Founders / Interviews / Operations

Balancing the Grind with Alan Jin, Co-Founder & COO at Muso

Alan Jin is the co-founder & COO at Muso, a live-entertainment start-up born in Melbourne and now operating Australia-wide.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I started my career in experiential advertising at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne. There I worked with brands to bring their campaigns into the real world through physical activations.

From there I went into production and produced events across Australia. During my time at Clems and in production I played in a band called Otious – an electronic 4 piece that had the pleasure of playing some major festivals and touring with some big Australian acts.  

I learnt a lot about the music industry during this period, and more specifically the troubles that young artists go through trying to establish their career. That is what ultimately led me to leaving my job and starting Muso with Jeremiah and Brandon. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I get a bit nerdy with habits. I have a number of habits that I check off at the end of the day, then at the end of the week I work out the % of habits I hit for the week. I’m certainly not perfect with them but the tracker allows me to understand how I’m progressing over time. 

I wake up, exercise, revise chinese (trying to learn, not doing very well), then grab a coffee. Workwise, I try to keep my mornings clear for deep work time as that is when I am most productive.

The rest of the day is typically broken up into alternating admin and deep work blocks and the arvo is allocated for meetings. I’d love to sit here and say that the above is a perfect formula that I follow every day, but that isn’t what reality is like.

Sometimes days get completely derailed and I hit none of my habits or working blocks. I usually just ride the roller coaster of the day whilst trying to stay as structured as possible. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Absolutely, our team has very flexible working arrangements, we also worked completely remotely during lockdown, so we’re no strangers to being efficient from home.

Muso is also a very trusting company, we trust that the people we’ve brought into the team are going to do the work and do it well. Everything beyond that isn’t really monitored and because of that we are very flexible with hours and arrangements.  

My routine doesn’t change that much whether I’m WFH or at the office, I usually just move a few of my morning habits around to compensate for the commute in. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Our product manager at Muso once said that growth = stress + rest, that spoke to me on another level. To me that is work life balance to a tee. You need to work hard and long when you can, but you also need to rest.  That is the perfect recipe for growth. 

I personally call it ‘sustainable hustling’. You have to push yourself to grow and become a better operator, but there is a line. You will never grow if you don’t put yourself in uncomfortable and difficult situations but if you’re constantly in those situations you will burn out. I’ve burnt out twice before and it sucked. I try to do everything I can to make sure neither I nor the team get to that point ever again. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I started running in lockdown 1. It helps clear my mind, keep fit and get my brain moving. The habit has moved around from time to time, but it is one thing that has remained consistent. 

It’s also a habit that you can get consistently better at, it’s great to be able to set a goal, improve and eventually hit it. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Podcast: How to take over the world by Benjamin Wilson 

An incredible series on people who have genuinely taken over the world. Ben does very thorough research on historic figures and attempts to break down their entire life then draw consistent learnings from figure to figure. The podcast does a great job of synthesising tonnes of information across lifetimes, learning about how Steve Jobs and Napoleon share common traits is something you won’t find elsewhere.

Book: The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

A classic, but an absolute must. It’s a great intro to stoicism and taught me how to reframe my mind when the going gets tough. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Michael Batko from Startmate introduced me to the concept of the ‘Brain Inbox’ through his productivity programme – Puddle Pod. Your brain should not be used to store absolutely every thought you have at every moment of every day. Instead it should be used to solve complex problems. Thoughts come and go all the time during the day, in order to keep them you need to file them. 

The brain inbox is an open page where I write down literally anything that comes to mind. Once a week I file this in notion and asana – Asana for work and personal life tasks, Notion for future reference. 

My Nura Overear Headphones – for getting into deeeeeeep work even when you’re in a busy office. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

David Goggins because I have no idea how he balances anything out with his work regime.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Every single person that I have met in life has their own balance. Some people are more career driven than others and will happily sacrifice elements of their personal life, some people are happy doing the bare minimum at work and living a great life outside of it.

There is nothing wrong with either option. We are all different, and just because your optimal work-life balance isn’t the same as someone else’s doesn’t mean it is a problem. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should balance it out, because in the end it is something you will learn for yourself. 

I spent a long time in my early career unhealthily idolising hyper-hustlers. Whilst that energy has a time and a place and works for others, I personally needed to find my own balance that worked for me. It took a while for me to become comfortable with the fact that I didn’t need to be that person and that giving myself breaks and calm periods was okay. Find your own rhythm and your own balance!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.