Finding Your Funny w/ Comic Creator Nick Seluk
Nick Seluk is the New York Times Bestselling cartoonist behind Heart and Brain comics and creator of The Awkward Yeti. He is the author/illustrator of two books with Scholastic, creator of the card game Organ ATTACK, and enjoys finding new projects and mediums to work in. Nick lives in Michigan, where he enjoys occasionally going for a very slow, painful run.
Today we’re talking about his ADHD and how he harnessed it to create a career! Enjoy!
***CORONA VIRUS EDITION***
In this episode Peter & Nick Seluk discuss:
:47- Intro and welcome Nick! Check out his work that I love here https://theawkwardyeti.com
2:12- Tell us your backstory, tell us what it was like growing up?
5:00- Growing up as a kid were your distractions primarily drawings, doodling then?
6:20- What would you say to our listeners who are emailing and saying, how do I figure out what I really want to do and how do I turn it into success, despite whatever degree I’m allegedly pursuing?
11:40- Have you had a moment where you realized/it hit you that ‘holy crap, I can make a living and survive by doing this for a living’?
13:00- Do you still suffer in any capacity from imposter syndrome?
15:24- Have you noticed any changes in the way you live your life during all this COVID madness? How are you handling it in regards to your ADD, etc?
17:43- What is a life rule, or two that you really have to keep in place, otherwise, everything just goes to shi*&?
18:20- How can people find you? Find Nick’s website at https://theawkwardyeti.com and @theawkwardyeti on Twitter INSTA and @AwkwardYeti on Facebook
18:38- Thank you Nick Seluk! And thank YOU for subscribing, reviewing and listening. Your reviews are working! Even if you’ve reviewed us before, would you please write even a short one for this episode? Each review that you post helps to ensure that word will continue to spread, and that we will all be able to reach & help more people! You can always reach me via [email protected] or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal on all of the socials.
STAY HEALTHY – STAY SAFE – PLEASE WEAR YOUR MASK.. until next time!
19:40- Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits
As always, leave us a comment below and please 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! Do you know of anyone you think should be on the FTN podcast? Shoot us a note, we’d love to hear!
We have a new sister video cast called 20MinutesInLockdown! A video podcast devoted to learning fascinating lessons from interesting humans all around the world, all in 20 minutes or less! 20 Minutes in Lockdown was born in early April of 2020, when we were in fact, in lockdown, and couldn’t do much of anything. Realizing that more than ever, people could benefit from learning from people outside of their comfort zone – people with interesting stories to tell, people with good advice, people with useful ideas that could help improve lives, we started hosting short Facebook video interviews, and we grew from there. (Plus, you can actually see my hair colors change before your very eyes!) Check it out: www.20MinutesInLockdown.com
Hey guys, Peter Shankman, welcome to another episode of Faster Than Normal. We’re going to have fun today this is going to be a great episode! I got Nick Seluk here. Nick… you’ve seen his stuff. You might not know his name, but you know, his comic. Nick is the cartoonist behind the amazing, The Awkward Yeti. Have you ever seen this? I guarantee you, you have, I’ve shared them with my ADHD audience, you probably shared them with friends. There’s no question about it because it speaks to anyone who has any type of neurodiversity going on in their lives- a hundred percent. He’s the cartoonist behind Heart and Brain comics and as I said, The Awkward Yeti. He’s the author and illustrator of two books with Scholastic, creator of the card game Organ Attack, and he enjoys finding new projects and mediums to work in. Nick lives in Michigan, where he enjoys occasionally- I love, I love this knowing for a very slow painful run. Oh my God. I’ve found my soul mate. I’ve found my, my, my… This is awesome. Nick. Welcome to Faster Than Normal man.
Thanks for having me, Peter.
Oh, this is awesome. I was just telling you before we started all, I’m a fan boy of yours, but a huge fan for years.Your, your comics speak to, they speak to everyone, but my God, I mean the, the, the ones you do where the brain just sort of goes off on us like we’re perfectly happy. Everything’s fine. And then, we’ll say something and now we’re up all night and we’re screwed. It is just beautifully done for those with ADHD, because that is literally how we live our lives. Now you have.. ADD you were telling me, so tell us your backstory, tell us what it was like growing up, where you, obviously, you said you were diagnosed around, uh, what’d you say? 38 or so?
