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Balancing the Grind with Benjamin Arya, Co-Founder & CEO at Sincidium

Benjamin Arya, founder of Sincidium and angel investor at Fractal Fund, shares his unique journey from youthful experiments in entrepreneurship to leading a major enterprise SaaS company.

In our conversation, we explore how his diverse experiences have shaped his approach to business and his strategies for maintaining balance while driving innovation in a demanding industry.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

When I was 12 years old, I planned to bottle up air from Australia and sell it to China. But at age 14, I ended up importing fake Yeezys from China and selling them in Australia.

I was always fiercely competitive. I wanted to be the best. The best grades, the most eloquent show and tells, the fastest 5km run. I was ‘Mr Oh Not Him Again’.

On school camp in year 9, I told everyone I wanted to cure cancer. And no one believed me. But I believed it. Perhaps irrationally for someone that had virtually no understanding of human biology.

Naturally, I thought that if I wanted to cure cancer, I needed to become a doctor. That’s what doctors do after all, right?

So I ended up competing in progressively more challenging intellectual dominance hierarchies. In my high school, at debating and in my spare time.

I graduated in the top 0.05% of students in Australia, was called up by the University of Melbourne and given a scholarship offer I couldn’t say no to.

I studied science, biomedicine, neuroscience, compsci, machine learning, finance, negotiation and business.

And then, I got into Australia’s best medical school. I was going to be a doctor. And after that, I was going to build a biotech company with the mission to make humans a disease-free and immortal species.

But soon, I learnt that you can’t build a better system when trapped within the old one.

I learnt that smart people often make the mistake of competing against each other in zero sum games with capped upside and within increasingly difficult intellectual dominance hierarchies. Law, medicine, finance, etc.

I wanted to escape that.

And I did. While in my first year of medical school, I built an enterprise SaaS startup at the intersection of AI and Education, got into a prestigious accelerator program, dropped out of medical school and moved to San Francisco.

Now, 5% of my time goes into angel investing, 5% goes to Insane Ambition, which is a tech and business podcast I host. And I dedicate the remaining 90% of my time to building companies from zero to one.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I follow a similar maker and manager day structure to Max Marchione, a good friend of mine.

I put all meetings and managerial tasks on a Monday, Thursday and Friday. These days are split into 15 minute increments for back-to-back calls, team sync-ups, email admin and intro chats, often from morning until late at night.

And then I reserve Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and weekends for creative work.

A typical Thursday:

  • 7-8am: Wakeup, Shower, Sunlight
  • 8-9am: Gym with PT, then drink matcha
  • 9-10am: Meet my team for co-working and admin
  • 10-11am: Design Sync-Up
  • 11am-12pm: Engineering Workshop
  • 12-1pm: Lunch (Lamb Shank with Rice)
  • 1-2pm: Interview Job Candidates
  • 2-4pm: Intro chats
  • 4-7pm: Focussed tasks
  • 7-9pm: Dinner with my partner
  • 9-10pm: Email Admin

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

For me, work-life balance means that I’m happy with the velocity and acceleration of the progress I’m making towards my goals, while knowing that I’m not neglecting my health, family and personal relationships. Gym time, and date nights are sacred. Laptop off after 11pm.

I make time to spend with the people close to me. But I’m okay putting everything else on the backburner if shit needs to get done. There are periods of calm, and periods of war.

Building a generational company requires maniacal urgency and is not compatible with a nonchalant approach to doing things that move the needle.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Turning off my laptop after 11pm has been a very recent change. I noticed that sometimes I’d go late into the night answering emails, only to feel tired and regretful the next day. So now, I shut off my laptop at 11pm. In fact, the clock just struck 11. So I’m going to pick up on the rest of these questions tomorrow…

… Okay, it turned out to take two whole weeks to get back to this. I guess that’s one of the disadvantages of this method.

Some other changes I’ve made:

  • Hired a PT to hold me accountable with gym in the morning.
  • Started drinking matcha in the mornings a couple hours after I wake up to increase productivity/focus. This makes me feel more fulfilled. And getting done a lot during the day allows me to detach easier in the evening.
  • Schedule activities/downtime in the evenings to force myself to unwind even if I haven’t finished everything I was hoping to get done.
  • Blocked out meditation time after the gym on my calendar so I never have a clash. I recommend the Waking Up app.
  • I batch my emails on 1 or 2 days per week. Emails are something I still haven’t found a good solution for and take up far too much of my time. Please reach out to me if you know a good VA.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Absolutely.

Books:

Podcasts:

Huberman Lab is excellent for shifting your routines and behaviours to align with your human biology. There are so many people swimming against their biological current by engaging in unnatural behaviours (staying indoors, not viewing sunlight, engaging in hedonic, addictive behavioural patterns, etc) that would really benefit from listening to every episode of this podcast.

Founder has been a huge unlock for my personal level of ambition, with deep dives into some of the wildest founders in Earth’s history.

I wish I had more recommendations. I’m still trying to create sacred time for reading good books and listening to podcasts. Work in progress.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Everything around you was built by people no smarter than you.

Don’t go down traditional pathways that have been carved out by hundreds of generations. The path well trodden is the path of the silent majority, who will be forgotten in 2 or 3 generations.

There are enough NPCs in the world. Go be a main character.

Sometimes, the main character has to make sacrifices in order to build their legacy, whatever it may be.

Steve Jobs was a vicious tyrant, Elon Musk hasn’t had a stable relationship in years and Michael Jordan was a compulsive gambler. Being exceptional means being different.

Create your own balance. Build your own life, on your terms.

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.