ADHD at Work

ADHD Is Your Wave. Learn How to Ride It.

Peter Shankman is a Fortune 500 marketing consultant, best-selling author, and in-demand public speaker who credits his ADHD with supplying the energy and curiosity that’s made him a success. Here is how he learned to harness the mighty power of his ADHD and ride that energy to great things.

Peter Shankman, one of the many celebrities with ADHD.
1 of 9

Thriving With ADHD

Imagine for a moment that ADHD is a cresting ocean wave. In a blink, its brute force can knock you down, slam you against the sand, and leave you gasping for air. Usually this happens when you try to flee or fight it — which is most of the time. But a few rare adults and celebrities with ADHD have figured out a better way — a way to ride the energy and let that wave of creativity, curiosity, and resourcefulness propel them forward.

One such surfer is Peter Shankman, Fortune 500 marketing consultant, television personality and author of books including Zombie Loyalists, Nice Companies Finish First, and Mastering the World of Marketing, among others. His resume is nearly as impressive as his energy and drive, which Shankman says stem from a lifetime of ADHD.

“The irony of getting paid to do what I used to get yelled at for has not gone unnoticed by me,” he said. “Back in school, I was always the one getting in trouble for talking too much. Now I keynote top industry conferences, and get asked by global organizations to talk to their employees.” Here’s how he does it, in his own words.

Image by Affiliate Summit.

[Free Download: 8 Dream Jobs for Adults with ADHD]

A notebook and a laptop keyboard, two tools celebrities with ADHD use for success
2 of 9

What do all successful people have in common?

All successful people have systems that work for them, and keep them moving in the direction of productivity and positive outcomes. They go to bed early so they can get the sleep they need to produce a fulfilling, productive day. They get up early and exercise — moving the body to get the dopamine into the brain early in the day. That’s one sure-fire path to success.

It’s simple common sense and logic, which people with ADHD have a lot of. Why get lost when you can keep yourself on track with a system of functionality that works for you? It’s just a matter of doing it.

An alarm clock, a tool celebrities with ADHD use to get up early
3 of 9

When and how did you decide to make your ADHD work for you, not against you?

School was always hard. Early in my 30s, I realized there had to be a better way and I started using routines to my benefit. It was just basic common sense… and I found life was easier when the systems began.

Little by little, I added on routines and structure, until it grew to become an extremely efficient program of self-discipline and structure. I still mess up today, and that’s OK. I’ll do better tomorrow. What’s important is the simple act of figuring out how to make this work, of becoming outcome oriented, of not getting stuck wallowing in the negative. That’s the mission. That’s the goal: How can I make this work?

[How to Banish Negative Thoughts & Feelings]

A coffee cup on a table, a tool celebrities with ADHD use to harness energy for success
4 of 9

What are your specific strategies for success?

Waking up early is a game changer. Be a smart scheduler. Set aside one day a week for each task that needs to be done. For example, meetings are done once a week (when possible). Decisions are time vacuums. To eliminate those vacuums, stick to regular scheduling and do the same thing at the same time on the same day, whenever you can. Turn off device notifications. Check your email once an hour — on your terms.

A person putting two puzzle pieces together, a symbol of how celebrities with ADHD learn to work with the condition
5 of 9

People with ADHD resist structure. How do you stick to yours?

I use a 12-step system that I’ve put in place to manage any difficulties. And you don’t have to do it alone. There are people out there who understand and feel and think the same way you do. Use their help in devising a program that works for you, then live and die by it. If you cheat, things fall apart: we’re nasty to people we love, and we don’t feel good about our behavior.

People with ADHD are a special breed. Our brains work differently. You have to adjust to that. If you do, you can be amazing!

[Face It — People with ADHD Are Wired Differently]

A woman with ADHD goes running to help keep symptoms under control with exercise
6 of 9

Your job requires intense listening. How do you stay focused on your clients?

I focus on their lips. This keeps my eyes focused and keeps my mind from wandering. It really works.

I also believe in active meditation and in engaging in activities that let you space out while you are moving: exercise, walking, jogging, and — for me — skydiving.

A woman with ADHD wears a superhero costume, but trying to be superwoman can be stressful.
7 of 9

What about the shame, guilt, and low self-esteem that come with ADHD?

There is nothing to be ashamed about. There is nothing to feel guilty about. Be open about it. Talk about it, tell people. You think differently, your brain works differently. This is who you are; this is what makes you so good at what you do.

Tap into the superpower that ADHD can be. Start wrapping your mind around the positives. Don’t get stuck in the negatives. Start using systems that work and keep them going, live by them, breathe by them, and never stop. Soon it will seem the people without ADHD are the ones who have trouble managing.

A man with ADHD watches the sun rise, and thinks about his strengths.
8 of 9

What advice do you have for people struggling with their ADHD?

Know yourself. What does your body need to stay healthy and productive? Start small. Take on one small system at a time and add to it — little by little. Build it from the bottom up. Do what works for you. When something doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up. Find the superpower within. It’s there. You just can’t always see it because negativity is disguising it.

Don’t be afraid to be aware of yourself. Know who you are. Work with your strengths.  Stay positive, and strength-focused. Stop telling yourself negative stories about your behavior. So what if you mess up? You are not alone. Everyone messes up. Start again.

A group of young professionals with ADHD work together on a project. They are doing what they love, just like celebrities with ADHD.
9 of 9

Any other secrets to success?

Success comes from doing what you love every day. If you do what you love, you hook into the dopamine, and that’s where you thrive. It’s also important to surround yourself with people who can do what you’re not good at. You have to know your strengths, but you also have to know your weaknesses. It’s OK — actually, it’s smart — to ask for help. This is the #1 most important secret to success: Find people, apps, or programs that do what you can’t do.

Your job is to stay positive, upbeat, optimistic, strength-seeking, outcome-oriented, resilient, forward thinking, and logical. If you can do that, you will succeed.