70K in an office. This is a PERSONAL choice. Either way, I shall be saving well and investing a potion of my wages into Indexes and ETF’s. I cannot come and kill myself for money. I believe both schools of thought have merit and different things work for different people but today, I realised I am an A and not a B and that’s absolutely fine.
To get in contact with me for production work or engineering services (Mixing and Mastering), email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on my Twitter. My @ is @moneymikesLDN