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Award Winning TV & Radio Presenter Abbie McCarthy on ADHD and Career Symmetry

by Faster Than Normal

Abbie McCarthy is an award-winning TV / Radio presenter & DJ, you’ll find her hosting BBC Music Introducing in Kent on the airwaves every Saturday night and also bringing great new music & fun interviews to your TV screens on 4Music and E4 Extra with Fresh This Month. Abbie is known for bringing the party with her DJ sets and this year has played at a whole host of festivals, including Glastonbury, Latitude & Knebworth, as well as playing several arena shows. Abbie is also the host and curator of popular gig night Good Karma Club, which has put on early shows for the likes of Tom Grennan, Mae Muller, Easy Life & many more and has even featured some famous faces in the crowds over the years – Alex Turner, Lewis Capaldi & Wolf Alice. Abbie’s huge contribution to both the radio & music industry was celebrated when she was inducted into the Roll of Honour at Music Week’s Women In Music Awards 2018. Abbie has been highlighted by the Radio Academy as one of the brightest young stars in radio, recently featuring in their esteemed 30 under 30 list and winning Silver for Best Music Presenter at the ARIAs 2020. Aside from music, Abbie’s other passion is sport, which really shines through in her entertaining coverage on Matchday Live for Chelsea TV. You’ll also find Abbie guesting frequently on BBC Two’s football show, MOTDx and doing online coverage for England and the Lionesses football teams. How has she been so successful already, especially having just recently been diagnosed, and what advice does she impart to us? Enjoy! 

In this episode Peter and Abbie McCarthy discuss:  

00:40 – Thank you so much for listening and for subscribing!

00:47 – Intro and welcome Abbie ‘AbbieAbbieMac’ McCarthy!

03:00 – So you just got diagnosed a year ago, so tell us your backstory?

05:51 – What rituals have you put into play for yourself to be able to get through the boring stuff?

07:00 – Do you get a dopamine release after having completed a list, or boring stuff?

07:38 – Who happens when you have to quickly adjust course? How do you balance your dopamine producers at all hours of the day and night, as various types of work demands?

10:30 – How do you handle negative criticism, and keep performing at one hundred percent even on tough news days?

12:32 – What have you had to fight through with respect to your being a Millennial, and a Female in a often-times patronizing industry?

14:23 – Americans are learning more about Premier League Football thanks to Ted Lasso. Who’s your team?

14:40 – How can people find more about you? 


Socials: @AbbieAbbieMac everywhere:  Twitter  INSTA  TikTok  FB

This was great- thank you Abbie!!

Guys, as always thanks so much for subscribing! Faster Than Normal is for YOU! We want to know what you’d like to hear! Do you have a cool friend with a great story? We’d love to learn about, and from them. I’m and you can reach out anytime via email at [email protected] or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterNormal on all of the socials. It really helps when you drop us a review on iTunes and of course, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! As you know, the more reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Help us to show the world that ADHD is a gift, not a curse! 

16:00 – Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits.

TRANSCRIPT via Descript and then corrected.. somewhat:

[00:00:40] Peter: Yo, everyone! Welcome to Faster Than Normal, another episode. Thrilled to have you as always. We got someone fun today to talk about- Abbie McCarthy is joining us from the OK. She’s an award-winning TV and radio presenter and DJ. Okay, you’ll find her hosting BBC music, introducing intent on the airwaves every Saturday night, and also bringing great new music and fun interviews to your TV screen on 4 Music and Eve four extra with fresh this month. She brings the party with her DJ sets. She has played a whole host of festival. She’s played Glastonbury, Latitude & Knebworth, as well as playing several arena shows and she’s serious. Like, no joke. She doesn’t, she doesn’t fuck around. You’re gonna, you’re gonna like this one. She’s the hosting curator of popular Gig Night. Good Karma Club. God, what else has she done? Uh, she was nominated, she was inducted into the role of honor at Music Week’s, women in Music Awards 2018. She’s been highlighted by the radio academy as one of the brightest young stars in radio, recently featured and their esteemed 30 under 30 lists and winning silvers for best music presenter at the Arias 2020 I. Being in PR week, magazines 30 under 30, and I’m now 50. So yeah, now I’m all pissed off. It’s gonna be a shitty interview. All right. Anyway, Abby, welcome. I feel old. How are you?!

[00:02:03] Abbie: Oh, I’m good, thank you. How are you? Thank you so much for having me. 

[00:02:05] Peter: I’m thrilled to have you. So you came to us because you, you were reading Faster Than Normal, the book, and you identified with it, and you found yourself in it.

