Ashton Bishop is the CEO of Step Change, a strategy-driven marketing agency working with brands such as Sony Pictures, ANZ, Mercer, HP and more.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I studied law and commerce at uni, then ran away with the circus. Literally. I was in Denmark and the circus was in town and I left with it. The full story is too long for this interview, but like any good adventure it ended up in London. There I started working in marketing and communications.
Over 20 years on, I’m still working in marketing. We now call it strategy, marketing and momentum as we help organisations make their very own ’step change’ – and funnily enough I’m CEO of a company called Step Change.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
The alarm goes off at 4:30AM. I experimented with 4:26, but psychologically it rounds down to 4AM (too early). 4:30 rounds up to 5AM and the day is off to a great start.
I then cuddle my dog, a bordoodle, called Bella — as she’s more receptive to cuddles than my wife or kids at that time of the morning. Then Bella does tricks for treats (she’s got 22 in her repertoire) and I go off for the 5:15AM F45 gym class.
I then walk to work, do a morning prime (Robbins or Abraham Hicks) or a bit of Audible audiobook. At my desk after brekkie about 7-7:30ish and get a start on the work day.
Standing desk keeps me on my feet. Team huddle at 9. Then it’s consulting, meetings, zooming, white boarding or presenting. Lunch at 12. More consulting work. Finish at 5-5:30. Leave the machine at work and walk or ride home.
Dinner then kids (currently boy 7 and girl who’s eleven-teen) bed routine until about 7:30 – 8:30 PM. Then maybe some TV, glass of wine or into bed by about 9-10PM.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
It does allow for remote and we did that March – May, but we’ve been lucky in Pyrmont, Sydney and I like my office setup and face to face team collaboration. So I prefer the office.
We have an incredible team in Cebu and another office in Sydney, so we’re connecting remotely every day. The Meeting Owl is magical for this!
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I prefer the term counter-balance to balance. The world is rarely, if ever, in balance. Everything is constantly moving and changing.
So a quest for balance means most, if not all, of the time is spent seeking something illusive. Counterbalance says, I’ll do this, then I’ll do that. I’ll be 100% present to each task without worrying about being in balance or not.
The key is knowing in advance what my ideal counter-balance is. So if I’m working hard, I’ll book a date night with my wife, and each of my kids individually and spend special time with them. If I find myself ‘out of balance’ I know my next counterbalance move.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started/stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
- Cold showers
- Daily yawn (yep, a yawn)
- Habit tracking
- Annual 72 hour fast.
- Nights off the booze midweek
- Training Monday – Friday mornings
- Listening to chanting and breathing meditations
- Drinking a lot of water – beside table bottle helps a lot
- I was doing a daily prime every day, but I wasn’t ‘feeling it’ so I’m not much more intermittent with it.
- Facebook move-meme scrolling
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I’m dyslexic, but I can listen to the hell out of audiobooks at 2 – 3x speed. I’ve listened to over 300 audiobooks over the last 7 years. That project got me to interview 5 of the top 10 thought leaders in the world. A positive from COVID.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
My Apple AirPods are my constant companion and link to Audible. Evernote and iOS Things keep all my knowledge to hand and out of my head.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I love Eric Barker and James Clear. I’d love to hear more about them and their personal stories and routines.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I mentor a lot on purpose, but I find that purpose without empowering belief is causing people stress. Where they’re thinking they need a big purpose, but are confusing it with a goal. The goal is to be the best self more of the time.
If your purpose can bring your focus to this, and you have a few empowering beliefs in place — then work becomes just part of the quest for wisdom. And that’s a game worth playing.
My purpose is: to equip leaders to realise their potential – leading them to live fulfilled lives.
My empowering beliefs are
- I believe I always have the power to choose
- I believe there’s always something to be grateful for
- I believe that action leads less regret than inaction
- I believe in leaving each moment complete
- I believe in paying things forward
And believe me, I’ve got an endless amount to learn as I follow that path.
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