Building several successful enterprises while living with undiagnosed ADHD is a tough endeavor, but it can also be an interesting take on life. In this first episode of Before IT Happened, our host Donna Loughlin talks to marketing expert, entrepreneur, and best-selling author Peter Shankman.
Peter was a founding editor of AOL News before we’d ever heard of online journalism. He leaned into the early dot-com boom by launching Geek Factory, one of the first PR firms designed to put a spotlight on the tech visionaries of the era. He later created HARO, a database used to connect journalists and sources around the world. He sold both Geek Factory and HARO, but he didn't stop there. His ADHD diagnosis has led him to a bigger understanding of life reflected in his best-selling book “Faster Than Normal” and his more recent undertaking helping companies understand neurodiversity. Listen now to hear Peter’s unique journey from academic cautionary tale to a multimedia juggernaut by turning his ADHD brain into a superpower.
Before any world-changing innovation there was a moment, an event, a realization that sparked the idea before it happened. This is a podcast about that moment — about that idea. Before IT Happened takes you on a journey with the innovators who imagined — and are still imagining — our future. Join host Donna Loughlin as her guests tell their stories of how they brought their visions to life.
Jump straight into:
(03:10) - Peter’s artistic upbringing with undiagnosed ADHD and how journalism at Boston University saved him - “To go from being on academic probation for two and a half straight years to receiving BU’s Alumni Award was a nice moment.”
(07:48) - Building a newsroom for AOL in the early internet days - “AOL was the internet, no question about it. I was so early in the game, I actually had email@example.com, which was amazing.”
(11:10) - Starting Geek Factory - “I called my mom and I said, ‘I'm going to go out on my own, I'm going to try to start a PR firm and when it fails, I'll get a job.’”
(13:14) - The story behind Peter’s journalism mailing list HARO (Help a Reporter Out) - “Originally it was a Facebook group, and that led to the formation of HARO. It blew up beyond my wildest dreams. I got very very lucky.”
(15:29) - Getting acquired by Vocus and Peter’s first hours as a multimillionaire - “It probably took about five months from initial contact to acquisition. If we didn't have lawyers, it would have taken a week.”
(17:23) - The secret to becoming hyper-focused - “I rock at what I'm good at and I let other people do what I suck at because they just do it so much better than I ever could.”
(20:13) - Peter’s ADHD diagnosis and how it helped him get a new understanding of life - “I'm very happy. I'm very fortunate. I think that all the mistakes and all the screw-ups, everything I've done has led me to this point.”
(26:09) - Using skydiving as a drug - “It is the ultimate reboot. I can't get back on the plane, I can't stop and redo it. I will either make the decision to live or I'll make the decision to die. Life doesn't get simpler than those 45 to 60 seconds of free fall.”
(28:33) - All things Shankman: How Peter manages a whole ecosystem of projects - “All I'm really doing is I'm telling stories about things I love and I am so ridiculously blessed that I get paid to tell stories about things I love.”
(31:13) - Helping companies be neurodiverse friendly - “The goal is to understand what the neuro-diverse person needs and to teach companies how to be more understanding.”
(33:19) - Faster Than Normal, Peter’s future projects and the best advice he ever received - “Basically everything I have and all the success I've had has come from the fact that I listen.”
Connect with Peter at Shankman.com
Read Peter Shankman’s book Faster Than Normal
Listen to Peter Shankman’s podcast Faster Than Normal: Unlock the Gifts of ADHD
Grow your business with ShankMinds
Invest in $SHANK at Rally.io
Learn more about Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
Read Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey
Before IT Happened is produced by Donna Loughlin and Studio Pod Media with additional editing and sound design by Nodalab. The show coordinator is Deanna Morenci and the Executive Producer is Katie Sunku Wood. All episodes are written by Jack Buehrer.