Creative Directors / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Chris Ebeling, Creative Director & Co-Founder at Virtually Human

Chris Ebeling is the co-founder and creative director of Virtually Human, a company developing entertainment experiences with emerging technologies like blockchain.

You can find Chris on his website, LinkedIn or Twitter.

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

My name is Chris Ebeling, and I’m currently the Creative Director and Co-founder of Virtually Human Studio (VHS), where I oversee creatives primarily focussed on our first IP, ZED RUN.

At VHS we are focussed on the future of digital entertainment in the web 3.0 space. Where blockchain technology and NFTS are the foundations of our product, creating true play-to-earn ecosystems.

My background is as digital artists, creative director, storyteller for feature film Hollywood productions and AAA games, and everything in between. In the past five years I have been heavily focussed on emerging technologies in the entertainment industry, which has led me to where I am today, being the co-founder and Creative Director of Virtually Human Studio.

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

A day in my life varies a lot. Firstly it all depends on the meetings that I have been “sucked into”. I always like to look at the days ahead, and make sure I map out time, that I call “Flow Time”.

As a creative, you need moments for yourself, moments of silence and solitude, where you can work with everything that’s going on in your head. Moments of complete concentration, where I can tackle my daily task list, which is formed from a weekly task list.

It’s important for me to have clarity on what’s the focus for the day and the week, and approach these tasks strategically. So without getting to side tracked,

Let’s start with an ideal day. An ideal day starts with a glass of water and coffee. From here help get my kids to school, usually drop off my daughters at high school, and depending on my wife’s schedule, which varies, I also take my son to school 30 mins later.

After the kids drop off, I go to the gym, I go to the gym, more so for my mind these days than anything. Healthy body, healthy mind and visa versa. I spend a good 40 mins of high impact, high heart rate gym workout, while listening to my favourite podcasts, from which I learn a lot.

I like to think of its as looking after my body and health physically with exercise, releasing endorphins and feel good chemicals from the work out, while listening to podcasts like Science of Success, Finding Mastery or Flow Research Collective really gets my mind, body and soul ready for the day.

I feel a big difference on days where I do this, vs. days that I don’t. Productivity is higher, energy and passion through the roof. I’m a very passionate guy, and I love what I do, so adding to this is super beneficial for the work I do. I have a rule that if I miss the gym one day, I don’t miss it the second day.

This forces me into a good habit of looking after myself, and finding time for myself, which I know is good for me. Never take two days off in a row, it’s all about balance. So on a good day, I don’t sit down and work until 9:30am.

I like to have the morning to my family and myself, and get ready for the day. Usually I don’t have meetings until 10am or after, as I need a moment to debrief and reflect and prepare for the day ahead.

I like to have prioritised tasks for the week ahead written down, pen on paper, and then break this down into daily goals and tasks for the day. Naturally in my position and as a business that’s on the forefront of innovation, these tasks change and are rather fluid. But for the most part we/I try to stick to them.

As mentioned, I will map out time in my calendar for me. book out 2-3 hours for “Ebs Flow” as I call it. Here I get into the zone and get my work done. Sometimes I groove and get it done sooner. Other times I go down rabbit holes, and open up Pandora’s box, and generate more work. That’s ok. As long as I’m ideating, and creating and task solving.

A standard work day for me has no start or finish. Sometimes I need to pick up kids from school around 3pm, sometimes my wife takes this on. It’s flexible and adaptable. The beauty (and curse ) of working remotely, is that I can always save work for later in the evening if need be. So I can be flexible based on my family and my own personal needs.

On a less than ideal day, I’m stuck in meetings most of the day, and don’t get to the gym. I still manage to schedule time for myself, but back to back meetings that are necessary can take the wind out of one’s sails.

So this time doesn’t become as productive as the ideal scenario. This is ok! I like to think you can have the good without the bad, and again. it’s all about balance. With the goal being that the ideal days far outweigh the lesser ideal ones .

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

Remote work, and with a company that is built globally, with staff across all timezones is an exciting challenge. Sometimes you have to get up early for early meetings, and stay up late for later ones.

Again, as long as this isn’t too often it’s ok. And if you stay up late, I like to give myself and our staff the flexibility to start late. As long as objectives are met and tasks get done, it doesn’t matter when you do it or how.

Of course there are moments where we need to sync, and there are some meetings where one co-worker must sacrifice his/her time to make it, but as long as this is balanced and not one sided, it works well.

Everyone plays their part and compromises to make it work. Like any healthy relationship really. But there are definite pluses with being remote. I’m able to be around my kids more, and help out around the house more. Take my son to basketball practice, coach his soccer team. Pick up and drop off my girls, and spend time with them.

