Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Clint Nielsen, Co-Founder & Creative Director of xAgency

Clint Nielsen is the co-founder of multiple businesses, including multidisciplinary digital agency xAgency, which specialises in a ‘zero to hero’ philosophy.

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

My career has been anything but what I’d consider normal. It’s zigged and zagged so many times I’ve lost count. When I was working for someone else, I was always a square peg in a round hole. And to be completely honest, I was probably too young and inexperienced to be in some of the more senior roles I found myself in.

From the top, I’ve spent a lot of my years in creative roles working for agencies both small and large. It wasn’t until I left the traditional agency world behind in 2011 as a Creative Director that I was able to take what I had learnt business-wise and inject it into my own ventures.

Without (hopefully) trying to poo-poo everything that is agency (because it certainly was a fun and valuable experience at the time), I would say I simultaneously grew tired of the politics, the focus on awards and the eye-rolling level of LinkedIn chest-beating.

This awareness led me into business ventures that have largely been the antithesis of everything my previous roles had been privy to. I am fortunate to have been able to have taken the strengths from my past and focus them on new product ideas and concepts with a much stronger focus on the customer.

Currently, I’m co-founder of multiple companies in both professional services and e-commerce industries. I work closely with my 2 business partners to steer multiple ships, structures, ideas and products giving me some serious ’spice’ to work with every single day.

I do wear the title of ‘Director’ because the world seems to need titles, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have one.

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

  • 5.45am – Wake up and hit the gym for 45mins.
  • 7.30am – Juggle getting myself and my kids ready for school/pre-school with my wife.
  • 8.00am – Realise my efforts are mostly futile and throw my youngest (4yrs old) into the car without any shoes on.
  • 8.25am – Drop the kids to both pre-school and Nannie’s house (rockstar)
  • 8.40am – Jump a train and clean out the email inbox whilst putting out any fires that may have been lit over night.
  • 9.15am – Arrive at the office.
  • 9.30am – Daily team standup (both local/overseas).
  • 10.00am – Design team catchup/review.
  • 11.00am – Call client to tell them I haven’t received their brief yet and the window is closing on them to get it to me in time to meet the deadline.
  • 12.00pm – Quick lunch (sushi this time).
  • 12.15pm – Call my wife for a check-in.
  • 12.30pm – Meditation room for 25mins.
  • 1.30pm – Check-in with team lead on project progression for the day and facilitate the team removing any blockages.
  • 2.30pm – New business lead phone call.
  • 3.00pm – Check-in with other directors – 3.30pm – Design reviews – add comments to designs and present back.
  • 4.30pm – Inbox respond and clean-out.
  • 5.30pm – Re-position tomorrows tasks / setup the morning, add leads to the board for tomorrows financial meeting, reconcile any invoices that were paid during the day and add to the financial scoreboard.
  • 6.30pm – Jump on a train, journal.
  • 7.15pm – Arrive home and read stories to my kids (whom are hopefully in bed).
  • 8.00pm – 12pm – Not telling.

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

Given that I’m my own boss, this doesn’t apply so much. That being said, given that I myself am flexible, I think it’s important to allow your teams around you to also be flexible. As long as my team is on fire and getting the work done, I don’t mind where they choose to work from. To me, it’s all about facilitating greatness rather than limiting potential.

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

I believe it’s less about balance and more about integration. Owning your own set of businesses means you can’t switch-off when you go home. Things are always in the back of your mind.

When you go away on holidays, you are still there with a laptop and a WiFi connection as a backup. This doesn’t mean it has to dominate your thoughts, it just means you need to create enough space for your work and your personal relationships to co-exist.

Family are a HUGE part of my life and fulfill me in ways my career never could. My personal life and those in my inner circle absolutely need to integrate with my businesses and be part of the journey with me rather than being passengers on a fast moving freight train. Such a misalignment will surely derail my entire reality.

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

Absolutely – I’ve chosen to pursue a direction filled with the awareness of abundance. Daily meditation and journalling have formed part of my ritual. The decluttering of the mind, the appreciation and the gratitude of ones surroundings gives me purpose and lightens my every day experiences.

I care less about the small stuff, focus more on the important and approach each of my clients with a genuine care for them rather than being purely transactional. Of course I still have much to learn, and will never stop learning!

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

I don’t read enough, but when I do it’s usually either philosophical, historical or autobiographical. I really enjoyed both Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari and more recently the 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson. Antony Beevor when it comes to WW2 history and both the Arnold Scwarzenegger and Andre Agassi autobiographies were outstanding.

Podcasts I merely dabble; my only real subscriptions are the Joe Rogan Experience and Finding Drago.

Newsletters don’t live very long in my inbox and get filed under ’spam’ pretty quickly.

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

In terms of products — I recently joined The Whisky so no doubt I won’t be able to live without the monthly subscription for very long.

In terms of apps, I’d say Sleep Cycle has lived on my phone since apps existed. Nothing really exciting here I’m afraid!

Gadgets I have too many to list. I’m an early adopter on most things tech related.

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

Most likely Bill Burr. It would be short and brief but incredibly hilarious.

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

I’d say the term ‘balance’ is definitely subjective. If you’re enjoying your ‘work’ then it becomes and integration with your personal life. They can co-exist in harmony without the need to feel like it’s a juggle of opposing forces.

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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.