Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Peter Thompson: I go and work out at 4:45 a.m.  I don’t love working out, but love how I feel afterward—and the health benefits are obvious.  If I get myself to the nearby gym via something akin to sleepwalking, my brain/ego isn’t warmed up enough to start talking me out of it.  Author/Podcast Host Jocko Willink talks a lot about this on his podcast.

TG: What gives you energy?

PT:Conversation with people, either new or old friends, that results in personal connection—gives me bounce-around-the-room energy. I like real conversation and fill up with energy when engaged in meaty dialogue as opposed to small talk.  My wife says I act like our three-year-old Golden Retriever in these situations.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

PT: Not sure if it is a hack, but I have pretty good discipline around calling, emailing or texting someone as soon as I have the idea to do so—that second—even when it’s just a random drop in.  I’ve found that waiting—even a little bit—results in missed opportunity and oftentimes the timing is perfect.  When the thought comes to mind, I believe that the universe is cueing me in some way to connect.  I learned from being a too small, too slow, basketball player that good things can come from simply hanging around the hoop.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.

PT: 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership is the best business/life book I’ve ever read—by far.  But Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is a book that profoundly changed the way I look at life.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

PT:We are in an open marriage.  Sometimes we sleep together and other times I sleep with my iPad.  But they are synchronized and function amicably, so it works well for all of us.

TG: How do you deal with email?

PT: Not well.  I generally have a sprint and recover approach to work, which doesn’t always work well with email—and they can pile up.  I do make efficient use of taxicab, and airport transit times to focus on cleaning up personal email and I love airplanes’ internet service for quiet time to manage my inbox.  I find myself much sharper and attentive when I know I have an empty inbox and minimal unfinished business.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

PT:If I find 15 minutes, I prefer to sit alone, doors and windows closed and undistracted.  I often listen to apps with brainwave technology and some type of mantra in the background.  My favorites are Catholic Gregorian Chants.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

PT: Not that long ago—a few weeks.  I let myself get too busy on all fronts—work, civic engagement, politics and my first priorities… my wife and 5 children.  I was in a state of overwhelm of which I’ve become pretty good at noticing/detecting after many years of practice. I realized that not only was I physically pushing limits, but I often don’t turn my brain off and continue to tell myself stories I believe to be true (for no good reason) and they sort of recycle themselves over and over.  The thing about burnout for me is that I don’t crash—rather the opposite.  I have a hard time sleeping and things sort of compound.  For me, it takes two nights away, and I did just that.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?

PT: I failed miserably in business in 2007-2008.  I bought a business that was struggling and thought I could return it to its former glory.  I couldn’t!  The market plus many mistakes put me in the position to decide to close the doors.  The lesson was age-old—be upfront and do the right thing.  We returned our investors’ money, paid our bills and anyone we owed—including the group from whom we bought the business.  I gave our employees paid severance despite us going out of business.  I was incredibly sad and incredibly proud all at the same time.  One of the great by-products of handling things in such a way was that it led me to Bob and Tom Perkins, who chose me to become CEO of their firm a short time later.

TG:Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

PT: “Live a Life You are Proud Of” is a pretty straightforward guide.  And St. Ignatius of Loyola’s “Laugh and Grow Strong” quote stays with me as I try very hard to not take things too seriously.

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  • Mr. Thompson is Senior Advisor to Lazard Ltd and a senior member of Lazard’s Midwest Financial Advisory team. In his Chicago-based role, he focuses on network development and marketing in the Chicago and U.S. Midwest Region. Previously, Mr. Thompson served as Chief Executive Officer of Perkins Investment Management, an investment management firm that managed in excess of $22 billion in assets. Additionally, he served as Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors. Perkins was an independent operating subsidiary of the Janus Capital Group (NYSE: JNS). Formerly, Mr. Thompson was President and Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Asset Management Company, LLC (2007-2009), and prior to that, he served as Executive Vice President of Ariel Capital Management (1994-2006) and was also a member of the company’s Board of Directors. In 2006-07, Mr. Thompson served as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s campaign Finance Director for the Mayor’s successful and final re-election in 2007. Mr. Thompson also previously served as Senior Advisor to InnerWorkings (NASDAQ: INWK), the industry leader in the field of marketing execution. He currently serves on a variety of boards, including The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Providence College Board of Trustees, the Board of Directors of the National Association of Basketball Coaches Foundation and the WGA/Evans Scholars Foundation. He also is a Life Trustee and past Chairman of the Board of St. Ignatius College Prep. He received his bachelor’s degree from Providence College and MBA from the University of Chicago.