top of page

Third Chapter Curious, Vol. 7: Traverse City, Northern Michigan

“Success requires both urgency and patience. Be urgent about making the effort, and patient about seeing the results.” - Ralph Marston 


Jeff Peake | VP of Marketing Data Integration/Analytics at MontAd and Co-founder of The Thinking Lab 

Venturing outside your hometown, in an ideal world, should be experienced by all, though many lack immediate access to sustainable opportunities to do so. What can be done, in spite of personal delineation, is the careful work of sharpening your passions with relentless tenacity.

It is important to remember that adventure can occur anywhere—if you can figure out a way to leave the place you grew up even for a short while, take the opportunity and see how grandly your perspective changes. 

Any new space entered forms a more expansive human capable of worldly empathy, or at least a human who is not totally insular. Through repeated acts of bravery, we can lead full lives unescorted by destructive doubt or hesitation.

Without exception, Jeff Peak entered the rewarding space of international business as a maverick of foundational analytics technology, coupling a learned appreciation for the lifestyles and work ethic of other cultures with earnest engagement that removed any chance of him becoming insular. 

His belief in community is deeply needed in a world that rarely shows encouragement to free-thinkers, and his life’s work is proof that with an abundance mindset, hard work, and a bit of patience, we can achieve actualization. 


[*sic] “I like to run these interviews without airs—the specific history of your career is secondary to emotive purpose. I’d like to hear the ‘why’ of your life more than the ‘how’—what you want to be known for in the human sense.”


[*sic] “I've always been entrepreneurial and in many cases worked for companies [of that same nature] whether it was a company I founded or not. My first venture was when I was in college and developed a software product [for car dealerships] essentially comparing the traffic [for their websites] so for example: Mercedes versus BMW or Fiat versus Renault. 

Our goal was to understand how people behave on those sites and help the dealers make their websites better in terms of location features or information services—any function to improve those processes. 

Delivering data was always a theme that led me to my next idea for lead generation in the automotive space utilizing website behavior to predict who was interested [in buying] based on that behavior. In a way, we developed an early AI model training before AI was a buzzword.

We formed a partnership with another company in order to fully develop our product, and after some time the company was sold, and the rest is history.

At this point, I'm semi-retired, still doing different projects centered around data but mostly helping young emerging companies move forward in their growth and development so I wouldn't say that I'm fully retired. I still do contract work for a couple of places but not at the level that I used to.”


[*sic] “Where in Europe did your career take you?”


[*sic] “The company [I previously mentioned] was based in London and we had forums every six months where the auto manufacturing marketing folks came together in a [rotating] capital city for a two-day event to hear some of them speak on the results of our benchmarking and demonstrate their product implementation as a means to help them move their e-commerce and website performance forward. So you name the country in Western Europe and I've been there multiple times: Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland, then over to Ireland, England, Wales, all multiple times. I saw a big chunk of Europe it was a great set of experiences and period of my life.”


[*sic] “How did your observations of those countries and societies influence you when you returned [each time] to the U.S.? Did you want to do things differently based on those comparisons?”


[*sic] “Absolutely, for one when you see how people live their day-to-day and culturally how they exist, it really does help you develop a sense of compassion and empathy which I wouldn't say people don't have that [in the U.S.] but you become sort of this nationalistic or a one-dimensional thinker in many ways if you don't leave the country to see what it's like in other parts of the world socioeconomically, culturally again, how people are [generally speaking] more active and engaged within their communities. Whereas we tend to go to the grocery store to buy processed food once a week and load up our refrigerators, in Europe and other parts of the world, you go to the market every day or multiple times a day for your meals to get fresh food and avoid waste, you know? It is just a difference, it's a choice that is more readily available.”


[*sic] “[My family and I] lived in Germany and Spain which certainly altered our day-to-day actions. I try to exist in the space of enjoying life, being mindful, and engaging with my community, a mindset that is alive and well in [the Traverse City area]. Were there similar reasons that brought you to Glen Arbor, [Michigan]?”


[*sic] “I grew up in Metro Detroit before we moved out to a rural area during my high school years, then [University of Michigan] in Ann Arbor and never really left the state [until later in life]. I recognized early that culture, art, music, and engagement, were important for me, so Ann Arbor is really where I found my footing. To your point, going to Europe further cemented that. When I was a kid, we used to go ‘Up North,’ which is such a Michigan thing to have a place where you take vacations for the summer. 

We went to [Harbor Springs] for a couple of years, then found our way to Glen Arbor, and we fell in love with it. We started to realize it'd be great to have our own place instead of always renting, so we eventually bought a place in 2008 as a second house. Five or so years later we decided this was where we wanted to live permanently, and here we are.”


