Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Tania de Jong, Founder of Creative Universe & Creative Innovation Global

Tania de Jong is the Founder of Creative Universe, Creativity Australia, Creative Innovation Global, Dimension5, MTA Entertainment & Events, Pot-Pourri and The Song Room.

Additionally, she also works with diverse communities through Creativity Australia’s With One Voice choir social inclusion programs.

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

I studied Opera, Music Theatre and Voice at the Victorian College of the Arts and a Bachelor of Law (Honours) at the University of Melbourne. I have developed five businesses and three charities over three decades. I work across the public, private, creative and social sectors.

I am the Founder of Creative Universe, Creative Innovation Global, MTA Entertainment & Events and acclaimed singing group Pot-Pourri. I have recently founded a co-working space Dimension5 in Melbourne to drive social innovation and collaboration.

I am also the Founder of three charities, The Song Room, Creativity Australia and Mind Medicine Australia. Creativity Australia works with a range of marginalised individuals and communities to build supportive networks through the acclaimed With One Voice choir social inclusion programs.

Mind Medicine Australia is a registered charity working to develop evidence-based and regulated psychedelic-assisted treatments for mental illness in Australia.

I empower people to find their purpose so that they unleash their true potential. My mission is to change the world, one voice at a time.

I was honoured to be named in The Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence and in the 100 Australian Most Influential Entrepreneurs in Australia.

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

Each day is very different. I am juggling a lot of balls simultaneously!

Normally it will be a mix of meetings, keynote speeches and/or performances, leading innovation and team building workshops, running/producing an event, etc.

I have a group of great people working across Creative Universe, Creativity Australia and Mind Medicine Australia and MTA so I will also be meeting with, mentoring and communicating with them a lot of time to implement our projects and programs and achieve our vision and strategy.

For example this Tuesday I did some exercise first thing: some yoga stretching and a quick swim and steam. I have a glass of warm water with lemon juice and MCT oil. I generally don’t eat till lunchtime as I am finding intermittent fasting works very well for my digestion and energy levels.

I reply to a mountain of emails (usually I have between 150-200 in the inbox first thing), then I have a variety of in person meetings and scheduled calls, then I am presenting a keynote and song for the CPA at their Southbank head office. After that I am going home to have a rare massage.

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

Yes I work all over the world, in a variety of locations, from home to hotels and airports. It all depends where my engagements take me. Recently I gave keynotes and performances in USA, France, Portugal, Croatia, Greece and now back in Australia for various engagements.

I am also producing a number of special events for various of my organisations. I love to galvanise diverse audiences through creating some special magic, alchemy and transformation.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I use a lot of precedent documents and emails. This enables me to be far more efficient than starting from scratch on the enormous amount of correspondence involved in my work. I work with a VA in the Phillipines and an EA in my office.

The EA does most of my database work and helps with my LinkedIn and makes me contact lists. My EA organises my meetings and takes enquiries and bookings and helps to manage my speaking, leadership and team building workshops and performing events.

I use Evernote to take notes for all meetings and also document other ideas and projects on Evernote because it’s so easy to search and share notes.

Most of my direct reports send me weekly updates which I will send back with comments and questions. When we are doing major events we create a WIP (Work In Progress) document and try to stick to the deadlines!

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

Much of my work, especially speaking and performing, is a ‘calling’ for me. So I love it and feel completely in the creative, right side of my brain and in flow when doing it.

The admin/operational side of my work is more draining and I can start to feel very burnt out when I am in event planning mode, especially when I’ve been planning the massive Creative Innovation Global conferences which are like solving 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzles.

I often work very long hours and then I will always try to schedule some me-time for swimming, yoga, meditation, walking and having regular healing sessions with masseurs, Chinese acupuncturists, osteopath, spiritual healing, etc.

I also love spending time with my partner, family and good friends, cooking, playing with my dog and going to the ocean to recharge my energy with great negative ions!

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Belief in myself and positivity – I do not take on as much negativity or take things as personally as I used to. I now feel a true sense of autonomy in which I can create my own destiny. I have also learned that FAIL really does equal First Attempt In Learning.

My grandmother who invented the very first foldable umbrella in 1929 failed many times before she was able to patent her incredible invention. I have started all my various enterprises from scratch so nothing existed before and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way.

There is a real magic, learning and growth in continuously re-inventing and improving on what you’ve done before.

Learning to say no and learning to take time out and spend time with my loved ones have been important lessons. Of paramount importance is healthy eating (small quantities), regular exercise, yoga/meditation, Epsom salt baths, time in nature and of course, sleep. I’ve always been an insomniac so I am trying to hack my sleeping habits!

With my grandmother who invented the foldable umbrella and being the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I am no stranger to resilience. My grandmother and parents taught me:

The power of curiosity: “Innovators actively explore the environment, challenge status quo and investigate new possibilities. Ask: “what if?” You can never ask too many questions.

The importance of learning: “Innovators step in, participate and continually seek knowledge.” Read lots, master new skills (10,000 hours leads to mastery) and keep learning from everyone and everything around you.

To fail fast and experiment: “Innovators aren’t afraid to fail. They bounce back from disappointment and try again. I like to think that FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.”

To celebrate diversity: “Innovators choose to regularly work with a purposeful, diverse collection of people and aren’t afraid to disagree. I call that positive human collisions!” See more about this in my TED Talk.

To be positive, intuitive and optimistic:Innovators tune in and think positively, which increases attention and alertness – critical tools for anyone attempting to solve a problem or considering a business opportunity.

Challenge negative thoughts. When I was 14 years old, my best friend told me not to bother having singing lessons and I eventually bounced back. That was the first of many times I was told that what I was planning to do would never work out! I’m passionate about creativity, innovation, collaboration, diversity and social inclusion.”

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Visualise each key meeting and activity going brilliantly for all concerned when I wake up and am lying in bed. Practice gratitude for key people and things before I go to sleep each night.

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

We are all born creative. The key is to keep unlocking more and more of that creativity throughout your life instead of shrinking into what other people expect of you or specific ‘roles’ that society determines. Each of us can change the world through reaching out of our boxes, beyond our comfort zone, and building bridges with diverse people. There is no us and them, only us.

Be grateful – accept what comes, accept what goes.

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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.