Yeah, around the age that I am right now, 38. I, as you can imagine was not a very good student. I hung out with really intelligent people, really good students and I always thought, Oh, I must just be kind of the clown with the group. That’s fine. So, you know, this mediocre student never knew how to study. I was the one in college who was pulling all nighters with people who were studying, but I was just there distracting them. But I never did it for a test. So, um, yeah, it was just, uh, I.I needed to figure out like what’s going on with, um, my focus and everything. And I finally saw a psychiatrist and I was telling them about my anxiety and my depression and, uh, you know, things like that. And, and then I said, well, you know, maybe some of the impulsiveness, there’s some ADD element, and he’s like, yeah, Yeah. He immediately, yeah. Some, some good stuff that Adderall, um, which is, which was really great the first, week for those of you who have taken Adderall. It’s wonderful. Um, but the funny thing with my comics is I think they are pretty, uh, They do display a lot of the tendencies that I have with ADD. And I’ve even had, I think years ago, somebody said you should probably get yourself checked out over, ADD in the comments and I remember at the time I was really offended by it. Oh yeah. How dare you diagnose me? About how little attention span. I have. Um, and it turns out they were right. So if I could find them I’d probably say thanks.
Begrudgingly angry. Thanks. No, I, you know, it’s totally true though. I mean, I’ve, I’ve been on stage, you know, before I, before I got diagnosed and started making ADHD a mainstream of what I talk about, I mean said, I’d be on stage. We’d be like, wow. You know, you’re a really fast mouse and a really fast brain, you know, you should, I wonder if that does that affect you negatively? And I’d be like, bitch, please. How dare you? You know? But no, that’s exactly what it is. And, and, and I always, I always compare it to like, um, Every once in a while, you’ll catch an interview on TV or something with some sports figures, some music, musician or something who’s clearly hi at the time they’re playing it off. Like they’re playing it off like they’re not, and they’re just trying really hard to participate in the conversation, but you’re watching them and you’re watching their facial expressions. Yeah, it’s obvious you’re high, you know, stop trying to hide it. Just be high. It’s sort of exactly the same thing. Um, so tell me about you growing up as a kid, you were always on assuming, you know, even me for college, like school and whatever it wasn’t that great. Or, you know, as it were, did you, were you a, was your district or your distractions primarily, um, uh, drawings. Doodling or yeah, drawing?
Absolutely. In class. That’s all I would do. I would, I couldn’t pay any attention to anything that didn’t interest me, which was about 80% of school. So it’s any wonder I even made it to college at that rate, but yeah, I would draw comics in class and I’d share them with my friends and that was pretty much how I spent school. I never got any better at it. And I think that has something to do with the attention span too. It was just, I, I. Love the drawing, but I didn’t have the focus to sit there and, and get better. Like do fine Art had took a couple of classes here and there, but, uh, I think cartoons ended up just being the perfect medium for me. So I could express things without having to really commit to say 10 hours doing an intricate drawing or painting or something.
A lot of our listeners are students or college students, things like that are just out of college, you know? And they’re constantly emailing, Hey, I don’t have. You know, even on Adderall, even on Conserta, my attention span, you know, I’m trying to figure out what I love. Right. It seems to me that you figured out what you love and to manage, to turn it into a career. Right. You know, at least one that would seemingly support you. So what would you tell. All these kids who, you know, are, are emailing and saying, how do I figure out what I do and how do I, how do I turn it into success? You know, they’re saying, Oh, you know, I got my degree in this or that. And I just love it. I can’t imagine doing the rest of my life and I get bored and I get stressed out about it. I think there’s still very much a very much a stigma, even though it’s dropped a bit, there’s still a very much of a stigma of, um, and what you love as opposed to doing, you know, getting the 40 hour job, every job, and then doing it 40 years ago, even though that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s, you know, our parents’ generation, obviously, that’s what they have. And so it takes a very sort of enlightened parent to be okay with that, doing that and I think we have another, another generation to go before that starts to let up a little bit.
Yeah. Um, finding what you love to do is really difficult. And I, I did not go right into it. I tried, I tried to get syndicated when I was 18. I was making a strip and sending it into at least one syndicate who rejected me, of course. Well, funny thing is later, they ended up being my first publisher.
So you can take a second. You can tell us how awesome of a feeling that was.
That felt really good. I pursued one publisher because they used to publish Calvin and Hobbes.
And that’s, that was my favorite strip or one of my favorites. And, uh, so I didn’t shop around and it was just like, it’s this, or it’s nothing basically. And it worked out after a while, but I spent, you know, I went to school for, uh, I wanted to do Music Production and then I shifted over to Psychology and that ended up being really good for me because I could kind of BS my way through it because there was a lot of essays and it’s like, I can, I can kind of convince you that this makes sense. Um, so I got through my degree that way, um, you know, in science, uh, in more straightforward sciences, you can’t do that as much because you really have to stick to facts and figures and you know, there are. Real answers.
I think that is, I think that is something that we do because, you know, I have a journalism degree, right. And well, I know how to write as long as I had a right. You can’t tell me I didn’t do the assignment.