[*sic] “Huge congratulations on that decision—it's one of those places I think people make a pilgrimage to and just make it work to be here, whether or not they have a fully formed plan or not. Was moving here part of a reframing your pace and lifestyle for what you wanted to do and who you wanted to be?”


[*sic] “In hindsight, for sure. But in the moment I don’t think we thought, ‘This is where and how we'll live from now on.’ Not to sound speculative, but there is this idea about northern Michigan that it’s a remote location without access to an airport but in reality everything that I need for retirement, I have. Looking back we didn’t consider those things but [the whole package] solidified our decision to make this the place where we could retire and still see the world while engaging with our community. 

Additionally, Traverse City is becoming a hub of innovation and incubation for new and existing companies, we had the film festival which has taken on a new form but is still active, we have a huge arts community, and we’re surrounded by some of the most beautiful natural areas that exist. There's just so much to do and it's the best of everything.”


[*sic] “Now that you’re here full time, what do you prioritize in your personal life and how does that translate to your professional sphere?” 


[*sic] “Re-engagement. There’s a five-step life plan, if you will, that I use to look at the different phases of life based on my own experiences [as they relate to age]. Bear with me on the accuracy of these numbers but start with 1 to 17 when you’re a kid and your time is very structured—you have rules and systems in place that you push through and rebel against as you’re able.

The second phase of 18 to 34 is your unstructured time when you really grow. As opposed to those first years where it's foundational for your identity, now you're getting a sense of your character. You likely [spend the majority of this period] figuring out what you want to do, and it's the phase where many people feel they wasted the most time trying to discover themselves—where they fit, what they love, maybe meeting their life partner, deciding on career paths, whether or not to start a family, where they want to live, it could go on endlessly because this is such a busy time in life.

I got married near the end of that timeline, so I started thinking about things this way.

From 35 to 51, that's the career phase. I’ve made my decision, I’m going to do this job, I’m going to be with this person, I’m going to have a family, a house, I’m working nose to the grindstone, and I’m living life for those people, not living for myself and I’m making decisions [based on] their needs. 

52 to 68 is the phase I’m in now, and for me, it’s all about re-engagement. The kids are in college and out of the house and there’s room to pursue your passions. For me, it's not about stopping work but re-discovering yourself and re-engaging with people, ideas, and innovation. There’s also potential for hobbies—I started making furniture, and my wife and I bought a house to flip—she's a tile artist so we're working in the same studio together meeting new friends, and traveling more for pleasure rather than work. There is a new freedom to live with curiosity, not judgment, and become truly fulfilled. 

Let's be honest, during the 35-51 period when you're raising your family or deeply involved in your career, you're established, you're working hard, so you don't have time for a lot of those passions or explore those curiosities.

In the last chapter from 69 to 85, and by the way, I’m not predicting my death at 85, but I don't know what that will look like or if I’ll be continuing the same level of activity. That will be health-dependent. 

Being healthy, engaged, and active are all things I think about every day and if I can keep that mindset in the forefront for the final 17 years or so, my life can continue to be full.”


[*sic] “That’s always the hope, and I think you have a strong fighting chance. Keeping your passions alive does the same for you. Do you think framing it in that way is the key to longevity? As you said, the ‘re-engagement’ phase.” 


[*sic] “For me it's it's somewhat structured because I want to be productive within that phase, and thankfully I love making things in whatever capacity: meals, art, furniture, so there's some structure and purpose.

Your daily activities, to a degree, can be a space to dabble on various projects, but it doesn't have to be the sole focus. The focus is just engagement, and there are so many applications. There are events for entrepreneurs that I attend, like the pitch contest I’m going to tonight which is a fun group to be around and an opportunity to help others. Going to these meet-ups is a means to stay engaged in the community, and it energizes me to see young companies in the early stages because that was me many years ago. 

I have the capacity to give back—I don't want to be too sanctimonious about it, but my purpose is to leave a legacy of giving. 

My reason for being, so to speak, is that if I naturally stay engaged and active, then the legacy defines itself by the reason you're doing it.” 


[*sic] “Those kinds of connections happen very naturally amongst people [in Traverse City]—the entrepreneurial community is very willing to organically and authentically provide guidance and resources to those with ambition and an idea. 

On the subject, are there pieces of advice that you’d be willing to share about aspects of life, personal and professional, that are important to remember at each of the phases you discussed earlier?” 


[*sic] “You know, I’ve had conversations [like this] over glasses of wine with friends, and really, my life fits into something I consider lucky to have been born into—I was lucky to live with a family that was hard-working and without significant issues. We were a blue-collar family but always had enough. My first 17 years were pretty darn easy compared to many. Given that perspective, I would say be brave enough to keep your eyes open, to engage with curiosity.

