Overclocking the ADHD Brain via Musical Energy w/ Focus At Will Founder Will Henshall
Will Henshall is a Los Angeles based tech entrepreneur, inventor and music producer. He was the founding member and main writer in the UK pop soul band Londonbeat. Their massive early 90s hit ‘I’ve Been Thinking About You’ reached #1 in the Billboard chart and was the top selling single in all major territories and won him BMI/PRS songwriter of the year. In the mid 90s, he founded San Francisco based audio tech company Rocket Network. The “DigiDelivery” media transfer system, now part of ProTools 12 Cloud collaboration, is a standard tool used everyday in pro audio production for TV, movies and music. He sold the company to Avid in 2003. His most recent start up is www.focusatwill.com, a science driven instrumental music streaming service (2m users) that helps people at work and study reduce distractions and be more productive. He holds 5 patents, and has a new one in the oven! Today we talk about how anyone who isn’t boring probably has ADHD! Just kidding, sort of, enjoy!
***CORONA VIRUS EDITION***
In this episode Peter & Will Henshall discuss:
:50 – Intro and welcome Will!!
3:15 – So you moved from the Musicbiz into Tech? Ref: Avid Cloud Collaboration
5:44 – About how www.focusatwill.com came to be
13:05 – On the percentage of users that are either ADHD or ADD or other?
16:16 – Ref: Left Field Labs
18:35 – How do we continue to prove to people that this works!? On next steps for Focus At Will
22:39 – Thank you Will Henshall! 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@example.com or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal on all of the socials. 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!
23:08- Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits
Hey guys, Peter Shankman. Welcome to another episode of Faster Than Normal. I’m thrilled that you’re here, as always, we tend to make ADHD a gift, not a curse, and we want you to see that as well. You know, it’s funny every once in a while, when someone asks, “Hey, can I come on your podcast?” Is it, they have a good story? And I say sure, that sounds great, and I have my assistant collect their background, and their bio and their, and their headshot and all that, and because of ADHD, I usually look at it in about four seconds before the interview. And, um, I had, I’d known about my guests and about his project called https://www.focusatwill.com/ I had known about him for a while. It’s a…. it’s a, it’s a science driven, instrumental music streaming service with over 2 million users, it helps people work and study. It reduces distractions, and be more productive. But what I didn’t know about Will Henshall, until I read his bio and literally, pardon my French lost my shit. He was the founding member and main writer of the UK pop soul band, London Beat. And if you don’t remember London Beat, perhaps…. Will is going to play a little, a little clip of London Beats, their number one song that you will, you will totally remember…. that blew my mind. So at some point, at some point, Will,,, you will play?
First of all, thank you for that fantastic introduction. Second of all, yeah. (plays clip of song…) I’ve been thinking about you too, Peter. (plays clip of song…) This was number one all over the world in the nineties. I was the guitarist and I was the white guy.
I can’t… oh my God. I……
I wasn’t even, so, I mean, that was the thing. I looked at your picture and I’m like, wait, I can swear everyone in that group was black and I watched the video again and surely enough, there you are.
We always took photographs in a way that the skin tone wasn’t particularly obvious.
Oh my God. I mean, I remember that sounds like it was yesterday. It’s still one of my all time favorites. It’s on my it’s on my running mix. I’m going to go out…. I’m going out for a run after this, uh, after this interview, and …he’s pulled out the guitar, here we go.
Um, yeah, for viewers at home, uh, without, people listening (plays guitar) Yeah, it’s a solo, not particularly well played, cause it’s early in the morning for me.
It is indeed, and I appreciate you taking the time to come on this early. You know, it’s funny. I, we, we could spend it if we don’t, if we don’t switch topics, we can talk all day about how much I love that song, but don’t,,,,, that was your thing, OK, you did that, and then, and then you went to, you went to tech, right? So you had a company also that you, you, um, uh, let me, let me, let me see if I got this right. You had Rocket Network. Yeah, was, was, became part of ProTools.
