Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Tal Shmueli, Founder & Host of Startup Nightmares

Tal Shmueli is the founder and host of Startup Nightmares, a podcast he founded to celebrate the unspoken sides of entrepreneurship.

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

Having not graduated high school nor acquired a degree, I always preferred professional environments that allowed me to ‘learn by doing’.

That meant a non-linear career trajectory, following my intellectual curiosity and looking for projects that combine business, creativity and opportunities to grow. 

This journey included building eco-friendly mud huts in the Israeli desert, corporate sales (ex-LinkedIn) and various leadership & operational roles in startups, until founding Startup Nightmares

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

Each day should contain an element for the body, mind and soul. 

Most days start with a CrossFit workout, continue into 3-4 hours of deep work on the most important projects, with the afternoon dedicated to emails, meetings and other types of ‘shallow’ work. 

I try and clear up my evenings to recharge, read and prepare for the following day. 

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

In over 10 years of work, I was mostly chained to an office. 

2020 brought with it the opportunity to embrace a new lifestyle, and while I still enjoy the company of my colleagues and collaborators, I only take on projects that allow for remote work and asynchronous progress. 

This allows me to be more present than ever in the lives of my family and friends, even with the COVID-related restrictions. 

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

Just like ‘happiness’, work-life balance is not a worthy goal in its own right. Balance, when measured in days, will slow you down.

When measured in weeks, it might be useful to foster resilience, but only when zooming out and looking at it from a ‘years’ perspective will you know that you’ve lived a balanced life: 

A life that included personal growth, professional evolution and all the toppings that made that journey memorable. 

That also means getting comfortable with adversity and ditching ‘balance’ for a less popular lifestyle: tenacity. 

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

The last 12 months were incredible for experimentation. I picked up intermittent fasting, time-blocking, asynchronous collaboration and, as I frequently moved around, adopted a minimalist lifestyle.

Some things I left behind is the need to finish a book even if it’s boring and the notion that my identity is a byproduct of my work, and not the other way around. 

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

That’s a long list, I have a rich mental diet. I’ll name one of each:

  • Podcast: Esther Perel’s magnificent How’s Work? It will expand your heart and your mind.
  • Book: David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water. It will increase your capacity to ‘be’. 
  • Newsletter: No Mercy / No Malice. Prof. Galloway’s take on business is utterly captivating. 
  • And maybe two more shoutouts: 

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

I’m pretty chilled when it comes to gadgets, but the blue light glasses improved my well being tremendously, as did the boxing ball.

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

100% Rick Rubin. A professional mastermind, visionary and the embodiment of inspired collaboration. 

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

There’s a lot that can be optimized to stretch your productivity, creativity and longevity, long before balance should become a priority.

Aspire to achieve a degree of control in your work, learn how to set boundaries and manage expectations. The rest will follow.

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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.