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The #1 ADHD podcast on iTunes, hosted by

NYU Business Professor Becomes ADHD Children’s Book Author- Sivan Hong

by Faster Than Normal

I want to thank you for listening and for subscribing to Faster Than Normal! I also want to tell you that if you’re listening to this one, you probably listened to other episodes as well. Because of you all, we are the number one ADHD podcast on the internet!! And if you like us, you can sponsor an episode! Head over to https://rally.io/login/ It is a lot cheaper than you think. You’ll reach… about 25k to 30,000 people in an episode and get your name out there, get your brand out there, your company out there, or just say thanks for all the interviews! We’ve brought you over 230 interviews of CEOs, celebrities, musicians, all kinds of rock stars all around the world from Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, Keith Krach from DocuSign, Danny Meyer, we’ve had Rachel Cotton, we’ve had  the band Shinedown, right? Tons and tons of interviews, and we keep bringing in new ones every week so head over to https://rally.io/creator/SHANK/?campaignId=1f99a340-203f-498e-9665-24723a5f8b7a  make it yours, we’d love to have you, thanks so much for listening!  Now to this week’s episode, we hope you enjoy it!

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Sivan Hong’s career spans over two decades in several industries and professions, including holding esteemed positions as a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and former partner at The Bridgespan Group. Today, Sivan authors and illustrates the children’s book series The Super Fun Day Books, including “Benny J. and the Horrible Halloween”, “George J. and the Miserable Monday” and “Emily D. and the Fearful First Day”.  Her inspiring books focus on neurodiverse children, who overcome their challenges with perseverance and bravery.  Sivan also occupies seats on the Board of several foundations and non-profits. When she’s not working, Sivan enjoys being a wife to her lovely husband and a mother to their two wonderful children.  They have a dog and cat and live a quiet and contented life in their home in Connecticut. Today we learn what caused her to make such a drastic career switch and the inspiration behind her newfound love as an Author. Enjoy! 

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In this episode Peter and Sivan discuss:    

2:10  –  Intro and welcome Sivan Hong!!

3:04    So how in the world did you go from being a Professor at NYU Stern and a partner at Bridgespan, to writing children’s books for neurodiverse kids?   

3:34    Why Sivan changed careers

4:00    What did Sivan do over COVID?

5:05    On the ever-changing definition of neurodiversity. Tell us how your experience has been getting the “ADHD is a gift! “message across to people, which is not always something people want to hear.

6:27    On the challenge of undoing ‘social programming’/branding

7:21    On Peter’s struggle when his book first launched. 

8:26  –  Though we’re trying, not everyone considers neurodiversity, or even being ‘not the same’ truly a gift, not a curse. How do you teach your children about it?

10:03 – On playing into your strengths and using them as superpowers, as opposed to focusing on any negative.  

11:05    Tell us about your books and more about how they were inspired? (Links to ref’s below)

13:28    Where can everyone find you, and buy your books? 

Benny J. and the Horrible Halloween  George J. and the Miserable Monday  Emily D. and the Fearful First Day. You can get them, [above], on Amazon and also via her website  https://sivanhong.com/  Sivan on the Socials:  sivan_hong_author on INSTA  and @sivanhongauthor on Facebook

14:00    THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH BOOKS LIKE THESE! Awesome work & thank you Sivan!

14:12    Guys, as always, we are here for you and we love what the responses and the notes that we get from you. So please continue to do that, tell us who you want to hear on the podcast, anything at all, we’d love to know.  Leave us a review on any of the places you get your podcasts, and if you can ever, if you ever need our help, I’m www.petershankman.com and you can reach out anytime via peter@shankman.com or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal 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! 