And then Pro Tools was sold to Abbott…
Uh, yes, not quite in that order.
OK, something like that.
Avid, done Pro Tools and then Rocket Network, which is a company I founded in 94. We raised just under $50 million in the 90’s, um, Paul Allen and Cisco, and a bunch of other investors, and we created something that is now https://www.avid.com/pro-tools/cloud-collaboration so if anybody knows Pro Tools or media editing tools, they’re the kind of the standards in the entertainment business, for making media and, um, yeah, you’re probably using our tech. The first projects that used the technology in the back in the day were Eric Clapton, Prince, and then, uh, Peter Jackson’s new movie. Um, and, uh, I think Harry Potter’s first….
So, no one’s special is what you’re saying…
Yeah, and it was very cool, it was a system that, um, shipped around the component pieces of professional audio, various securely, so that…
Unbelievable, if I remember correctly, Avid…. actually, it started out as a company called Diva and Diva was just Avid, uh, spelled backwards. And they had a group who started DIVA, started in Boston.
And I worked… I interned for them. I helped them, uh, create, uh, like their first logo, one of their first logos back in like 92. Yeah. My RA, the RA, my dorm, uh, worked for them and, and he’s like, Hey, you know, you know, computers, come, come make a logo. And yeah. Yeah, definitely. Ridiculously small world.
Yes, I come from a, you know, yeah., you, you, you mentioned. Yes. I was, uh, uh, a musician and we had, we had, uh, uh, many hits over the years as the best known one. Um, I quit the band in ‘94 and I come from a long series of British inventors. My brother was an inventor……. my Dad’s an inventor, my Grandfather, my Great-Grandfather and, um, so it’s kind of built in. I remember always like my Granddad saying that door handles in the wrong place, or you know, that this is not yeah. who designed this can opener, you know? Uh, so it’s kind of in the brain and because I was always interested in digital things early and particularly digital audio, it led me perfectly into a place where I met Matt Mueller and a couple of other guys, and we founded Rocket Network. Actually I’ve got five patents, my name’s on five patents, which I’m very proud of.
5:44 It is very cool. Yes, yeah. alright. I want to, I…. I can talk about this all day. Let’s, you know, there’s a podcast for the neuro-diverse let’s talk about https://www.focusatwill.com/ because I’m actually a fan of it. Um, why don’t you give us, for those who don’t know what https://www.focusatwill.com/ is, give us a description of it. And, um, then I’ll tell you why I love it.
Thank you, Peter. Well, this is a unique music service and it is a library of material you can’t find it anywhere else. That is, uh, uh, delivered to each user in a very unique way and you… you could think of it as, um, you know, ADD by the way, is close and dear and close to my heart. I am myself, most of my friends are, I find anybody who isn’t boring and it just means…
Steven, Steven there’s, there’s our subhead. Anyone who wasn’t boring, has ADHD….
That’s of course not. Um, It just means as my understanding of ADHD is it just means that you’ve got to be able to focus and concentrate you need to have a lot of stuff going on at the same time, so we are the people that are good in a crisis, right? We are the people that have got like a TV on over there, a game on over here, a talking book on over here, some music here, and then we’re able to sit and relax. So I didn’t discover this until I was in the band in, in, um, the Rocket Network company. And the reason why I learned was I went from running a band and being very active to inventing this kind of networking audio technology to ending up when we sold to Avid, to actually sitting in a cubicle (laughter)
Welcome to the new world…
And I tried to say, I was the boss before and now I sold my business, I was reporting to some middle -level managers and I was like, listen, “I….I know you guys have a policy of people being in the office, but I can’t get anything done here.” Well, you gotta be in the office. I’m like, where’s your deliverable, William. I’m like, ah, I’m sitting here staring at the walls. So I started to try and find music that would help me block out the sound of everybody else, and it was impossible for me. It was not, I just couldn’t find it. And then people would say to me, Oh, you’re kind of hyper. Why don’t you just find something to chill you the F out and be like, I’ve listened to this. (plays music) It’s intuitive to the public. That if someone is kinda hyper, like all my favorite people, you play them something to chill them out, or maybe something like this. I’m playing some things on folks that will buy though in the background, the answer is (buzzer sound) that won’t work at all, as you and your listeners know, umhttps://drhallowell.com/, who I’m assuming, you know…
I know Ned very well, he wrote the foreword for my book.
