Every year, Jay McAllister releases an album on his birthday, the 1st of December. It tends to follow a long period of touring and the lyrics and subject matter reflect his experiences from the previous year, commenting on current affairs, his stories from his tour and so on. It comes out to his longstanding, faithful core of followers. Going by the moniker of Beans On Toast, his career has never taken off to the same heights as his old friend Frank Turner. He has somewhere around three million listens on Spotify, sings about struggling to make enough money, yet continues to play his gigs to small audiences up and down the country and around the world. Why?
But it’s not about the money, it’s just nice when I get paid
I’d like to think that if I didn’t though I’d do it all the same
It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice
I dunno where I read that but I’ll bet you’ve heard it once or twice
- Folk Singer; Beans on Toast
It’s somewhat telling that I’ve picked a folk singer as my inspiration for this article as it’s drawing from my recent experiences applying for a music production course. After my standard best-practice technique of leaving everything until the last second, I found myself with five days to write, record and mix four pieces of music armed with GarageBand (the free software that comes with a Mac), a microphone, a tiny amp for a bass guitar and some instruments I’ve accumulated over twenty years of playing music. Over those five days the only things I did were eat, sleep, walk the dog and work on the music. It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had and though I ended up completely drained upon submitting the work, it made me reflect on why I had enjoyed myself so much.
The reality was that I’d returned to something that I had quite a vast amount of experience in, having put the hard yards in when I was younger, knew I loved and actually pushed myself to go further with it than I ever had before – I had never once considered recording myself up to this point because I had never believed what I could produce would be good enough. For quite a long time I had honestly considered taking up a career in the gaming industry, being something of a “sweaty rude boy” at video games (according to the Xbox Live “Clan” I occasionally played with back in the heady days of being 17), but social stigma had always persuaded me to move away from it. Disregarding the fact that e-sports is now a multi-million-dollar industry (and with the amount of FIFA I’ve played over the years, EA Games should be paying me by now), I’m glad I never did. Apart from studies, in my teens my two passions were music and gaming – one makes you create something and make something your own, the other lets you succeed within the boundaries of a system created by someone else. This leads me on to a rather apt quote from “The Industrial Estate,” another song by Beans On Toast.
If you do what you do with love,
Well then you’ll soon love what you do.
And if a job’s worth doing then it’s worth doing properly
Or it’s not worth doing it at all.
- The Industrial Estate; Beans on Toast
Two things here – firstly, it is very, very hard to do a job in a business environment with love- or at least it is from my experiences. Being kind to your co-workers, doing the best job you can – these are admirable traits to have, but do they really mean that you love your job? I would argue that love in business is following your dreams and starting your own business, growing something organically that you’ve created yourself and helped to flourish. Unless you are invested in something to such an extent that it makes you feel genuine pride in your accomplishments and not just a general sense of contentment at a job well-done, you’re never going to feel as fulfilled in your job as you could be.
The second point is something that I believe to be largely forgotten about in today’s society but is exceptionally important to realise: “If a job’s worth doing then it’s worth doing properly or it’s not worth doing it at all.” The New Economics Foundation did a study on the loss or gain for society for each pound an individual worker is paid. Many, such as in social care, waste management etc., create positive returns – e.g. a childcare worker provides £9.50 in societal gain from each £1 that they earn. Others create negative returns and it isn’t hard to imagine which ones this is – tax consultants, advertising executives etc. This isn’t just because they provide little benefit to society, but their salaries are infinitely higher than those whose jobs provide tangible benefits to society. Peter Fleming, a professor of Business and Society at UCL, puts it simply as, “The more pointless the task, the higher the pay.”
I’m not here to tell you that your job is pointless or that you should be working in charity; nor indeed am I trying to make you feel guilty about working in business; nor am I trying to make you feel guilty about bringing home a salary that is, most likely, over the average UK salary of £27,600 while you’re still in your twenties. I’m simply here to tell you that I worked in something I didn’t love for a long three years and it made me feel unfulfilled. I could have followed my tender teenage dreams of being a pro-gamer and I think the same thing would have happened. But when I picked up the microphone and created something that I didn’t think I could do, I did it with love. What’s more, I loved doing it.
Go out and do something that you love – you’ve only got one life to do it.
Oh, and excuse the vocals: Matt’s Soundcloud