Many of us are very familiar with the challenge of busy lives, juggling family, careers and all that life throws at us. Many of us also have dreams that one day we’d love to follow, which is precisely the decision made by Tony Mak, one of our valued clients, did. A self-confessed muso, he used to play in bands years before the family came along but then started working in the Public Service. Fast forward sixteen years, and he’s now living his dream, playing professionally and no longer working nine till five. He’s feeling de-stressed, alive and enjoying life! We sat down with Tony to learn what the catalyst was and how he went about changing his life around. Thanks, Tony!
1. Before your children came along, how would you describe your lifestyle?
Busy yet surprisingly relaxed and with what would now seem to be a ridiculous amount of spare time.
2. You worked in the Public Service for 16 years, what was your role?
I was employed with the Department of Human Services (Centrelink). For the first four years, I was a Customer Service Officer, handling pension claims and enquiries and associated administrative processes. I then moved to a section that was responsible for the interpretation and implementation of government policy and legislation, with direct interaction with other government departments and ministerial offices, and development of relevant procedures and publications for all staff across the country.
3. What was the catalyst that made you finally decide to leave the Public Service and follow your dream?
Happiness and quality of life. Once I started playing a few gigs, I started being offered multiple bookings per week, up to 18 months in advance. Things escalated quickly, and within a year of getting back into playing again, it became clear that it might be a viable employment option. It was a huge risk, so I tested the waters by taking 12 months of leave to see how it would go. And it went very well. I was happier and got to see my kids a lot more. When I returned to work, I immediately realised that I didn’t enjoy it (or the stress) anymore and the feelings of discontent returned. Over the next few months, I concocted an escape plan and made the jump.
4. How did your family react?
The kids had already gotten used to me being at home a lot more during the day and doing most of their school stuff, while also being out several nights a week, so they weren’t overly fazed. My wife was very supportive throughout the whole process and was very happy for me to do what made me happy. I may have been easier to deal with when I was doing my new ‘job’.
5. What advice would you give to others who also have dreams but don’t have the confidence to follow their heart?
Go for it! Well sort of. It is easy and dangerous to say “follow your passion”. Do your research, be honest and realistic in your expectations but don’t sell yourself short. If you’re doing something you love, working harder to achieve your goals doesn’t seem like hard work, and it has many benefits that can’t be measured financially. I am much happier and have a much better quality of life despite the reduction in income and loss of certain benefits. Risk versus reward… Yes, my future superannuation payout would be taking a hit, but I almost feel like I’m already retired, so I figure I’m way ahead.
6. What’s the most significant difference you’ve seen in yourself?
I’m far more relaxed (mostly) and less likely to get ’snippy’. I get to see my kids a lot more and be involved in all aspects of their lives. It also means I have to do most of the housework, but it’s a minor trade-off and one I’m happy to make.
7. Who inspires you?
Anyone who does what they love, or loves what they do.
8. What frustrates you?
Ignorant or selfish people. Politicians.
9. What advice will you give your children when they are all grown up and come to Dad for career or life advice?
Money isn’t everything. Work hard, learn as much as you can, and develop as many skills as you can so that you have the freedom to do whatever you decide to do.
10. How would you describe the relationship you have with David Woolford and the team at Collins SBA?
Easy. Dave makes you feel comfortable; it feels like we’re good friends.
11. How would you describe your music style and who inspires you musically?
That’s a tough one. Some people tell me they could happily listen to me sing for hours… which is good because I usually do. So maybe easy-listening? I try to perform each song as if I had written it myself and try to tell the story or convey the feeling behind it. I have many influences, but I am inspired by what I call ‘story-telling’ musicians, like. Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Ray La Montagne, but anyone who can write or perform songs in a way that engages with the audience is an inspiration.
12. How can people check you out and inquire about booking you for their next function/party?
I mainly operate via my Tony Mak Music Facebook – and Instagram pages. My contact details are available on both those platforms. A basic website is also in the works.
13. Any regrets leaving the Public Service and following your dream?
Aaah, no. Only that I didn’t trust myself and do it sooner.
Thanks, Tony for your candidness and we wish you all the best with your music career.
If you or anyone you know needs to book talent for their next event, please check out Tony Mak!