14:29    Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits

TRANSCRIPT: 

Hi guys. My name is Peter Shankman. I’m the host of Faster Than Normal.  I want to thank you for listening, and I also want to tell you that if you’ve listened to this one, you probably listened to other episodes as well of Faster Than Normal.  We are the number one ADHD podcast on the internet, and if you like us, you can sponsor an episode.  Head over to shank.mn/sponsor  – that’s shank.mn/sponsor. It is alot cheaper than you think. You’ll reach… God about 25….30,000 people in an episode and get your name out there, get your brand out there, your company out there, or just say, thanks for all the interviews we brought you over 230 interviews of CEOs, celebrities, musicians, all kinds of rock stars all around the world from we’ve had… God, who have we had…we’ve had Tony Robbins, Seth Goden, Keith Krach from DocuSign, we’ve had Rachel Cotton, we’ve had  the band Shinedown, right? Tons and tons of interviews, and we keep bringing in new ones every week, so head over to shank.mn/sponsor  grab an episode, make it yours, we’d love to have you, thanks for listening.  Here’s this week’s episode, hope you enjoy it.

Hey everyone, Peter Shankman here, and this is another episode of Faster Than Normal, but you know that, ‘cause you subscribed and you’re listening, and what else would you expect?  Anyway, glad to have you here, great to be coming to you today, again from New York City in a rainy New York City, I don’t think it’s ever going to be sunny again. But either way, it is a lovely day when you’re up and awake and you know, a little rain into every life, little rain must fall, so good to be here. We have a guest today who somehow managed to go from being a Professor at https://www.stern.nyu.edu/… to author and illustrator of children’s books for neuro-diverse children.  So we’re going to talk to Sivan Hong, and we’re going to figure out how one goes from being a professor at NYU and a former partner at the https://www.bridgespan.org/?gclid=CjwKCAjwiLGGBhAqEiwAgq3q_tuyxlwvwXJvl6cltkhHAbTye-zgYPQfad_79-Fp8jqPIQ6QI4y0nxoCbDwQAvD_BwE to authoring and illustrating children’s books, which is pretty cool.  She also sits on several non-profits and does a bunch of stuff and lives in Connecticut and says… says she has a lovely husband and is a Mother to two wonderful children. They have a dog and a cat and they live a quiet and contented life, in Connecticut. How…. uh, we’ll talk later about how it’s possible to be content in Connecticut, cause I’ve never, I don’t understand that, but either way, Sivan, welcome to Faster Than Normal.  

Thank you so much for having me Peter. 

So, okay, so, you know, just living your life, professor at https://www.stern.nyu.edu/ the partner at https://www.bridgespan.org/…. and one day you just wake up said, “Hey, you know, I’m bored, I’m gonna start doing children’s books for neuro-diverse kids, sort of exactly how it happened?”

Exactly how {laughter} exactly how it happened. Um, no. I had this fast track career. And then I became a Mother of a kid who was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD, nd I realized that I couldn’t have this fast-track  career and give him all the attention that I needed to give him. And then I had another kid with ADHD and so I set up, OK, I did the career thing. I was a professor, I was a partner. I did all of this other stuff, right now I’m going to focus a lot of my attention on being a Mom, um, which is very kind of 1950’s of me, but I’m totally at peace with that.  And over COVID instead of making sourdough bread and, um, and doing all those other things that people were doing, mm, my undiagnosed ADHD came out and I wrote three children’s books about neuro diversity. And so my hyper-focus was on that, because I realized as my kids are growing up and they’re still young, they’re seven and nine, there weren’t a lot of books out there that highlighted how cool it was to be neurodiverse and talked about characters with neuro-diversity and showed how successful they were in the problems that they faced.  And I felt like this was something that I needed to do. I am a big proponent of the fact that neuro-diversity is a gift, right? Like my kids refer to themselves as X-Men and that’s what, um, I wanted to share. So that’s how I went from professor to children’s book author. 

I love that X-Men, that’s very very cool.  Tell me about, you know, it’s interesting, so the concept of neuro-diversity it is changing, right, and podcasts like this and, and books like yours, things like that, we’re starting to figure out, sort of the fact that it’s not so much a diagnosis, right? There’s….there’s a gift to it, um, if you understand how to use it.  What has been your experience, um, trying to get that message across, because it is a difficult message sometimes that people don’t necessarily wanna hear.  

