Courtney Downey

You Live and You Learn It

I am sure most of you are familiar with the song, “Nobody’s Perfect” by Miley Cyrus. If you are not, it goes something like this:

Nobody’s perfect, I gotta work it, again and again, ’til I get it right. Nobody’s perfect, you live and you learn it, and if I mess it up sometimes, nobody’s perfect.

This song comes to mind when I think about Peter Shankman, who is a great example of what it is like to be imperfect and successful. You see, Shankman has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which means that his brain works incredibly faster than most peoples.

While most people with ADHD  experience difficulty in day-to-day activities, Shankman has made it work to his advantage. This widely known author, entrepreneur, angel investor, and corporate keynote speaker has taken his ideas to an entirely new level.  As it says on his website, Shankman “is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about customer service, social media, PR, marketing, advertising, and ADHD.”

Last week, my class and I had the amazing opportunity to Skype with Peter Shankman and discuss his entrepreneurial journey and startup.

Peter Shankman

Shankman is best known for founding Help a Reporter Out (HARO), an online service for journalists to gather feedback from the public. In less than a year, the company became the go-to place for thousands of journalists in search of sources. How he came up with the idea is the same way most startups begin. Shankman saw a demand for a product and it grew from there. The company was so successful that Shankman sold it to focus on other projects. According to his website, HARO is currently the largest free source database in the world.

But like anyone else Shankman encountered many problems when he first started out. One thing he said in particular that really stood out to me was:

“If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.” 

Which he did over and over again until he got it right. Peter Shankman is a big believer in failure. In life, not everything is going to work out the way we want it to, and that is okay, we just have to focus on what we want and take different avenues to get us there. Sometime’s you might even look crazy trying to gain success, but if it works, it works! On that point, Investor’s Business Daily actually labeled Peter as “crazy, but effective” according to his website.

Another thing Shankman mentioned to our class is how important your personal brand is. When you own a company you represent your brand. It does not matter if you are working, sleeping or out with friends, you represent your company even when you do not realize it.

Why is this important?

Because people do dumb things. It is just like in college when your advisors tell you to not post inappropriate pictures on social media because employers can see it. Yet so many people post obnoxious content. Do not be that person. It is not worth losing a job or especially your own company.

4 thoughts on “You Live and You Learn It

  1. I would just like to say that I was not disappointed in clicking on this post. I was hoping for a Miley Cyrus reference and you delivered. Thank you.

    On a more serious note, I liked how you focused on Peter Shankman’s insistence on failure. For me, it was particularly impactful to hear that such a successful man refuses to work with someone who has never failed. Our generation has been taught that in order to succeed, we must, well, succeed. Yet, in reality, failure often teaches you more than success. More than that, it shows you’re growing. It means you’re reaching, striving. If you’re not failing, you’re living your life inside your comfort zone. You’re not trying hard enough. And in entrepreneurship, it’s counterproductive and dangerous. Try harder.


  2. The portion about failure, specifically “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough,” really impacted me. I think it was so helpful to see a successful person so open to admitting he had messed things up so many times in the past. And that just because you have failed before doesn’t mean you’ll never have success. Maybe the same could be said for those who don’t take control over their personal brand and post inappropriate photos onto their Instagram accounts. I’m sure one day they’ll learn from their mistakes and become better because of them.


  3. Firstly, I love how you started your post with the “Nobody’s Perfect” Miley Cyrus song and compared it to Peter Shankman. That was genius. Secondly, I completely agree that when you own a brand you represent the brand and anything you do can jeopardize not only you, but your brand. Especially in today’s world with such advanced technology, everyone is watching. So you’re right, don’t be that dumb person or it’ll end up hurting you and your brand in the long run.


  4. I agree that failures are necessary components to finding success, but like I mentioned in my blog, I think we can learn from smaller failures as well. I love how you focused on working to adjust your path to success if you encounter failure, because as we saw with Peter, continuing to work for what you want with grit and persistence can lead to success. I also forgot about the “crazy, but effective” tidbit on Peter Shankman’s website but like you said, if it works, it works! I also really like how you called out protecting your personal brand as well, no matter the circumstance. There’s a fine line between showing your playful side or being funny online and posting things that are harmful to your brand, and I think for college students that have grown up in the social media age especially, that line can be blurred easily.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s