Balancing the Grind with Justin Drape, Group CCO & Co-Founder at The Monkeys

Justin Drape is the Co-Chief Creative Officer of Accenture Interactive ANZ and The Monkeys. His clients have included Qantas, Intel, IKEA, Asahi, Fox Sports, Telstra, and more.

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

I’ve had a career spanning art, advertising, entertainment & publishing, working with clients including Qantas, Intel, IKEA, Asahi, Fox Sports, Telstra, UNICEF, Amazon and Google.

After co-founding The Monkeys creative agency in 2005, I’ve also been a writer and executive producer on a number of TV series, including My Family Feast, and the comedy-drama series, :30 Seconds.

I’m currently Co-Chief Creative Officer of Accenture Interactive ANZ and The Monkeys.

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

Wake up around 6, try to sleep in. Wake up again at 6.05. Check our kids (age 6 and age 9) before going for an ocean swim at Clovelly.

Walk Oscar, our dog. Breakfast with kids. Have a coffee and feed the lorikeets on our balcony.
Our kids then leave for school and I leave to work at our agency or our local café.

I think about what needs to be done during the day while on my way. On arrival, I check emails. Make phone calls and video calls. Review work.

After this it’s meetings about – creative ideas, talent, staff, business results for our clients, business result for the agency, new business opportunities, new business presentations.

Also discussions with Creative Directors about work, teams and clients, updates and strategic plans with our leadership team, check in with my business partners, or anything in between.

Lunch and dinner can be anywhere with anyone on any given day.

I try to get home to see my wife Simone and our kids for dinner or at least before their bedtime, although I don’t always succeed. It’s then time to walk our dog again, then listen to a podcast, watch a series or read. Sleep and repeat.

*This doesn’t include travel days, which happen frequently.

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

Absolutely. We have an agency in both Sydney and Melbourne and we work with people in other countries almost every day. We’re often working from an edit suite, a production set, client offices, international events, etc., so it’s become a natural way for me to function.

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

We’re taught from an early age to strive for a balanced life.

A plethora of books, media, councillors and self-help gurus tell us that attaining balance in life will bring about a state of happiness and wellbeing. While the intentions here are good, the reality is that perfect balance in life is an illusion. Humans are complex.

The dynamics of our relationships with others, our working environment and socio-economic circumstances are just some of the factors that ensure our life will constantly be evolving, and unpredictable, which means it’s impossible to attain a true sense of balance for very long, if at all.

Once I finally realised this, I was overcome with a sense of relief because I stopped chasing an illusion.

If you think about the highlights of your life so far, not many will involve a state of equilibrium or levitating on a mind cloud. They’re more likely to be a monumental event.

We feel most alive when our dopamine, oxytocin, endorphin and adrenaline pathways are flowing; and it’s not a state of balance that sets them off.

We experience our highest highs when falling in love, giving birth, playing sport, public speaking, fulfilling a goal we’re passionate about, travelling to new destinations, experiencing surf, snow, storms, sunshine and the best of nature.

In essence, we feel most alive when we’re unbalanced and pushing ourselves both mentally and physically.

So while I understand that a healthy work-life ratio is necessary to maintain mental health and wellbeing, I think a general state of balance is hard to maintain.

The best advice I’ve ever heard on achieving mental balance is from Bruce Lee:

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

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

Yeah, unfortunately I’ve stopped playing the piano… for now. Despite being embarrassingly bad at it, I found it fun, even meditative, trying to improve and learn new songs.

After a while though, I was spending any spare time I had on doing this, rather than spending valuable time with our kids and family so the joy morphed into guilt and frustration.

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

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou. Her words are set to artworks by Jean Michel Basquiat and it’s a powerful ode to courage.

For podcasts: The Tim Ferriss Show and Business of Hype are on my favourites list at the moment.

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

iPhone and iPad.

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

Nick Cave

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

I’d recommend watching Stefan Sagmeister’s talk on the power of taking time off work. It’s inspiring and insightful.

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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.