So it’s interesting. I think you look at it from a couple of different directions. So in beautiful Westport, Connecticut, where I live, there is a separate PTA for special education parents. And you have a group of parents in this town who say, you know what, we’re going to embrace the differences in our kids and we are going to do everything we can to advocate for them and to create this community where, when a parent get a diagnosis for their kid and it can be super isolating and really, really scary… this group of parents is there to kind of show them the way to be like, no, you know, there’s a path to move forward and it’s such a kind of cross to bear. What struck me as really interesting, and I’m fairly new to social media, which is embarrassing, but true. Um, when I started to post a lot about being, um, proud proud of your neuro-diversity and showing it as a gift, there were some people who really took offense to it. 

Oh yeah, I believe you.

There were people who were, you know, who are like, no, it’s a disability or no, it has to be this deficit, and the world needs to view us as people with a deficit. And, uh, I’m so taken aback by that way of thinking, right? When you step back and you think about the incredible geniuses that we have in this world today, and then frankly, that we’ve had in the past, we could not be where we are as a society today without neuro-diversity.

No question about it… and it’s so true what you say though… because, you know, for whatever reason, some people are stuck in this opinion that, oh my God, it’s a curse, and you know, it’s a negative diagnosis and it, it goes against, uh, the good and, and, and, and you’re broken. I remember when Faster Than Normal came out, the book… when the book came out… actually wasn’t allowed to post, I got banned from the ADHD https://www.reddit.com/subreddits/… on https://www.reddit.com/… because they don’t look at it as a gift, and they’re like, oh, well, you know, he, he thinks that it’s positive and it’s really not. And, and, and we don’t want to, have this conversation. I’m like, you guys, you’re being so obtuse, it’s incredible. 

Well, and it’s a huge disservice to our kids, right? Like I don’t want my kids walking around feeling like there’s something wrong with them, in fact, my seven-year-old said the other day, he’s like, “Mom, I’m not telling a lot of people that I have ADHD because I don’t want to brag.” And I’m like….

Ah, I love it!

…., that is the right attitude. That is what we want our kids to feel, right. Because that’s the only way they are going to capitalize on the gifts they have.  If they walk around feeling terrible about themselves, because they’re different, and that their brain is wired differently, they’re never going to succeed. They’re never going to be able to achieve all the things that they should be able to achieve. 

That is awesome. I love that. I don’t want to tell people, cause I don’t want to brag.  That’s wonderful. Have there been…. talk about the negatives. Um, cause I’m, I’m assuming it hasn’t been, uh, uh, you know,,,, perfect the entire time. So what is your, what is your kid has had to learn and adapt to? 

It’s not perfect, because any elementary school kid, frankly, middle school and high school kids, they want to be the same, right?  Like… different isn’t a good thing, and, um, my kids are bi-racial, so they look different to begin with, um, and then I’m adding this additional layer of complexity around their identity, um, and, and that causes problems right?  In the same way that my nine-year-old has said to me, I wish I was white. There have been times where he said, I wish I was normal, right?  And, and he’s like, you know, his autism impedes his ability to be the kind of athlete that he wants to be, you know, like he dreams about being in the NBA and he’ll say things like, I think my autism is going to prevent me from being in the NBA. And in my mind, I’m like, it’s pretty much because you’re half Jewish that’s going to prevent you from being in the NBA… {laughter}  …, but in that kind of mentality is, is the heart breaking part. But it’s our job as parents. It’s our job as a community, it’s a job as society to turn it around and I’m like, you know, you may not be an NBA player, but one day you have the opportunity to own a team and that’s way cooler. So like how do you turn it around and make it a strength even when they have those heartbreaking moments?