Yeah. Yeah, um, I met Ned in about eight years ago when he called me up. Now I’d heard of him and read his book called https://www.amazon.com/dp/0307743152ed his bestselling book on Amazon., he’s he’s written a few best sellers, all about ADHD and why it’s the learning difference, not a disorder. And I get this call and this voice goes to “Hi, I’m Ned Hallowell. I can’t do his voice, I’m Ned Halowell in that Boston kind of voice, and he goes, “are you Will from https://www.focusatwill.com/ and he goes, I’m Ned from Focus on Ned, and he said, I have been listening to your music to write my new book, which then was called, Driven to Distraction at work. And he said, I’ve put you in the book. And I was like, wow, that is, wow, this is from the horse’s mouth, right? This is Ned himself telling me that. So we got…I invited him to be on our science, uh, board and got to know him very well, and with his help, and with another scientist that’s in our book, Dr. Evian Gordon from https://www.totalbrain.com/about-us/ in San Francisco. With the two of them, we started honing into the idea in the same way that, um, stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin and drinking so much coffee. Over clock, the ADHD brain and calm you down. We started to work on the idea that there are energies in an audio stream that’ll do the same thing. 5% of our users in folks that will 5% listen to this channel that I’m just about to play, it’s called ADHD Type 1, and they listened to this.. 8hrs a day, 5 days a week. It’s actually just warming up. Here we go, so to anyone that doesn’t have ADHD, that sounds like an incredible noise, but if you actually do have ADHD or ADD, right, this will help you enormously.
Yep, no question about it.
What it’s doing, is overclocking the brain, and, um, Ned explained it to me in a way that I’ve never heard it explained before he said, William, your brain… all of our human brains, it doesn’t matter where you come from… gender, it doesn’t matter. We’re all wired the same, this clock, the back of your head, about every four times a second, it goes, talk to Peter, talk to Peter, talk to Peter, talk to Peter. He said, it’s like the cocks on the rowboats, you know, there’s the person that’s like going “PULL!”, right? And you go pull like this four times the second. And so those of us with ADHD by the way, Hallowell himself is insanely ADHD. That’s part of the reason why he does the work? I think he said, what happens is that clock is running slowly. So it goes, talk to Peter, and then my consciousness is like, Whoa, what’s that over there? And then, then it goes, talk to Peter, right? And so what’s happening is it’s like the kids in the backseat are always going crazy cause they haven’t got something to do. And so we, uh, we started experimenting with different types of audio that clock the brain to speed that clock up. I mean, the irony is as you and your listeners know, the reason that we have ADHD is that clock is running slowly, not fast.
If you play some music slow, it’s going to make it worse.
Right. Right. It’s an interesting…. it’s an interesting take on it because I know that for me, uh, you know, we started this off by fanboying about how much I love that song, but the the fact that it is it’s one of those songs with a fast beat, with, you know, powerful hook, powerful melody that allows me when I’m exercising to focus as well as I want and focus on the run and run faster and train harder, and music for me has always done that. Um, and so the concept of, of, of. audio as a whole to keep the brain focused is, you know, the funny part is, is that when we were growing up and ADHD didn’t exist, it was sit down, you’re disrupting the class disease. Um, when I was dealing with that, I remember I’d come home, I’d start my homework, I’d put on music, and my parents who were music teachers, that was the irony, they were both public school music teachers. nope, you shut it off, you’ve got to focus on, we’re going to pay attention to school, and I was dedicating attention to the score. The music helped me do that, and now of course we know the difference. So what percentage of your users, if you have any idea, uh, would you say are using this, are neuro diverse are ADD/ADHD, um, I mean, you said 5% listen to that track, but…
Yaah, um, it’s about 20% and, uh, I prefer instead of using terms of just neuro-diverse or I just say my favorite people. There are probably and objectively many, I mean, here, here’s the real question. Peter, why to human beings? Why did we evolve to have a percentage of people like that? Well, the answer is we are good in a crisis. We are the kind of people that can do highly stressful work, such as, um, air, traffic control, battlefield surgeons. Um, uh, how about, uh, how about fifth grade teachers? Um, right. Police work. These are all things that when this, a lot of stuff going on we’re very calm, and if you and I were back in the day, we’re in the, you know, we are like thousands of years ago and we’re in the, in the encampment with our tribe, and there’s arrows coming over the top. You or I, and people like us, the neuro-diverse people, we are the people that are going to go… I got this.