[00:02:13] Abbie: Absolutely. I really loved it. I just loved the whole concept of it. The fact that you kind of said our our brains are like Lamborghinis. They just work faster than everybody else. But if you do the right things, you can use it quite efficiently. I thought it was a really nice way to approach it. Cause I think there’s some books that you read and it’s about kind of, Dismissing that you have A D H D or kind of not embracing it. But I thought that the whole approach was great and yeah, I took so much from it. And because I’ve only recently been diagnosed, it was such a useful book to lose myself in. I actually managed to read it in a couple of days and obviously everyone listened to this that has a D H D knows that’s not always, that’s not always easy. So I think it, uh, became my hyper focus for a couple of days. I really enjoyed it. 

[00:02:56] Peter: Very true. We don’t, we don’t normally finish things like that. Um, now tell us, so, so you just got diagnosed a year ago, so tell us your backstory. Tell us about what it was like growing up before you were diagnosed. What was it like as a kid? Did you, what was school like for you? Things like that.

[00:03:10] Abbie: I think I’m one of those classic people where, I was, I was, I was okay at school. I got like fairly good grades and I was always being told off for talking too much, which obviously makes a lot of sense now and I think that would happen more and more in the classes of things that I wasn’t particularly interested in. Uh, you know, you mentioned at the start, I do lots of different things within music and, and some within sport as well. So I’m, I’m a creative person, so some of the more academic subjects I didn’t particularly like, but I. Was Okay and, and got good grades, um, which maybe was why it wasn’t picked up, I guess, when I was a teenager. Uh, but I, it’s, I have this thing where I guess I. I just always felt like I was different, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. And you know, even as I’ve got older and I’ve got to do some great things in my professional life, like being on the radio to me is my dream job. I still can’t believe I get to do that. I get to go on the airwaves, pick amazing music, and connect with people and share it with them, but that’s awesome. You know, it’s, it’s. It’s, you know, you might look at me and be like, oh, she’s getting to do her dream job. But then it’s like, it’s more like all the things I struggle with at home, I guess. It’s like, you know, keeping on top of errands and, and things like that and organizing other aspects of, of my life. And I think that’s the thing with A D H D, isn’t it? Someone on the surface might look a certain way, but you never know what’s. Going on in, in somebody’s head. Do you, you know, my brain is racing constantly. Yeah. Um, but you know, I’ve, I’ve managed to, to hold down a job and I guess I’m lucky because it’s , it’s, it is in things that I’m interested in, so that makes it easier too. 

[00:04:50] Peter: Well, that’s, I mean, that’s really the key. You know, we, we all have to realize, you know, there are people who, who don’t have faster than normal brains who can just sort of wake up, go to their job every day, do it for 40 years, retire, get their little gold watch, you know, and, and whether they love the job or not, is irrelevant to them. I. It’s a means to an end. It’s a way to make money. If we don’t love what we’re doing, we’re not doing it well. 

[00:05:10] Abbie: Yeah. Or you just don’t wanna do it full stop. Exactly. So I feel so blessed to be doing something that I absolutely love and I. I’m so excited to go into work every day and the, you know, what I do is really varied as well, which I think works with our brains too. Like, I’m not gonna get bored. Each week can be very, very different. Sometimes I’m in the studio doing a radio show, then it’s something like festival season where I’m kind of here, there and everywhere DJing. It might be going to interview somebody, you know, on the other side of the country. It might be going to a gig somewhere else. So it, it’s, yeah, it’s, it keeps it interesting. It’s, it keeps it lively. 

[00:05:43] Peter: Tell me about, um, so let’s talk about the stuff you’re not that great at. Let’s talk about like, you know, what is it like to, you know, running the errands, things like that. What kind of, um, sort of rituals have you put into play for yourself to be able to get through the, the, the, the boring stuff?

[00:05:57] Abbie: I actually got this piece of advice from somebody on social media when I first posted that I’d got a diagnosis and they were saying the things that you don’t enjoy, things like housework and errands and food shopping. It’s almost like, think of it in a different way, sort of set yourself, um, a bit of a competition or like, so you’re trying to do it in the quickest amount of time or, you know, you set yourself a reward once you’ve finished it, things like that. So then actually that those, those activities aren’t just draining. You are in some way getting a little bit of dopamine and I think it’s just like picking the right time in the day to do some of this stuff as well. I think now I try and get up, exercise is a big one for me and I know it’s for, for you as well from, from reading your book, getting up, going to the gym, even if I don’t feel like it, which I don’t a lot of the time, I always feel so much better afterwards than kind of getting all of those errands and boring things out of the way and then I can just enjoy the rest of my day and I kind of don’t feel the guilt that I haven’t done all the, all the adult things I guess that I think I should have. 