Yeah, no question about it. And you know, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting because the, um, I mean, sports is never my thing either, uh, uh, but you know, I discovered acting right and then discovered singing, other things that I love to do. I’m being on stage. I mean, I get paid now to speak in front of thousands of people, and I’m amazed that every single time I do it, that, you know, that it works so well and I enjoy it so much, but it’s, it’s exactly that it’s, it’s playing into it, the strengths, right?  And not looking at the negatives, but focusing on playing into the strengths.  

Right, and the same way that there are differences across the board in people, you never want to focus on the negative side of those differences.  You recognize that it’s there, but that’s not what the focus is supposed to be on. The focus is supposed to be on, what do we do to succeed, right?  And if that means that you have to wear headphones because you have a sensory issue and loud noises is a problem, so you wear headphones, but then you move on and you succeed right? That’s what we need to be focusing on.

No question about it. Tell us about the books.   

So, um, the two that are published already, one is called, um, https://www.amazon.com/Benny-Horrible-Halloween-Sivan-Hong/dp/B08W7DWJ8Z and it’s a true story of, my now… nine year old being terrified of being in the Halloween parade in kindergarten., and, um, the true story is, is that he didn’t actually go..  Like it, it felt way too overwhelming for him to participate in something like that and so the following year with the help of his special education teacher, we came up with a plan and he found a way to do it, and now he loves Halloween. And so it’s, it’s a book about kind of overcoming your challenges, and what I love about it, is that you do see a character in this book wearing headphones, right?  I have yet to find a children’s book with that kind of illustration and it totally normalized the difference. And then the second book, um, is really kind of the story of my seven year old with ADHD who every Monday, hates school right?   And has this incredible school anxiety, because as we know, it can be overwhelming. It can be hard, everything could possibly change and the things that he does in order to overcome and turn those Mondays around to being a good day. And then the book that’s coming out this summer, it’s called https://www.amazon.com/Emily-Fearful-First-Super-Books-ebook/dp/B094S9RSJ3/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=emily+d+and+the+fearful+first+day&qid=1624048339&s=books&sr=1-1 and that one’s about, you know, starting a new class and, and that character also is neuro-diverse. And now I have to kind of slow down writing and illustrating these books because my publicist is like, no, no, no, no, you can’t release a book every 3 months, but, but I, for me, I’m in introvert and I meant, um, I’m fairly positive that I have dyslexia and ADHD and actually, today, I’m going for my neuro psych evaluation because my kids were like, we did it, you should do it, Mom….

… there you go….

and I was like, yup, I’m all in. I’m all in. Um, but it’s really easy to step back and just hyper-focus on this. Um, but I realized that in order to be a, uh, an author that you have to take some time to market your books and, and talk about them and do podcasts like this, which are really, um, cool.  So that’s where my focus is on right now. 

Awesome. I love it. So let’s, uh, tell me, then tell us the name of the books again and where can people find them,,, I know one is https://www.amazon.com/Benny-Horrible-Halloween-Sivan-Hong/dp/B08W7DWJ8Z and then https://www.amazon.com/Emily-Fearful-First-Super-Books-ebook/dp/B094S9RSJ3/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=emily+d+and+the+fearful+first+day&qid=1624048339&s=books&sr=1

Right, and you can get them on Amazon and you can get them on my website at https://sivanhong.com/ and then, um, you can follow me on social media at https://www.instagram.com/sivan_hong_author/  um, on Instagram and then on Facebook as well. 

Awesome, Sivan Hong, thank you for taking the time to be on Faster Than Normal Sivan, I really appreciate you’re…. you’re you’re doing great stuff that the, there are not enough books out there that explain to kids that they are not broken, that they’re gifted, and so I love the fact that you’re doing that and you’re, you’re filling it very, very needed uh, niche. 

Thank you so much for having me, Peter, this was a blast.

By all means.  Guys as always, you’re listening to Faster Than Normal.  If you like what you hear, drop us a review note, uh, leave us a note, drop me a note, let me know you’re out there. It gets lonely here in my apartment sometimes, so always happy to hear from everyone, but that being said, thank you for listening, we’ll see you again soon. 

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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 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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