Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Dan Bessant, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Oh! Jazz

Dan Bessant is the Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Oh! Jazz, a global subscription-based live and on-demand platform which broadcasts jazz concerts from iconic clubs around the world.

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

I spent 25 years in Australian media, being part of the start-up team for Nova Sydney in 2001 as Music Director, and then at Foxtel overseeing programming for the Entertainment and Music channels. In 2020, I decided to take the leap and utilise the skills I’ve developed to co-found a coaching and personal development business, which I still own. 

My current passion and focus are as Co-Founder and COO of Aqui Media Australia, which has launched a global subscription platform for live and on-demand jazz, called Oh! Jazz.

We are bringing amazing artist performances from iconic clubs around the world straight to your living room. It’s a purpose driven venture, with an aim to create a sustainable community for artists and clubs to continue to grow their passion for music and the arts.

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

Wow! How things have changed in the last couple of years, going from an office environment to working from home and cafes. Something I’m sure most can relate to following the pandemic, whether employed or in your own business.

My dream has been to have a laptop and coffee in hand, working anywhere in the world, and that is what I’m now able to do – although I must confess, the travel outside of Australia is yet to come! What we have created with Oh! Jazz is a global company and with this comes quite a varied workday, with meetings that occur at different times of the day due to our team spread across five continents! 

In saying this, I find my energy in the morning so I like to structure my day around this where I can. I start my day early with meditation, reflection and journalling as well as exercise, and then listen or watch something that will self-develop or inspire. It’s a morning routine that really prepares me for the day. 

My peak energy is before midday, so I try to put the three most important things here that will make the biggest difference in my life right now. Theory being, if I complete these three things I’ve “won the day” and anything else is a bonus. After a recharge break at lunch, I’ll go hard from 2pm – 6pm with calls and other tasks. 

Where possible, I like my day to be done by 8pm so I can begin to wind down for an early bedtime. This isn’t always possible given the number of productions in our partner clubs around the world, however it works well as a base. My rule is to get 7.5hrs of sleep each night (approx. 5 sleep cycles) so if I finish late, I’ll start a bit later the next morning.

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

When we talk about work-life balance we usually think about ‘time’ and how we can distribute this evenly across areas of life and work. I’d rather prefer to focus on energy, stressors, and motivation. Getting clear on what gives you energy and what drains you of energy will help you focus your efforts where you find the most satisfaction and motivation, therefore feeling a sense of ‘balance’. 

If you must do something that drains you of energy, then you can intentionally allow yourself recovery time following to recharge your battery. Knowing what your triggers are for stress can help you become aware of when they happen, accept them for what they are and then move towards inspired or positive action – again, giving a sense of ‘balance’ and ‘control’.

Setting boundaries and communicating them is also important. I don’t think balance is about achieving an even spread across different areas of life, but more so to work on the things that matter most at that point in time.

We go through cycles – a time to double down on work, time to take a nice long break, time to focus on family or friends, etc. Be clear on where your effort needs to be right now, commit to it and then communicate it with those around you so they support and understand.

A question I like to ask is “what matters most to me today?” and “am I working on what matters most right now?”

Creating a plan including daily routines, especially a great morning routine, can help tremendously. It helps to wire the brain for positive habits, makes decision making less and easier (so you use your energy on more important things) and can make it far more likely that you will put your time to its best and most effective use. Putting your health and wellbeing before everything else in that plan is a must. Sleep, mindfulness/meditation, exercise and healthy eating come first.

Trying to be present in everything I do gives me a feeling of balance and a sense of more time. For example: five minutes of truly present conversation with family is more valuable than 30 mins of sitting in the same room while on devices.

Think of it this way, if you currently have 30 mins of unconscious, hence invaluable time together, why not focus on 5 minutes of truly present and valuable conversation, and then you just freed up 25 minutes to focus on something else of importance after having a deeper connection with your family!

Finally, recharging your batteries on three levels is important too. 1) Multiple Micro breaks throughout the day 2) good rest and sleep and 3) going on holidays or taking extended breaks throughout the year.

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

More so over the last few years my time with meditation and mindfulness has had a significantly positive impact on life and how I view the world. I use various techniques each day including working on improving focus, clarity and cognition, visual rehearsal for creating results with purpose and intention, replenishing energy throughout the day, as well as finding a deeper connection within.

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

Reset Hub has a great webinar you can watch on this topic here called The Great Work/Life Reset. I also recommend Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits which I’ve taken much from and implemented in my life in many ways

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

I would be interested in the extremes – on one side it would be good to hear from a monk or similar and how they see time and balance, and on the other, Richard Branson – I think he would have an intelligent approach and some interesting tips and techniques for someone who is always on the go.

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

Learn to be in the present moment – the past and the future don’t exist and they are where all of your fears and worries come from. The only time that matters and where you can make a difference is right now….now…now…

Learning to live this way can put you in control of how you feel no matter what is happening in your external world. It can give you a sense of ‘balance’ no matter what the demands of life might be.

And don’t forget to enjoy yourself and take time out for entertainment! If you like music, why not spend a relaxing night in with Oh! Jazz (blatant plug haha). Music is great for the mind and soul and for releasing those happy hormones!

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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.