Interviews / Software Engineers & Developers

Balancing the Grind with Daniel Bourke, Machine Learning Engineer, Writer & Teacher

Daniel Bourke is a Machine Learning Engineer, currently teaching and building things with machine learning, he is the machine learning instructor for the Zero to Mastery Academy.

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

In the last 5-years, I’ve been a Genius at Apple (one of the ones who help you when your computer breaks), startup failure, Uber driver, Machine Learning Engineer, writer and teacher, in that order.

Currently I’m a combination of the last three. I teach and build things with machine learning.

Before all of that, I studied nutrition and food science and was a competitive men’s physique athlete. So although I’m a certified tech nerd now (always was), food and health are near to my heart.

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

Here was yesterday:

  • 5:00AM wake up
  • 5:15AM write
  • 6:00AM sunrise walk with Dad & dogs
  • 7:30AM reading
  • 9:00AM video editing
  • 12:00PM lunch
  • 1:00PM answer student questions
  • 2:00PM code/study
  • 4:30PM emails
  • 5:00PM workout (currently Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and various weightlifting/animal movements)
  • 7:00PM dinner with family
  • 8:00PM reading
  • 8:30PM sleep

Most days are similar to that. But I don’t really keep a schedule. I try and keep my calendar as empty as possible. My personal assistant is an A4 notepad.

Movement and making are the only two daily non-negotiable for me.

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

Yes. Control of my time is very important to me. I’m inherently lazy so I like to work in bursts. For example, I may do 2-3 hours of intense focused work a day (coding/writing) and that turns out to be enough. I’ve been trying to do more of nothing. Seriously, just sitting and watching thoughts go by.

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

The term work-life balance has always confused me. When I first heard it, my reaction was “When you’re working aren’t you alive? Therefore, work is life? And life is work?”. Snobbish right?

But how I approach things is to treat as much as possible as play. For example, as I write these lines. It’s not work. It’s play. I don’t know what’s going to come out next, so I’m dancing from word to word. If I can’t treat something as play (not much), I avoid it.

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

In the past couple of months, I’ve tried to stop taking things so seriously. This doesn’t mean not caring about what I do, I really care, it means relieving the pressure of whatever is holding me back, which is usually myself.

For example, I’d hold myself back thinking I wasn’t capable of creating something perfect. Which is silly, because nothing is perfect. Plus, things are more interesting when they’re rough around the edges.

When I dropped that, the seriousness about things, they became a lot more fun.

Also, the last 30 days, I’ve had 0 caffeine. I used to think I needed coffee to do good work. Turns out, I don’t. So that was a fun experiment. Maybe I’ll keep it going.

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

Anything and everything by Derek Sivers.

Books (fiction):

  • Anything by Charles Bukowski, Amy Hempel, John Fante, Hunter S. Thompson, James Frey.

Books (non-fiction):



  • The Joe Rogan Experience.
  • Anything with Russel Brand or Duncan Trussell on it.
  • For health nerds: The Peter Attia Drive.

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

  • A4 (planning) and A5 (writing drafts) notepads.
  • (write 3-pages per day).
  • Almond butter.
  • Gymnastic rings (hands-down best tool for upper body development).
  • iA Writer app (where I’m writing this).
  • Vivobarefoot shoes (regular shoes are foot prisons).
  • Readwise app (remember what you read).

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

Felix Dennis.

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

Everything becomes funner when you realise you’re the only one in your way. Keep dancing.

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Working from home and need some inspiration? Grab a copy of our Workflow book. Beautifully designed with gorgeous home office photos and stories from around the world.

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.