Exactly, when it came to the formatting, this is where I really struggled because I didn’t care. Um, and it’s, it’s really difficult to do something that you don’t care about. Like even with the medication they want to help you care about something they will just help you follow through to something you are willing to do. So I ended up of course, with a degree in Psychology going into Graphic Design, uh, that natural transition for somebody like me. Um, so I did Graphic Design and it kind of worked my way up and it was an art director for awhile and was managing a team and I did the whole soul sucking corporate job for about. 10 years and I hated it and I hated the people I was around. I started thinking I was one of them and I got really dark and depressing and still, I just, I put all of my energy into this thing that I really loved doing. And I already knew that I loved doing, and it was my escape. Um, and then it became my desperate attempt to get out of it. And so I think it took me about a year and a half of working on it maybe two years, but I’ve. I mean, I, I worked my ass off when I was like, uh, when I was making comics initially I was riding in the car on the way to work. I would, if I was at the stop light, I’d scratch down a quick comic and then I’d get to work. I just to take my lunch break in the car and. And do comics in there. And then like once things were going, I I’d be doing emails and shipping out orders and before work in the morning, and then after work and I still, I had kids and a wife. And so I was still busy with that too. And you know, social life, but I like when you want something bad enough, that’s the kind of work you have to put into it as I’m sure, you know, Peter.
No question about it. And you know, it’s interesting because even though you’re busting your ass and you’re constantly exhausted and you’re 24 hours a day, you know, if you’re not doing your real job, you’re doing this. So you get to, hopefully one day become your real job, no matter how much you’re doing that, it still doesn’t feel like work because you love, you love it so much that you constantly want to do it, right?
Yes, absolutely. I mean, what I do now, you know, any new projects I’m working on, it never feels like work. I’m not really thinking about, you know, what kind of, what’s this going to turn into? Um, monetarily, I like I’m working on a video game right now and I’m not really thinking about- is this video game going to make me a bunch of money. I’m thinking I really want to make video game because I’ve never made one and I don’t know much about it and I think it would be fun to try to do this. Um, there was no, Oh no, no, no. That’s all right. I was kind of trailing off. Anyway.
Have you had a moment where your, where you realized the moment hit you, where you realized, holy crap, I can make a living out of this and I can survive this and, and this is going to be, you know, this is the future I wanted. I mean, I remember when I was, when I was a kid, I was always nervous if I didn’t have a complete answer to something, if it’s not a guaranteed way of doing something and finishing something and knowing how it was gonna work out, I’d be crazy. Right. And I couldn’t, I, you know, I’d be, I’d be anxiety filled and now I’m just like, Well, yeah, I know I’m not traveling, and COVID’s hit and I’m doing some, some digital keynotes and I’ll make it, I’ll make it. And, you know, eight year old Peter be like, who the fuck is this? Right? How the hell is, how the hell is he okay with this? Not like, you know screaming and downing Xanax or whatever you had that moment, as well?
Yeah, I think so. I. Yeah. I feel that all the time, like, I, I just, I feel that I can make things work. And I remember the first time I felt like I could actually do what I wanted. It was a very early on when I was posting on Facebook for awhile. I, I got to a point where I had 33,000 followers and this was a turning point. I was working on a project and trying to start a business with like an old colleague and, um, And it wasn’t really going anywhere. And I called him and I said, you know, I’ve got 33,000 followers and I actually think this could be something, so I’m done with this project and I’m focusing on this other one. And so it was an interesting gut feeling because I think it was just the rate that I had gotten to 33,000 felt like a trajectory that would sustain and I was right. I have a 2.4 million now on Facebook. So. I think it’s pretty cool that I was seeing it that early on. Um, you know, I looked, I just looked for the patterns and things, I guess.
You know, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting. Do you still suffer in any capacity from imposter syndrome? I’m assuming you do because every everyone like us does.
Oh, big time.
Let’s talk about that for a second. Tell us about that.
Um, how do you experience it?
So the best way I can describe and positives. And I’ve done this before in the podcast that people who listen know, um, everyday I wake up sure. That today is the day. The New York times is going to have a full front page story about what a complete fraud I am and how none of the success I have is real. I’ve just fallen into it. And then obviously they don’t. But then the reason they don’t is because I don’t know when you’re important enough for New York times to do a story, a front page story on someone like me. Well, you know, and, and I get these, I get these speaking gigs that people call me in the email, me, and I’m like, Wow. It was amazing. I made so much money this year, doing what I love sitting on stage and talking. It was all just a fluke. That won’t last, it can’t be real…yet it has lasted quote unquote for over 20 years. Right. It’s completely lasted, but it’s still in my head. I see it as that.
