Is there anything Peter Shankman hasn’t done? This intrepid professional is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, bestselling author of six books, and the Futurist-in-Residence at BluShark Digital, a Marketing and SEO firm in Washington, DC. He’s also a NYC-based single dad of a 9-year-old daughter, Jessa. A licensed skydiver, he has 500 jumps so far—and is a 2x Ironman Triathlete.
But as a kid, the path to his successful and fulfilling life wasn’t a given. “I grew up with massive ADHD, but undiagnosed,” says Peter, who shares he was constantly in trouble for disrupting class. “It wasn’t until my late 30s that I actually got diagnosed – I realized that my ‘acting out,’ and all my crazy and weird ideas that made me as successful as I’ve become, all came from my ADHD,” says Peter. He adds: “People with ADHD think differently, which is wonderful, but society doesn’t yet embrace it as a gift. I’m hoping my new book, The Boy With the Faster Brain, will help change that.”
For this week’s Meet a Dad interview, we asked Peter about his wonderful new book for kids, how he views his ADHD as a superpower, and more.
What do you hope kids – and parents – get out of reading The Boy With the Faster Brain?
I don’t want any child to ever have the difficulties growing up that I did. I don’t want them to think they’re failures, or “just not a good kid.” I’m hoping that The Boy With The Faster Brain will show children (and parents) that they’re not broken – they’re gifted. They have a much, much faster brain than most other people. They just need to learn how to utilize it differently.
What would you tell your young self about ADHD?
You’re not broken. You’re not weird. (Well, you are, but it’s a gift.) You need to train your brain differently. Start exercising at a super-young age and do it every day: it’ll help your brain beyond your wildest dreams. Because your brain is fast, you think fast, you act fast. That causes you some trouble sometimes, so be careful what you say – but in the end, you’re going to come out on top. Don’t ever be embarrassed by who you are. Embrace who you are. Wrap yourself up in it, and it can never be used against you.
You often talk about ADHD as a superpower – can you explain that?
I came up with the idea for my last company in an airport, and by the time I’d landed from my flight, I’d built it and launched it. Normal-brained people don’t think this way. While the “screw it, let’s see what happens” attitude can be dangerous, more often than not, it’s beneficial. We need to learn how to harness our faster brain’s super-speed and energy. When we do that, what we can do is limitless.
Love that. What is your parenting mantra or strategy that gets you through tough times?
I don’t yell. I don’t get angry. I make it clear that this is the way we’re doing something, and if you don’t listen twice, the third time will be a punishment. Loss of the iPad, etc. It rarely gets to three times. I’m not perfect. When I take her to school on our scooter and someone cuts us off, I’ll curse. She’ll yell at me for saying a bad word, and she’s right. I’m working on it, ha!
Nobody’s perfect – parents or otherwise! Anything else you’d like to share?
Before you blink, they’re ten. I’m coming to grips with that now – Jessa turns ten this May, and I have no idea how we got here!
Finally, we love to support local businesses. What are your favorite NYC places to:
Go to dinner as a family
Westway Diner on 44th and 9th
Go for a date night
Deli (I’m sorry, no $8 Starbucks for me. Deli coffee all the way.)
Victory Boxing on 37th Street has saved my life more times than I can count.
Go for fun as a family
Skydive the Ranch (she watches me) and we’ve been known to jump on planes and go to various Water Parks around the world.
Go shopping for your daughter
American Dream for a fun day of incredibly inexpensive shopping at Primark