Madeline Stamm

Peter Shankman: ‘If You’re Not Failing, You’re Not Trying Hard Enough’

The world needs more Peter Shankmans.

Since graduating from Boston University, Peter has experienced a great amount of success, including starting several businesses and writing four books. His latest is a website and podcast called Faster Than Normal that shows how ADD and ADHD can be a gift — not a curse — for people.

He recently spoke to our class at at Michigan State University from his office in New York City.

Some of the things he mentioned are things I will never forget, starting with… “not a lot of people do good shit anymore; do good shit.”

Peter talked about how we as media entrepreneurs should not get “side tracked by the latest and greatest shiny thing.” Yes, the future of media is mobile and digital. However, not everything has to be an app to be successful.

Peter said, “Don’t build for an app, build for your audience. Apps like Twitter are pipes and pipes don’t always survive.”

This made so much sense to me because depending on your audience, you need to figure out the right platform to promote your content. You want to deliver your story the way your audience wants.

Speaking of your audience, Peter says that “having an audience is a privilege, not a right.” Peter compared having an audience to wearing spandex, which I thought was hilarious. You have to earn the right to have an audience, just like you have to earn the right to wear spandex.

Peter brought up a good point about the rewards of entrepreneurship. All of the businesses he has created and all of the ideas he has put all of his effort into is to help others and fix a problem he sees in the world. “Don’t do it for the money because you’ll be doing it for the wrong reasons,” he aid.

I agree with this because if you’re putting your heart and soul into a business 24/7, you’re going to NEED to love it. Also, you may resent going to work every day if you don’t wake up in the morning burning with passion to make it successful.

Peter says students in college and fresh out of college are at the perfect time in their lives to start a business. He said, “If you have an idea, now is the time to do it while you don’t have kids, a husband/wife yet. Do it now instead of in 30 years when you hate your job and can’t change it because you have kids to support.”

Another point Peter brought up that I agree with is that he is a “big believer in failure.” Peter even went so far as to mention that he doesn’t want to hire those that haven’t failed and don’t continue to fail. You might be confused by this or look like Jay Z and Beyonce in this moment.


But… it makes sense! Personally, I think Peter is absolutely right when he said, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.” You must fail to succeed and if you aren’t failing, you’re not putting enough work in.

Ohhhh.. I get it now…


As Jay Z would probably say… haters should be your motivators. Peter said, “If you don’t have haters, you’re not doing enough to change the status quo because haters don’t like change.”

I thought it was interesting that Peter described how the life as an entrepreneur really is. He said there are high highs and low lows in this business and you have to have thick skin and real passion to stay happy in it. Peter explained that he has lost many entrepreneur friends to suicide because they felt like they didn’t have anyone to talk to.

The last point that I will touch on was how Peter talked about your brand and how you ARE your brand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week… whether you like it or not.

I can attest to this, being in a sorority here at Michigan State. From day one, we were taught that everything we do, say and post on social media is a reflection of our sorority as a whole and that we all represent each other.

Peter emphasized that even if you’re doing something stupid at 3 a.m., you still work for a company and you are still representing your own brand. You are still you when you are sober, drunk, happy, sad, angry, all the above. That is something to always keep in mind if you’re going into entrepreneurship… and also just, life.

6 thoughts on “Peter Shankman: ‘If You’re Not Failing, You’re Not Trying Hard Enough’

  1. I loved your article ! I think everything you personally hit on struck as the most important things I took out of his Skype session. I really liked your analogy with using Jay Z and Beyonce with artist majority of the time we only see their successes but through Jay Z and Beyonce because for me they both have used their relationship failures and life failures through their music and it has helped them thrive in the industry.


  2. Hello,
    I really loved how bluntly you started this article. It immediately grabbed my attention and made me excited to read the rest of it. I also loved how you tied in Jay-Z to the “haters are my motivators” sentiment. It had a style and a tone that was fun. I also do thinkg Jay-Z would attest to that. Thanks for the article!


  3. I really loved hearing Peter speak!

    I think you were right on the mark summarizing what he told us in class Friday. I think that people have to just throw themselves out into the water and swim! we cant be afraid of failure because it is apart of life! as long as you are doing what you love for YOURSELF then good things will follow. great article!


  4. I appreciate your opening sentence here. The world needs more thick skin and the world needs more people with untouchable passion. The way you related this article to your own life was a great writing technique because it shows the connections you were making during our Skype. Nice job!


  5. I really enjoyed your blog because many of your takeaways was similar to mines. Peter Shankman is a very humble, intellectual person who is a great person to talk to. I love the small anecdote about Beyonce and Jay-Z that you were able to compare to something important that Peter Shankman said within his lecture. Haters really do not like change and are haters for a reason.


  6. Madeline, you bring together some really important points. I’d like to add on to what you explained about needing the passion to build a business, not just a goal for money. Shankman said that he decides to sell a business when it no longer is enjoyable or when the passion fades away. This is very important for mental health, because at a certain point it doesn’t matter if you’ve built your own business or you’re working for someone else if your life is miserable and you hate the work.


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