I found myself at 17 in a small town with a lot of racial tension, and people had a lot of opinions that I was diametrically opposed to. My father was an Archie Bunker type, so that whole environment was just not for me, and I left home as soon as I was able. 

I went to Ann Arbor and met people that were of different races, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs, and I realized that was the real world and there's so much to see. There's so much to discover, so much to embrace.

The point is, don’t harden yourself. For my generation, people tend to harden in their final years with opinions, political stances, beliefs—screw all that. There's no time for it. Live your life as best you can with the resources that you have and engage as much as possible. 

You will find yourself—you'll find your place, your people, your identity, your life. It’s just a matter of keeping your mind open.

I feel like a lot of people do become closed off and it's not always intentional. I think some people feel that they’ve learned enough, that they know exactly what they’re doing.

The more I've talked to people that are older than me, they're still figuring it out.

If you're open, learning never stops.”


[*sic] “What would you say to the younger generations that are trying to figure out what they want to do, in particular the ones that feel stuck working in a job that isn’t something you’re passionate about and may not necessarily lead to the next ledge, but it's done out of survival. This comes up a lot in my peer group—you start a new job out of school and you think it is what you want and the money is fine at the time, or you are non-traditional, an artist, a creative type, carving your own path, finding your income by piecemealing gigs or jobs while working on your craft. There is a need, not always a choice, but an absolute necessity to continue with it, even if it's not your purpose. What can be said as a shorthand guidebook for those situations?” 


[*sic] “You’re what, in your 20s?”


[*sic] “31, but thank you for thinking so.” 


[*sic] “I think if you're in that second phase, near the end of it, maybe you feel like you've wasted some time, and that's okay. Be patient. You've discovered things by now, that you can count on one hand… 

…[he motions to his hands]...

…my hands are all beat up because of the remodeling project, and I notice the evidence of woodworking. My hands show me clear evidence of my work now. So in that example, say you're an artist—expect that perhaps from 34 to 51 or so, there will be a period in time where you have to do things for others as opposed to yourself. If you have a partner or a significant other, if you plan on having children, if you want to live in a house, whatever it is that you want to do economically, this is when you're going to have to make the money.

That's going to put you forward onto a path to a kinder future. That’s just the sad reality of life is that you have to give up some of your passions in the short term. Be patient—because having acknowledged these passions, you can always come back to them.

Not to say that you have to work to make a ton of money and that should be your priority, but you have to figure out how to fund your life. You don't have to be a capitalist, but you may have to do things in a structured way for a period of time to allow yourself to exist with the freedom that you want in order to explore passions at a relatively young age. 

[Your generation] lives in such a great time in terms of options. The generation before me got jobs at big companies with pensions and some security but not much in the way of inspiration. They worked for 30 years with little to no time off, then retired exhausted, had no desire to travel, and had a very fixed mindset. I always look back and think, ‘That was my Dad.’ I don't have that mindset. Now I look at your generation. My son is 20, and we talk about this topic all the time. Just explore, travel, and do everything you can, because at some point, you'll have 10 years or so of your life where you have to put your nose to the grindstone, and it's inevitable, but again, be patient. You'll come out of it. 

For all of the problems we face in the world now, and there are many, what a great time to be alive. To have the freedom to work at home, to have nontraditional office settings, to have technology that enables so much access, and so on. Embrace that. Glass half full. Do what you need to do to become successful in your mind, and start and finish what you set out to do. Don't start, stop, move—try and finish things, and you'll find by the time you're my age, you'll be in a pretty great spot.

On a related tangent, there can be a tendency to look down on younger generations at each stage, with regard to things like music for example, and you hear people say that the music after the time period of their youth sucks. I try to force myself to look at it the other way, because there are some times when I fall into those traps, too. I was 12 years old listening to the Beatles, and that was foundational. So now, if I hear music that I'm not familiar with rhythmically, it takes time for me to understand whether I like it or not. Different generations take opposing views of music, jokes, attitudes, and ethics, down that whole line, and when you’re of that mindset you really don't know anything.

Again, from 18 to 34, there are lost years when you grow, and that's important to embrace. Maybe all fathers and mothers don't embrace that. When I was 21, I was doing stupid stuff, wasting time trying to figure it out. It's different for everyone. Just be patient. You'll find it or it'll find you. What used to be called non-traditional is no longer non-traditional. We live in a world where you can do whatever with whoever, however you want, you really can. 

Just go for it.”

©️Third Chapter Curious


  • Linkedin
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
bottom of page