As everyone is running around like a chicken with its head cut off and we’re like, nope, I got this.
The problem is, is that, when there’s a crisis, we’re great. But for the now, for the… we have to sit there and focus on expense reports or in your case, sit in that office and get that work done, it’s not as easy.
So to answer your question about, uh, how, how many people are there, I can actually answer it with audio. I played you that, uh, crazy ADHD music, um, about 30% of the rest of our audience listened to uptempo.
I like that.
So this is, it’s kind of an, an uptempo transit channel. It has, it has thousands and thousands of tracks, but the tracks, they don’t have DJ drops, right? they don’t have, um, vocals of any kind, and there’s some very specific things about the speed and the pulses within it. Um, it works for people who are kind of veering towards easily distracted, but not really. It kind of doesn’t overlap. And then about another 30% or so of our audience, um, this is now as you can tell, nearly 70%, uh, listen to this. (plays music) This is called Alpha Chill. And this is a typical track, speed is a little lower. It still keeps you going, but it’s not quite so intense, right? So to answer your question specifically, about 20% of our users are in that higher energy date they are. So we did a, I do a lot of surveys in the business and we have, um, we have, uh, an enterprise product where, you know, companies get this for their, uh, their employees. And we just had a company called https://www.leftfieldlabs.com/ in LA. They’re one of the Google, internal Google, um, ad agencies, and, uh, they had like just over a hundred users and they bore out something that we found a lot. We… what we do is we give a hundred accounts to them and then they come back to us and tell us how many of their employees use us all the time… of that, how many are interested? And the answer is usually about 25%, 20, 25% of any given company. You find this and go, wow. So that’s part of our sales pitch. Here’s the thing, I know the CEO and I called him up and I said, Hey, that’s fascinating. Would you mind telling me who the 20% are? Is there a pattern then he laughed and he said, yes, it is my C-suite. It is my most valuable players, it is my employees, the MVP, it is, uh, the people who are kind of difficult to deal with. And I said, If you looked at your kind of payroll costs, what percentage is this core group? He said, they’re my most important people. And it represents 80% of my payroll.
I believe it.
So we found this often that about 20% of the population who are usually the most talented, the most productive, the most valuable, are also the most easily distracted. Definitely.
My people. This is the entrepreneurs. This is the… there’s the people who make things done. If you, I tell people who are not in this world who are not neuro-typical, who doesn’t understand, you know, non-tibial people. I go, Elon Musk. He defines someone who is hyper hyper, hyper. I mean, good brief. I mean, just watching him talk. I have to just go.And then you think about a lot of other well-known fairy capable, productive people, Steve Jobs, Oprah, Allen.
I write about, I write about all these people in the book, the Faster Than Normal the book, and we interviewed a ton of them as well. I have friends all over the world who are the exact same brain as me. Um, tell me, cause I wanna, I wanna be respectful of your time. Tell me about, so, so it’s Focusatwill.com, and it’s, um, I mean, I, like I said, I love it. Um, where are you, where do you see it going? I mean, first of all, I’ll take it a step back. How do we convince more people that this actually works? Because I think that a lot of, you know, we’re seeing, I think the pandemic has pushed us into being able to try new things and being willing to try new things, um, without as much backlash as there used to be. So are you, are you continuing to pitch for, um, for consumers or are you starting to look towards, uh, the enterprise aspect of it?