I, I can not see my own success. I’m completely blind to it and, uh, I sometimes have to sit down and this may be maybe once a month or so. I’ll force myself to think and say, listen, you had 80,000 likes on your comic on Instagram and you are so down on yourself right now, you’re an idiot. Like you’re not seeing this for what it is. Think of it as an absolute number. Now, 80,000 people took the time to read and participate in the posts, but I just can’t even seem to see that. And I, I look at other Artists at any level of success and I think there’s so much better- they are actual cartoonists where I’m more just, I just sketch things and I can’t seem to..
I always see there might be 50,000 comments thanking me for something awesome. And then there’s a one comment who says you’re terrible. And of course that’s the one I see, the other 50,000 completely don’t matter.
Yeah, that’s the one that is more important than all the rest, they’re just being nice. But the one in a million who was all; that was like stupid. That, that person was correct. That’s the truth that one person spoke the truth.
Nobody else was willing to speak. Where do you see, um, where you, I mean, we’re, you know, we’re obviously a weird time now, right? What do you see? Have you noticed any changes in the way you live your life? We were talking about this earlier. You said you can’t go to the bar as much, but have you noticed any changes that you think might affect you or might affect that, that the focus more on neurodiversity? And one of the things I’ve noticed is that it’s so much easier. To quote, unquote, forget about the schedule that keeps me on point. It’s so much easier to forget about the fact that I have to exercise every day or I don’t have a good day. And I have, you know, it’s always easier to forget about the fact that dude, if you eat everything in the fridge, you’re going to get much, much fatter, you know, what are you seeing and how are you handling that in this sort of weird new post-apocalyptic nightmare that we’re all in?
Not having accountability and a schedule is difficult. You know, I used to have a, a strip that I did for an online publisher for web, And I think I did Two a week. So it kept me on schedule and I found that everything else kind of went along with it. So if I, I knew I had to do those and it would kind of motivate me to do my other comics. Um, but at the same time, having very little restriction over overtime. Like once I’ve gotten used to, this has been really beneficial because I’ve noticed, you know, I’ll do whatever I want whenever I want um, I’m, I’ve been running a lot more lately, like the last month. Like every other day, at least I’m running because I can, I just run what I feel like running. Right. It doesn’t have to fit into any schedule. And I like, I don’t have to be in an office or anything. So, you know, if I’ve done enough work that I feel satisfied and it’s like, Two o’clock, three o’clock in the afternoon I’ll just go out. You know, of course, absolutely. Without question in the worst possible time, I’ll get it done. And..I’m starting to hit a groove. I’ve got good projects to work on where there is some accountability, like I’m trying to get an animated series going with a company, so I have to deal with them. And then the video game I’m dealing with the program, or, you know, I have people that need me and rely on me. I think that is necessary, or I probably wouldn’t get anything done, especially a home where it has, you know, TV, iPad, phone, distracting me constantly.
What is a life rule, or two; that you have things that if you don’t do, everything just goes to shit?
Um, if I don’t do something creative, I, I am like dying inside and that kind of spirals. So I, I have to be creating something and it doesn’t matter if anybody sees it, um, I just have to be doing a project that’s like creating something new. That’s my, that’s my main thing, like that’s what drives me and keeps me going, is just being productive.
How do people find you now? Obviously the awkward Yeti, um, is, is, is we’re going to see where else do people find you?
Oh, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Those are great places. Um, and yeah, the AwkwardYeti.com.
Very, very cool. I have no doubt that people are gonna reach out to, I, I I’m so thrilled. It was funny. I, when I emailed you and sent you a message, I’m like, you know, I really would love to have you, I’m sitting here going; you have you’ve had over 200 episodes, major celebrities like Tony Robbins, why the fuck are you sitting there going, you know, beginning to get all worried that he’s what he’s going to say saying was, this was..I was excited about this. There’s no was he’s going to say yes. So I’m thrilled that you did, man. This was really awesome. And, uh, really appreciate you taking the time.
I really appreciate you inviting me on!
Most definitely. And, and we’ll definitely have you back. We’ll do some more over time in the future- And again, thank you for being here!
Guys, just a phenomenal interview with Nick from The Awkward Yeti it’s a phenomenal interview. We really appreciate him being here. If you liked what you heard as always, this is your first time you can subscribe if you liked what you heard, you could leave us a review somewhere on iTunes or Google play or wherever you download your stuff from. I think we’re even on the Alexa. Yeah. So I have to say that because there’s Alexis all in the house cancel. And if I don’t say yes, a little start bothering me what I want.So thank you so much. ADHD is a gift, not a curse, as you know, and we will see you guys again next week. Thanks for being here. Have a great day. Stay safe, wear a mask.
Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at www.FasterThanNormal.com I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at petershankman.com 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 performed by Steven Byrom and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week.