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Balancing the Grind with Mark Berridge, Author of ‘A Fraction Stronger’

Mark Berridge is the author of A Fraction Stronger (Major Street, $32.99) which shares his pursuit of belief and possibility after a cycling crash turned his world upside down.

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

I am an author, public speaker, negotiation coach and B2B sales strategist. My current focus is promoting my book A Fraction Stronger (Major Street) which was just released. It shares the attitude I used to tackle a devastating spinal cord injury, supporting readers to find belief and possibility in their impossible moments.

My career started as a Chartering Officer for a shipping team within mining company Rio Tinto. It was a role full of wonder and adventure, liaising and negotiating with Asia and Europe. I finished my high school in a small country town and headed off to university with no more of a plan than “having a positive economic influence by doing business”.

Suddenly I was managing these large ships that cost more per day than I cost the company per year. I could readily identify how I added value by improving productivity or lowering costs. I was engaging with the world. I loved it.

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

The physical and sensory deficits from my spinal cord injury have impacted daily life since 10 March 2019. I had 7 weeks in hospital and spent 10 months focussed on full time rehabilitation.

Three years later, I still prioritise 3 hours of physiotherapy per week so that I can sustain my mobility and pursue a fraction more improvement. To accommodate that, I target part-time work commitments. There isn’t a typical day, but there are typical acts.

I am an early riser. I often do my stretching routines or walk our dogs, but sometimes I just enjoy the quiet with a coffee. I like to think in the morning as I feel that is my most creative time of day. When I am writing, I tend to do my best work in the early mornings.

Whilst my injury has made cooking more uncomfortable, I still have a passion for flavour and take pride in getting into the kitchen to whip up an evening meal. So that remains part of my day, most days.

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

I enjoy the energy and connection from engaging with people face to face, so that remains my preferred mode of working. One of the great things about establishing your own business is the influence it gives you on when, where and with whom you work.

However, the technology available for remote working is fabulous. I feel that flexible working provides valuable scope to destress your life when you are juggling home and career commitments.

I think it is liberating to know that you can save travel time, and reduce life complexity, by staying at home and still delivering to a high standard. I appreciate having the flexibility to accept remote work opportunities.

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

Work is an important part of my identity and generates essential intellectual and emotional satisfaction.

My career has been the foundation for the primary thing I wanted to achieve as a human, which was creating an expansive but stable environment for my children to grow into the fine young adults that they have.

I couldn’t have done that without the support and guidance of my incredible wife Lucy. Juggling 2 careers, 3 busy children and some health episodes hasn’t always been easy, but we have worked together to maintain our balance.

For me work-life balance means using work to support you to achieve your life goals, whilst making sure you appreciate and treasure the life you have built.

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

I reset every 6 months or so to establish goals, and then align my effort to focus on those goals. This leads to regular change in my habits. An example from the last 12 months was dropping a routine of jogging laps of an AFL oval every 3 months.

I was doing it to prove I could, and to track increasingly marginal improvements. This practice had stemmed from the medical specialists telling me I would never run again. It was a useful goal for a while, but I had been sustaining the activity beyond its worth. It was sensible to redirect that energy to more targeted activities. So I did.

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

I have always loved the idea of constructively challenging the status quo to find improvement opportunities. One of the books that elevated my understanding about the optimization of constraints was The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt.

I think that style of thinking has been highly influential in both my career and personal outlooks. Michael Lewis is my current favourite non-fiction author, but for pleasure I have always loved crime novelists such as Ian Rankin (Rebus series), Peter Temple, Jane Harper.

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

Being hands free on the phone helps me physically – it vastly reduces the niggles in my back and neck. I am really enjoying my new AirPods, which integrate so effectively with my iPhone. I was a slow Apple adapter, using Blackberry, Windows then Android phones up until one year ago.

It has probably taken the AirPods to make me fully appreciate the brilliance of Apple. My other favourite product is a Swiss ball – for me there is nothing quite as nice as laying on my back, calves on the ball, rolling it from side to side. Well maybe being in the ocean – but that isn’t available at home!

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

Australian TV presenter Todd Sampson. I just love his approach to life, and I am sure he would have valuable perspectives on work-life balance.

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

I have an expression that developed from talking about my spinal cord injury: “people achieve exceptional things from imperfect positions every day”. I want to share that here as I don’t think there is perfection in work life balance. It requires our ability and willingness to be flexible from moment to moment.

We will seldom, if ever, be perfect at it and we are destined to fail if we pursue perfection or allow ourselves to be trapped by invalid comparisons. We should aim for what works best for us, noting there will be imperfect periods that we learn from, then adapt, to find a fulfilling balance as often as we can over time.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.