Actually, we have about half consumers, which is individuals purchasing and then half, um, enterprise sales. Um, the pandemic was, was interesting. We did well because if you are stressed, and under pressure remotely working for the first time, remember a lot of people with ADHD like this, we’d like to go into an office because the bustle that kind of helps us. And if all of a sudden you’re at home on your own delivering things, and this has been an absolute godsend for a lot of people. So our business went up actually, uh, during the, during the year., and. It’s the new normal, right? There’s a lot of people not going back to work. And what are, uh, what of I get a lot of mail from being artists. I’ve got a couple of million users. And one of the things that they’ve said is that the system has a timer on it. So you can figure out how long your perfect session is. Most people it’s about, it’s between 25, which is one session minutes, and right through to quite a lot of people have set it at 80 minutes. So you’re doing 80 minute work sessions. You can get, you get a lot done. And they say, if you have a pair of noise canceling headphones, and you have this app, it becomes like your, blankie, it becomes like that’s what they do, to get…stuff done, right?
it becomes like a cocoon
I mean, that’s the premise of most people with ADHD find, is that they get into some sort of zone, they figured out where that zone is. For me, it used to be on an airplane. I’d fly to Tokyo to give a speech, I’d write for 14 straight hours. Yes, it was, it was amazing. Um, and so, so having to find that new place, so no, you, you put those headphones on, you shut out the rest of the world, you shut off the distractions and you do that, whatever way works for you. But what you’re doing is you are allowing yourself essentially putting on horse blinders, and you’re focusing on that, which you need to focus on without the ooh, what’s over there.
Well, yeah, something I didn’t talk about yet, which I’ll just mention quickly is that all music is not the same. If you listen to music with vocals….music that’s designed to entertain you, which is pretty much anything out there, that’s why it’s successful, It’s engaging. Um, it is gonna… you’ve replaced one problem with another. So. yes. You can’t hear all the noise around or you’re trying to get in your zone, on the other hand, you’re singing it.
You’re singing the song, exactly.
Snoop Dog, whatever you like to listen to.
It’s very true.
So the focus music is designed and the system has an onboarding, uh, quiz that if you take it at it’s 17 questions and it has about an 80% accuracy of, um, determining which genre of music on the system will work best for you, and we find 85% of the people that use our system when they find their genre, each, um, each channel has a, a low, medium and a high setting., so there’s really about 36 channels on the system, 85% of our users when they find it and they dial it and they go in on it, they never change because it just…works.
Yeah. That’s awesome. So it’s Focusatwill.com How do people find you? Are you, are you online? Are you on Insta, so what’s your, what’s your story?
Hi, first of all, I’m fascinated with productivity and ADHD. It is my life, and I love to hear from people, so anyone listening, just, just write me, tell me how he found the system, what works, um, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s and um, as I said, I’m, I’m always super interested and, uh, remember, there’s a channel on this system called ADHD Type 1 which if you’ve got to get stuff done today, will really help you.
I love it. Will, we’re going to have you back again, we’ll have you on the podcast in a couple months, again. Thank you so much for taking the time. It was really, really appreciated. And what a pleasure to talk to it, to talk to you, it’s truly great.
22:40 Guys, as always Faster Than Normal is for you. Let us know what you want to hear, let us know who you want to hear, let us know if you want us to play I’ve Been Thinking About You, some more ‘cause we can do that too. Again, that has to be a cue, you’ve got to cue it up one more time. I’ll just cue it up here. It is.
This is a very bad choice to listen to when you’re trying to work.
Oh, without question, but for exercise, you can’t beat it. It’s different, right? Yes.
All right guys. See you next week. Thanks for listening. My name is Peter Shankman.
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.