[00:07:02] Peter: Well, it’s interesting because that there is a, there are some studies that say that getting the boring stuff and stuff that you don’t love getting it done is actually a dopamine release. Um, once they’re all, not from doing them per se, but from that feeling you get of, oh, I don’t have to do them anymore because I did them. 

[00:07:17] Abbie: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah. You actually completed something that you set out to do, so that’s gonna give you a buzz, isn’t it? 

[00:07:22] Peter: Talk about, uh, some times where it’s not that easy. Have things happened, whether you are in, uh, you know, whether you’re at work or whatever? How do you deal with the things that, you know, you’re, you’re going a million miles an hour, right? When you’re, when you’re DJing or when you’re working whatever, you’re going a million miles an hour. What happens when you have to adjust course, uh, suddenly when you suddenly, you know, find yourself going off track or something like that. How do you keep yourself going, especially in a high energy job like that, because there’s really only so much dopamine mean you can give. Uh, to get through over the course of a day, right. At some point, you know, I know that, that if I time it right, I give a keynote, I get done with the keynote, I get into the airport, get back onto the plane, and that’s when I pass out. Right. So, how are you sometimes you’re doing, I, I, especially as a DJ you’re doing late, late nights, right? You know, into, into the wee hours in the morning. How are you holding that up? How are you keeping yourself aligned? 

[00:08:14] Abbie: I think when I am DJing or I’m, yeah, playing a big event, I get so in the zone. I get so pumped for it. So I kind of have enough energy to, to get through it. I think the thing that I struggle with the most is when I’ve had, you know, a really great run of work, so something like festival season or because I work in football, you know, the, the Premier League season that we have over here. I’ve just been getting to work on loads of games with that. When that stops and there’s just naturally a tiny little lull in work, and I say a lull, it’s like four days or something, and. Get really down cuz I’m like, I dunno what to do with all of this energy that I’ve got. I almost dunno how to, to harness it. And then I have a real low and I’m kind of waiting for the buzz and the high again of, of doing all the things that I love. And I think that’s been a learning experience for me is when I have these days off. Which I really crave when I’m in the thick of it. You know, when you are like working back to back and you’re traveling everywhere, you can’t wait for a day where you are. You can just not think about work and relax. But when it gets to those days, I find it really hard to actually lean into them. So that’s something I need to work on to be honest. Um, but the other thing that I think is a bit of a struggle in the job that I do, and maybe you’ll relate to this or other people will relate to this. Do more of a kind of public facing job is, you know, the sensitivity we can have to rejection and criticism. It’s very much part of my job, you know, it’ll be like, I’ll be presenting something or I’ll send off a show reel sometimes I’m super lucky and I get the job. Sometimes I don’t. That’s just part of the business, but I might then be really upset about that for a little while, and I think sometimes. The emotional deregulation thing. I can f I can feel a little bit. So that can be hard. I guess if you are, you’re in the fields and you’re not feeling so great and then you’ve gotta, you know, go on air and give people a good show, give people a good time. But sometimes I imagine that’s a savior because you kind of have to put on this. I thought, great, let’s have a good time. And you’re doing it for other people. You’re doing it for that feeling. It’ll give somebody else. And the connection that you have with you and your listeners is really special. So you kind of wanna keep that. So sometimes in a way it can get you out of your funk, which I think is good. 

[00:10:30] Peter: That’s actually a really interesting point because I imagine that, you know, especially as a creative right, you do these amazing DJ sets, you, you’re, you know, on the radio, whatever, and then yeah. You know, millions of people might love it, but there’s one person who posted comments somewhere that’s negative and that’s all we think about, right? The same thing happens to me in keynotes. Mm-hmm. , but it’s a real, you, you, you gave us a really interesting point, the concept of going on stage and having to put on that smile regardless of whether you’re feeling it or not. You know, you don’t have a choice, right? Mm-hmm. . So I would think that, yeah, in a lot of ways that’s probably very, very helpful because you know that which you believe you eventually achieve, so, right? So, so you, you put that happy face on, you give that speech or you, you do that set at the end of it, you’re gonna have that dopamine regardless. So it’s a nice sort of, a nice sort of, uh, I guess, cheat sheet to get out of it. 

[00:11:20] Abbie: Yeah, it actually is. Yeah, cuz it kind of gets you into that mental space, even if you really weren’t feeling it beforehand. It might be, you know, you’ve got some really bad news an hour before I’m gonna go on the radio, but then as soon as I’m on the radio, I’m there to. I’m there to give it everything and to hopefully, um, bring people great music but also, you know, some good stories and, and keep them company as well. So it can be very useful cuz it can definitely switch you into a more positive place. And like you say, access that dopamine that we are always searching for.

