250,000-mile Man: Peter Shankman’s Faster than Normal Life in the Sky

Frequent flyers, meet your faster than normal king.

Peter Shankman is an author, entrepreneur, and corporate keynote speaker who flies roughly 250,000 miles each year. His travel chops rival those of Ryan Bingham, George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air”. Thankfully, Peter doesn’t fly around firing people.

For Peter, airplanes are more than just man-made wonders and speedy transportation—they’re his writing studio. Nearly all of his books and blog posts were written on board an airplane, and he once booked back-to-back trans-Pacific flights simply to get some work done. Peter refers to being on a plane as “the ultimate zone of focus”.

I recently reached out to Peter for two reasons: (1) I wanted to thank him for writing his latest book, Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain; and (2) I’m fascinated by his career and lifestyle, and I wanted to learn more about the man behind the miles.

Peter graciously spared some time for an interview via email. Check out our conversation below. Enjoy!

AS: What’s it like to have people fly you across the planet just to meet you and learn from you?

PS: It's strange. I've never thought of myself as someone from whom people could learn. It's humbling, and it's so flattering. I hope I can continue to live up to what people expect.

AS: What’s the all-time best perk of being a rock star frequent flyer?

PS: Honestly? It's being able to board first. The second I get on the plane, I'm working. So for me, it's about being able to sit down, take out my laptop, and start writing. Those people who say "oh, it's the upgrades and the drinks and the whatever…”. That's not what I'm about.

Peter Shankman Headshot
Photo courtesy of Peter Shankman

AS: What’s it like to have people fly you across the planet just to meet you and learn from you?

PS: It's strange. I've never thought of myself as someone from whom people could learn. It's humbling, and it's so flattering. I hope I can continue to live up to what people expect.

AS: What’s the all-time best perk of being a rock star frequent flyer?

PS: Honestly? It's being able to board first. The second I get on the plane, I'm working. So for me, it's about being able to sit down, take out my laptop, and start writing. Those people who say "oh, it's the upgrades and the drinks and the whatever…”. That's not what I'm about.

AS: I’ve read that you donate most of your frequent flyer miles to strangers. In fact, you donate more miles every year than most people earn in a lifetime. What inspired such a kind and generous act?

PS: The last thing I want to do when I'm home with my daughter is leave. So I don't use my miles. I have a very small family, and my assistant can only take so many vacations. The miles add up. So I'm happy I can give them away to people. I believe that if you've had any modicum of success, you have a responsibility to send the elevator back down.

AS: You’ve referred to airplanes as a private writing studio, and you’ve even booked flights just to get some work done. What is it about being on a plane that makes you so productive?

PS: There's nothing else to do. I can't walk off the plane. I can't go for a run. I can't play with my cat. I'm sitting in a seat with my laptop and a pair of headphones, and that's it. It's the ultimate zone of focus.

AS: Suppose you can use Tinder to choose the perfect seatmate for a 13-hour flight—but you will never see them again. Describe the person who’d make you swipe right.

PS: Either someone who works as hard as me, so that we can work together uninterrupted for 13 hours, or I suppose someone who's willing to talk the entire time and share great stories. That said, I should mention that I don't use dating apps. 🙂

AS: There are two types of flyers, those who pay attention to the model of aircraft they’re on and those who don’t give a damn. Which are you?

PS: I love the different types of planes. I love knowing about the engines, the max thrust, the build and specific design... I'm kind of a geek. I'm still amazed we can get into an airplane in one place and land 14 hours later on the other side of the world. Part of me truly believes it's magical.

AS: Imagine you have an eight-hour layover. You can’t go outside, but you get to pick the airport. Which airport do you choose?

PS: Changi Airport, Singapore. Best airport gym I've ever used.

AS: Can you recall an impactful moment when an airline employee went way above and beyond to help you or another passenger?

PS: I was waiting to go through security and saw a woman at the counter crying. She didn't speak much English, and the cab driver had taken her to LaGuardia when she was supposed to go to JFK. The change fee was something like $400, and the woman didn't have it. The ticketing agent waived her fee and got her on another flight. She was crying tears of happiness. We all were. It was wonderful to witness.

AS: Finally… What’s one thing we all can do to be kinder travelers?

PS: A smile goes such an amazingly long way.

Peter Shankman is best known for founding Help A Reporter Out (HARO), a service that connects journalists and bloggers with relevant expert sources. HARO was acquired by Vocus, Inc. in 2010–less than two years after Peter founded the company in his apartment.

Visit Peter’s website at Shankman.com

Final note: I love sharing stories of kindness. Peter Shankman is an unquestionably busy and successful dude. It is not lost on me that his willingness to be interviewed for my fledgling blog is an act of kindness in itself.

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About the author, Aaron Schlein

Aaron's personal mission is to create a freedom-filled life for his family.
His professional mission is to help others do the same.

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