Again, some days it’s all work, then I make sure I find a day that isn’t, where I can make sure I’m present and that they have a dad around. Similarly with my own personal needs. The ability to go for a swim in the ocean between meetings or tasks. The ability to take an extra hour in the morning to go play basketball. Things that make me happy.

And most importantly, the ability to support my wife and our relationship. Going out to lunch together, or walks, etc. There are no right or wrong ingredients, other than balance, and being aware of how the balance scales are tipped at any given moment.

If you have been working long days and a few in a row, you need to be mindful and aware, that you need a few days, where there is less work, and more focus on personal and family needs. Having said all this, it’s safe to say as a co-founder of a company, you tend to work more than usual.

But, it’s a passion, it’s a drive. I would rather sit down and work at 8pm then drift off to a movie. Again, it’s balance, and if my family requires me to be present, I make that effort. But I tend to work through weekends, on and off, as my mind is creative, and usually in the moments of detachment, is where I get some of my wildest and best ideas for our product.

I could be watching a movie or at the beach with the family, and suddenly I’m inspired, that triggers the next idea. and I must write it down. Phone pops out, and I write a note to self. I see this as ok. Again, as I’m passionate about the projects we are building.

To be clear I don’t expect this commitment and passion from our employees. however I do hope that anyone out there working, has the same love and passion for their work as I do. As the saying goes, if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life.

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

I might have to take some of the answers from above. But at the end of the day for me, it’s being mindful. Being mindful of what your personal needs are, and what your surroundings needs are. In my case, what does my family need? It’s easy to not be mindful and get sucked into the vortex of work, work, work. So giving yourself space to reflect, and also giving your partner, your family space for them to highlight their needs.

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

Gym is super important for me. Starting the day with a workout is the best. If I can’t start the day, I try to get a workout around lunch time. It generates energy, and scientifically is proven to be one of the best drugs out there. The endorphins and feeling of self care and love is amazing.

Taking this time to listen to aforementioned podcasts helps empower me. The podcasts I listen to are entrepreneurs and creators sharing their stories. There is so much you can learn from listening to others journeys. I feel this is the one fundamental routine that helps me.

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

Podcasts, as mentioned above. Love these. I recently read The Alchemist, a beautiful, easy-to-read story, about one’s personal journey and legend in life. Spiritual, deep, but beautiful, and resonating. Shantaram is another one I’m reading, which is beautifully written. Also a story about a personal journey.

I tend to read autobiographies, while I do like science fiction. As a storyteller, I find the real world stories to be more compelling. With the work we are doing, helping define the metaverse, I recently read Snow Crash and Ready Player One. Great sci-fi reads, which are telling of where we are heading in the digital space.

Newsletters, I like to use LinkedIn, I love seeing what my community of creators, digital innovators and artists are up to. I love being inspired by others’ works, and it keeps me up to date with technological trends. I like to spend an hour a day on Linkedin and Twitter combined. Twitter is a big research resource for the NFT and blockchain space which I am heavily involved in.

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

Smart phone, internet, LinkedIn, Twitter. It’s a stretch to say I can’t live without it, because I’m sure we will adapt, but we all know the power of the web. There would be no remote access without it.

The amount of free knowledge that’s available still amazes me. In terms of work-life balance, my Google Calendar is key. Being able to map out the week, and day is vital. In terms of running a company remotely, using apps like Slack, Notion and Linear to facilitate our workflows and processes.

Speaking of this, we are so digitally inclined, that I find it important to make sure you connect yourself with reality. Swim in the oceans, walk barefoot across the grass, ground yourself in the physical world, and make sure you have balance here. It’s something I talk and do alot with my kids, and something I need to be super mindful of myself. Otherwise I can easily sit in front of the computer screen for days.

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

I’m a big LeBron James fan, and it would be interesting to see how he balances out his family life, business life and basketball career, and still be one of the best in the game after 19 years. He is raising a family of three, with his highschool sweetheart, running multiple businesses.

I mean, it’s impressive. and I’m a big basketball fan. I have a game running in the background while I’m writing this. Naturally some people have incredible drives like no other, and we should never compare, however, we should always be curious and let them inspire.

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

I feel like I have said it all, or all that I needed to say. I will end with: balance is key in anything in life! The right amount of sleep, the right amount of good foods vs. bad foods. We must be mindful, and aware.

Personally, I create small rules and games with myself, which works for me. No two days off. If I eat something unhealthy, the next thing I eat is healthy. Just being aware of things like this can help you be in a better position and hopefully give you the momentum and clarity to make more decisions that work and do good for you and yours.

It’s never too late to change. We humans are constantly evolving, be open to trying new things, and be open to change. Be mindful of how you feel, physically and mentally, to help guide you to make the best decisions for you. There is no, one size fits all ingredients to follow. You have to find what works for you. Thank you for letting me share what works for me.

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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.