[00:11:51] Peter: Tell us about, um, how, first of all, how old are you, if you don’t mind telling us. 

[00:11:54] Abbie: I’m, uh, I’m 32, so I got diagnosed when I was say 31. 

[00:11:58] Peter: You’re 32 and you’re female, and you’re in an industry that’s predominantly male focused and male driven. Right? So you are coming in as sort of a, I guess, uh, what are you, A millennial, I guess. Are you a millennial or Gen Y? What are you? 

[00:12:10] Abbie: Yeah, I’ll be, I’m a millennial. I wish I was a Gen Z yeah. 

[00:12:12] Peter: You’re in the cusp of a millennial, right? You’re coming as cusp millennial. Tell us about some of the fights you’ve dealt with and some of the battles you’ve fought coming in as a millennial, a neurotypical, a neuro atypical millennial, um, who’s a female in this male dominated industry. Right. You’ve, I’m, I’m sure you’ve, you’ve had to step up several times, both in, in football as well as DJ ing, 

[00:12:32] Abbie: Yeah, I feel like I feel it the most as a DJ actually to be honest, where you’ll turn up to DJ at a festival and a club and predominantly a lot of people working in that industry, it is changing, which is great to see. But a lot of people working in that industry, uh, are male. And sometimes you can get a few patronizing kind of sound engineers who are like, oh, do you know how to use the equipment? Do you need any help with that? And you’re like, yeah, that’s why I’m here. I’m here to, I’m here to dj. I’m here to do the thing that you booked me for. Or the, or, you know, the, the place book before. So I feel like you can experience a bit of that and I think a lot of stuff like where, you know, you are doing as good a job as your male counterparts, but you’re probably not getting paid the same. But I think so much is changing. There’s a real positive shift in like entertainment, in music, in sport. To, to even things out. But I do, um, some stuff for, uh, for B B C sport and uh, a sport. Chelsea, sorry if you don’t, or sorry if people listening don’t. So I do some of their matchday live programming as well, and I, I sometimes feel most vulnerable being like a woman in sport. Cause I think often people are just looking to just dismiss what you say because that industry is still so, so male dominated. That one’s probably got the most catching up to do. Um, so dealing with that sometimes, but then it’s, I think sometimes you just have to, although we find it hard, it’s like shut out the outside noise and, and thoughts and just have real confidence and belief in what you are doing and what you are saying. That’s the only thing you can do. 

[00:14:10] Peter: Shut out the outside thoughts. I love that. So I’ve actually been a, I’ve been a Premier League fan for, for years, and I can tell you over the past few years here in America, I’d say millions more people have suddenly learned about non-American football thanks to Ted Lasso. So I think that, um, people are definitely learning a bit more , um, about it. What is your, who’s your, who’s your team? 

[00:14:31] Abbie: Uh, Chelsea. Chelsea Football Club. Yeah, I’ve been a fan since I was like six or seven. So the good times and the bad times, and the Inbetweens . 

[00:14:40] Peter: Very cool. I love this, Abbie! This has been so much fun. How can people find you? 

[00:14:44] Abbie: Uh, people can find me on socials, uh, a Abbie Abbie Mac. That’s my handle on everything. So A B B I E. Um, yeah, come and say hello! You know what? Us people with A D H D are like we, we love to connect. So yeah, please do, uh, get involved. Gimme a follow and uh, shout me in the dms and thank you so much again, Peter. It’s been so fun. 

[00:15:04] Peter: Oh, I’m so glad to have you! Guys listen to her stuff. She really is amazing, Abbie it’s pretty incredible. Abbie McCarthy, thank you so much for taking the time. 

Guys. By the time this comes out, you will probably. Have already heard the news that, uh, Faster Than Normal is being turned into a kid’s book. It is. I can give you a title now. It’s called The Boy With the Faster Brain, and it is my first attempt at writing a children’s book and I am so excited. So I will have links, uh, on where to purchase and how to purchase and how to get fun stuff like that and how to have me come in and, and talk to your schools and your kids and, and whatever soon enough. So stick to that. As always, if you know anyone that we should be interviewing, shoot us a note. Just people as cool as Abbie and all and above only. Those are the only ones we want. No, I’m kidding. Anyone, anyone you think has a great story, we would love to highlight them on the podcast. My name is Peter Shankman. I’m at Peter Shankman on all the socials. We’re at Faster normal as well, and we will see you next week. Thank you for listening and keep remembering you are gifted, not broken. We’ll see you soon!

Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were composed and produced by Steven Byrom who also produces this podcast, and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week! 


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