Hyperactive disorders like ADD and ADHD have carried around complicated stigmas. If a child is labeled with one of these syndromes, it generally brands them as the uncontrollable spazz that disrupts classrooms and pays no mind to the benefits of having a never-ending well of energy. It’s a narrative that needs some reshaping and that is exactly what entrepreneur Peter Shankman has been trying to do with his popular podcast Faster Than Normal. His podcast has set out to help people understand that both of these disorders “are a gift, not a curse” and with its success he has been able to write a new book that acts as a companion to the podcast titled Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus Productivity and Success With the Secrets of the ADHD Brain to give more advice to those in need.
“When I was growing up in the 70’s and the 80’s, I was a public school New York City Kid and ADHD didn’t exist,” remembers Shankman, “It was ‘sit down, you’re disrupting the classroom’”. It’s a story that many who have struggled with hyperactivity understand. Many are just now joining the workforce and have always lived with a negative outlook on their roadrunner style attention spans. “My weird quirks and the things that drove my mom crazy were ways of self-medicating,” he says “I was the class clown and what I was doing was working towards getting the adrenaline or serotonin that my brain craves but doesn’t get because of ADHD.”
Shankman believes that the teachers and parents that view hyperactivity as a detriment, do not view it as the superpower it really is. “We can hyper focus sharp enough to melt steel,” he says and with all of his success, it’s hard to disagree with him. But with an overactive mind, you run the risk of losing productivity or worse, developing poisonous habits that could derail your life if they are not corrected. For Shankman, the ground rules he has set for himself are “eating cleanly” and most importantly cutting alcohol out of his life. “You have to understand what your triggers are. That’s why I don’t drink because I don’t have ONE drink,” says Shankman, “I tell people I have two speeds: ‘Namaste’ and ‘I’ll cut a bitch’.”
So what advice does Shankman have for people who may need to focus their wild energy in a constructive way? He believes that by depleting your brain of its frantic energy you can clean your slate and focus with razor-sharp attention. “Early morning exercise for me is a given. I have to do it,” he explains. But with more monotonous situations, he has other effective methods. “Before I go into a boring meeting I don’t want to attend,” he says, “I’ll walk up the stairs, I’ll do 20 jumping jacks, anything to alter that brain chemistry.”
Shankman believes that his book is not only for people with hyperactivity disorders but for “regular people who want to get four hours of their day back for productivity.” By harnessing your restless energy, you can actualize your creativity and focus on crushing it professionally. Don’t believe him? That’s how he wrote this book. “This book,” says Shankman, “was written in two round trips to Asia in its entirety.” With results like that, who says you need to “sit down”?