Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Dean Arnold, Founder of PublicSquare

Dean Arnold is the founder and CEO of PublicSquare, a first-mover fintech company in the rent-to-buy real estate space.

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

I am the founder and CEO of PublicSquare, a fintech company in the rent-to-buy real estate space which I launched in November 2021.

You can think of PublicSquare as a ‘rent-to-buy homes 2.0’. The old rent-to-buy model didn’t allow customers to choose their own homes from the open market. It wasn’t very fair or transparent, and it didn’t have a software interface. We’ve solved all these issues. 

Prior to PublicSquare, I built and sold a SaaS company in Hong Kong which was acquired in 2019.

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

I work until late in the day, so I wake up around 8-9 am. This calls for my first coffee of the day – double shot long black. 

I use a simple pen and paper to list out the tasks I want to get done that day, before stepping into the office, whether that’s at home, in a cafe, or in a co-working space. 

I try to keep my calls and meetings to a minimum, one to two per day at the most so that I have more time available for deep work. This is usually building something, whether it’s software, my website, automation, or marketing experiments for PublicSquare.

I take breaks throughout the day for more coffee, heading to the gym, some downtime, or food. 

My wind-down routine is a cup of hot water, which is a habit I picked up living in China for eight years, plus whatever I’m reading for an hour before I go to sleep.

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

For me, balance is about enjoying your work so that it doesn’t even feel like a job. Deep work is an important way for me to achieve this. 

Deep work is a period of uninterrupted time that allows you to focus on critical tasks. This distraction-free concentration mode allows you to focus on activities that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. 

I try to minimise non-essential meetings or phone calls where possible so that I can spend more time on the deep work required for building my business. 

I can also see the appeal of an off-the-grid trip overseas combined with active travel. I’d love to do the Camino de Santiago in Spain for a month, or the equivalent with the ancient footpaths across the UK. Maybe next year! 

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

I try to find ways to be productive every day, and make that a habit. If it’s not working on my business, then it’s productivity in terms of health, enjoyment, and travel. 

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

For startups, I’d recommend consuming all the Ycombinator videos. They are really honest about how building a startup works. 

I also like biographies. Lately, it’s been Edison by Edmund Morris and The Lives of Lucian Freud (20th century British Portrait Artist) by William Beaver. I’ve gained a lot of perspective from Ray Dalio’s Changing World Order and Boom: Mad Money/ Mega Dealers, which is a fascinating look into the big business world of modern art dealing.

I never miss The All in Podcast with Jason Calacanis, Chamath Palihapitiya and co. While at the gym, I’m working through The Missing Cryptoqueen and the Burn Wild podcasts. These are both storyline-driven investigative podcasts from the BBC with awesome production value. I’m also fascinated with all things Chinese politics, which means the ChinaTalk podcast and Sinocism newsletter.

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

Maybe Larry Ellison. He’s 80 going on 45 and worth $100bn. Maybe he’ll be the first human to live to 150. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun!

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

What you work on and who you work with are ten times more important than how hard you work. 

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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.