While most of us would be more than a little peeved at reaching a final of reality TV show and then losing out, Mullingar’s Mike Cole - runner up in the RTE 2’s Do The Right Thing - actually believes that the judges made the right decision, and was “quite happy” with the result.
Over the course of eight autumnal weeks, Mike and his fellow 15 contestants battled it out to be crowned Ireland’s greatest volunteer and, after a series of highly impressive performances in tasks that took him from searing heat of Zambia to the cold, wet streets of Dublin, the very mature 21 year old just missed out.
However, rather than rue a missed opportunity, Mike says that the he was delighted for the two eventual winners, Johnny Finegan Jr and Carol Leonard, as it meant more to them in the long run.
“I never expected to get that far and I’m honestly very happy with the two people that won,” Mike said.
“Johnny left a good job to enter the competition and has never really done any travelling. It’s priceless for him. It’s the same with Carol.
“They have got to do something that wouldn’t have got the chance to do, if they hadn’t won Do The Right Thing. I’m 21 and know that I will go travelling in the future.”
This response tells you a lot about Mike and the type of young man he is.
Currently working in a substitute’s capacity in the Offaly School of Special Education, he admits that while some of the tasks that him and his fellow contestants had to complete over the course of the eight week show had little value apart from entertaining viewers, he was particularly affected by the time they spent at Vesnova Children’s Institution in Belarus.
“I work with children with special needs, and really enjoy it. I just found it very annoying how the Government treated the orphans many of whom had severe disabilities.
Eager to do something on his return home, the self-taught multi-instrumentalist and songwriter decided to record an album of his songs with all of the funds raised going to this very worthy cause. Currently in the middle of putting the finishing touches to the album, which he has self produced on a small mixing desk at home in Mullingar and hopes to have out just before Christmas, Mike says he delighted to be able to combine two of the greatest loves of his life - helping people and music.
“I’m lucky I have access to a warm, quite place where I can record. It’s great, the time just flies by. Yesterday I went down at 5pm and finished at 1am and it felt that I had only been there an hour or two.”
The forthcoming album is a true DIY effort with Mike enlisting the help of friends for the mixing stage of proceedings. “By keeping the recording costs to absolutely nothing all, of the money raised can go straight to the orphanage.
“The album will have two purposes,” he says, “the first and main one is to raise funds for the orphanage and the second is to mark my progress as a songwriter. Once it’s out there then I can move on and further develop my style of songwriting.”
“The music of a song might hit me first, but I lose interest quickly if the lyrics don’t do it justice. You can’t overestimate the importance of a good melody either.
All the instruments I play are self taught and this probably shows when I play, but I just love writing songs and playing music.” he says
The last year has certainly been something of an annus mirabilis for Mike. In addition to his exploits on Do The Right Thing and his musical endeavours, he also made the life changing decision to “drop out” after completing two years of a business degree in Tallaght IT.
However, while some may look at his decision and put it down to the impetuosity of youth, particularly with the country in the midst of the worst recession in its history, Mike is adamant that it was the right choice.
“The last year has been the most productive in my life. I made my decision after reading a book which basically said that you should lead your life like this was your second time around and you could change any bad choices you made. Life is short and I really wasn’t happy doing the course.”
As for the future, Mike says that he would to make a living out of music but knows that even the most talented of musicians sometimes struggle to make their passion pay the rent.
“I’d love to be able to work full time with my music but realise that it’s hard. Also the type of music that I play isn’t really background music that I could play in the pub while people have a pint and talk to their friends. It’s something that has to be really listened to.
“I think down the line, I might like to go back to college to become qualified as a special needs teacher. In the school where I work in Tullamore, the children are really happy all the time and really enjoy coming to school.
“I think you’d have a good quality of life and it would be very rewarding.”
Whatever path in life Mike takes in the coming years, if he displays the type of passion and selflessness that so impressed the judges of Do The Right Thing, it would seem to safe to assume that the future will be very bright for this impressive young man.
Anyone interested in hearing Mike’s musical offerings should visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mike-Cole/115459508501561.