How this Australian Co-Founder Makes Time in His Day to Embrace Fear


Mark Simpson, the Australian co-founder of Los Angeles-based virtual reality company Evrywhere, sets aside time every day to embrace (real-world) fear.

I wake up after seven hours, four minutes sleep. My Fitbit Ionic shows I was awake 15 per cent of the time with 17 per cent REM sleep, 48 per cent light sleep and 18 per cent deep sleep. Then I make a smoothie for my wife, Lea: kale or baby spinach, avocado, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pepitas, dried coconut and pea protein powder. I acknowledge that’s pretty “peak California”. Take the dog out. Hustle my daughters, Scarlett and Delilah, who are 11 and nine, to eat breakfast.

I run to the Venice Pier and back (2.88 kilometres) in breaking waves for random resistance training. Difficulty varies with the surf’s height and starts my day with excitement and dread, which is wonderful because what’s more life-affirming than putting yourself in a difficult situation and feeling all you can do is use what you have inside to get through it? The run ends with a swim then floating on my back for one minute until my heart returns to normal. (Peak heart rate: 181 beats per minute.)

Ride to work with the dog in a trailer (3.86 kilometres, 21.49 minutes). Frankie is an 11-year-old English staffy we brought with us from Sydney and goes pretty much everywhere with me. I ride a 1997 Specialized downhill mountain bike with an added electric engine that I sometimes use to increase difficulty when I exercise but it’s also handy when I’m feeling lazy.

As soon as I sit down, I review emails. Because we’re working in multiple time zones – typically Los Angeles, Sydney and New York but we’ve also been to Guadalupe Island off Mexico to film 4.9-metre great white sharks and to Athens, Shanghai, Singapore and Abu Dhabi to film athletes of the 2019 Special Olympics – urgent things occur while I’m gathering sleep data. I schedule these into my day then turn to startup mode for the Immersed Therapy business [which Simpson has founded to build 3D visual environments that aid people with phobias and anxiety]. This mode is hard because it’s self-driven and my brain is a million cats.

I sketch out my to-do list on a Maruman Mnemosyne To-Do notepad using a technique I learnt from Adam Savage’s book Every Tool’s a Hammer. It’s a checklist but nested, with main tasks and sub-tasks. Then you half-colour in tasks you’re doing and fully colour in finished tasks. It’s a visually rewarding day tracker showing how much I’ve done, how much I’m doing and how much I have to go.

Business and product outline. Driven by the to-do list, I drill down into research markets, identify opportunities and “grep” academic papers, which is an expression from my Unix command-line days meaning identify key concepts – it’s more than skimming and less than reading.

I order my usual tuna sandwich and eat it while I read The New York Times. That and the little bicycle ride with Frankie there and back adds a mind-clearing aspect to lunch. I use email all day and can’t keep off it, God help me.

An event reminder pops up. I set reminders the night before anything important that specifically involves other people because I can lose myself in tasks. A reminder helps me change focus in readiness for a client.

Client visits to review an Evrywhere film project. Relating to another human, immediately present with their own needs and wants, is a world away from the startup mode I was just in, which is an internal act of imagination and creation of a future.

Product mock-ups for the startup require me to switch between reading research, writing descriptions and creating storyboards of the therapy experience. I then start designing the look and feel of the world to brief programmers. Jumping between different mindsets can be inefficient so I keep my to-do list in front of me and try not to get distracted by random Reddit threads.

I pick up Delilah from school on the bicycle, with the dog.

Working from home is tricky but helped by Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo noise-cancelling headphones; Google Docs, so all my documents are in the cloud; and Dropbox, so all my active projects are stored and synched on my laptop and work machines. It’s a mix of high-resolution video work and more lowbrow design assets so I can keep working at home on almost everything, just on a smaller screen. TeamViewer, a remote access service, allows me to control production machines at work so I can keep things rolling for heavy computational lifting and rendering.

Return to family: schoolwork, dinner, dog, whatnot.

After the kids are in bed, I shoot off any last emails and update my to-do list for the next day.

Before sleep, I read. Currently I’m reading Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch, an excellent look at how the internet is changing language at hyper-speed, how language has always been changing and why that’s okay.

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