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Make It Work: Peter Chee Tries to Redefine Possible

For this CEO and endurance athlete, mentorship is the name of the game.

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At the Thinkspace HQ on the shores of Seattle’s Lake Union, hyper-focused entrepreneurs, ragtag start-up crews, polished corporate giants, and scrappy freelance agents gather each day for networking, mentorship, and the shared pursuit of big, world-changing ideas. On the surface, many of the goals on the board in Thinkspace’s unique co-working offices may seem lofty, if not outright impossible. And that’s exactly the way CEO Peter Chee likes it.

“The full cycle of anything impossible has five phases,” Chee said. “First, we say optimistically, ‘I got this.’ Then the first setback happens, and we’re shattered: This is impossible. We dust ourselves off and say, ‘Maybe I can try.’ Fourth is the real- ization of, ‘Hey, I’m doing it!’ Then before you know it, you’re at the fifth phase: ‘Hey, I did it!’”

The key, he said, is to surround yourself with people who will keep you going all the way to step five. That’s the ethos behind Thinkspace, a shared coworking space and entrepreneur community. And it’s an ethos that permeates into every aspect of Chee’s life, from his most important role as father to three sons to his pursuits in endurance sports.

“One time, I was standing on the sideline of my kids’ soccer match, and spotted one of the other dads wearing an Ironman jacket,” Chee said. “He said he had just done his first Ironman, and I was in awe. Because he did it, it felt possible, but also impossible—I didn’t know how to swim, and my greatest fear is drowning, so there was no way I could ever do an Ironman.”

Or so he thought. This fellow soccer dad invited Chee to the pool the following week and ultimately taught him to swim. It was through this mentorship that the impossible became possible; Chee did his first open-water swim race and finished an Olympic tri. Within a year, he did his first Ironman.

Though he’s gone on to complete more iron-distance races and tackle additional challenges—including ultramarathons—Chee is less likely to talk about those. Instead, he’d rather brag about the accomplishments of other people, like his assistant Stephanie, who recently crushed a century ride, or a group of Thinkspace members who (inspired by Chee) are training for their first marathon. Whether it’s launching a new app or pushing personal boundaries, Chee believes deeply in helping people rethink their definition of “impossible.”

“I do invite people to try new things,” he said. “I think that it is important to extend the reach to others who are unsure of their ability, whether it’s swimming in open water or wading into the entrepreneurial waters. When something is intimidating, it helps if someone who’s been there and done it before is willing to walk beside you—it makes the impossible seem possible.”

A Day in the Life of Peter Chee

“Exercising every single day is the best way to get myself going,” Chee said. “It’s the only place where I get to push myself to a place that is uncomfortable and the shields and walls fall away so I work on the deep stuff and make sure that both my mind and body are working together.”

5:05 A.M. Wake up routine: Foam roll, 10 minutes of meditation, bike or strength workout
6:45 A.M. Make breakfast and get kids out the door for school—breakfast is normally a vegetable smoothie, two eggs, and a protein shake
7:30 A.M. Off to work, start with emails
9 A.M. “Daily Huddle” with the team to talk about wins, speed bumps, gratitude, and the word of the day to set an intention on how to crush the day
10 A.M. Focus on the most important work that requires the best energy—mostly related to strategic marketing and sales
NOON Afternoon run, shower, then oatmeal or bagel
1:30 P.M. One-on-one meetings with team, emails, projects that are second level of importance
4 P.M. Watch kids at cross-country, track, or pick up kids
6 P.M. Dinner, clean up, read, wrangle the kids to do their homework
9:30 P.M. Put kids to bed—sometimes three minutes of the Headspace meditation app with the kids
10 P.M. Foam roll or compression boots, read, unwind, and sleep