Today, I interview Michael Whitehouse who grew up in Massachusetts and found himself in an interesting family dynamic. His parents divorced when he was seven, so he split his time among 4 homes: his mother’s, his father’s, his mother’s parents’, and his father’s parents’. Many people thought it to be an unstable situation for him, but Michael says he always loved it.
He got to have different experiences at different times and places, and always gained something special from each unique home environment. He felt safe and loved. Today, he says he probably developed ADHD from always moving back and forth among all of these different houses. He says there’s a lot that he doesn’t remember from his childhood because of “the way [his] neurology works.”
I loved this part because he just plainly stated the facts, with no apology or hint at any deficiency or disability. As he grew up and established his career, we learn that Michael developed this confident understanding of himself by discovering his talent for sociability. He jokes that he is a “compulsive networker,” but also admits it’s the literal truth. He loves meeting new people and is always doing it. This came in handy and he has made quite a successful career out of this ability. He connects the right people to each other.
Michael believes that our differences are our gifts. He says that people who are struggling with ADHD, depression, OCD, etc. simply need to be shown that these things can be seen from a perspective of power – that they can be harnessed to create unique and fulfilling, successful businesses. These things are useful and don’t have to be debilitating. We must lean into the things that make us unique.
Michael Whitehouse is The Guy Who Knows a Guy. In 2014, he came to Groton, Connecticut knowing no one at all. A year later, after diving into networking with both feet, he was a major connector in the local community. In 2020, he went global and began connecting entrepreneurs, investors, speakers, and others around the world to people they need to know. He offers his services as a networking concierge, making connections and building strategic alliances around the world. He is the host of the daily Morning Motivation Podcast and the Guy Who Knows a Guy interview podcast.
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #80 Michael Whitehouse
“Neurodiversity, Networking, & Finding the Zone of Genius”
(00:36) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing. I’m a psychologist and host of the Find Your Voice change your life podcast. I like to invite guests who share a life story what it might have been like not having a voice, maybe it happened early on, maybe they were a shy type of person, or maybe there was some kind of situation that had them feel a little uncomfortable being more of who they can be and using their voice. Today I get to interview Michael Whitehouse. Hello, Michael.
(01:12) Michael Whitehouse
Hello. Thank you for having me.
(01:14) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, well, you’re brand new to me today. this is the first time we’ve met and I’m opening the platform. First, you sent me a bio. I like to read that bio so people get a sense of who you are right away. Michael Whitehouse is the guy who knows a guy. In 2014, he came to Groton, Connecticut, knowing no one at all. A year later, after diving into networking with both feet, he was a major connector in the local community. in 2020, he went global and began connecting entrepreneurs, investors, speakers, and others around the world to people they need to know. He offers his services as a networking concierge, making connections, and building strategic alliances around the world. He is the host of the Daily Morning Motivation podcast, and the Guy Who Knows a Guy interview podcast. Plus, I know that’s your book, right? Well, I don’t know anything about you. I always like to know where you born and what was the family situation like first to just get a little roots to your life.
(02:41) Michael Whitehouse
Well, I was born at a very young age in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I grew up there and in eastern Massachusetts, I went up to college. my parents divorced when I was seven. I grew up on four different houses, my mother’s house, my father’s house, my mother’s parents, my father’s parents, and it was interesting, because a lot of people would say like, “Oh, that’s so unstable. you’re moving around.” I thought it was great because it’s moving around where I wanted to be. There are things I got from each of these different sets of adults. It was dynamic, but it was predictable. It wasn’t like I didn’t know where I’d be sleeping every night. I later was diagnosed ADHD, probably unrelated to growing up in four different houses. But I think that’s why it had that appeal of new experiences by traveling around served me very well. That’s the early part of my story, actually, part of what it is. these days my memory is not spectacular, so I am aware of the major signposts in my upbringing, but don’t remember a whole lot of it in detail. Just like I don’t remember a whole lot of most things in detail because of the way my neurology happens to work.
(03:57) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, I like the way that you just explained that too about the way your neurology works and acceptance. That’s what I got right away from you is, “Hello world. This is who I am. I’m not making excuses. I’m not ashamed. Hello.”
(04:12) Michael Whitehouse
That was a fairly key transition jumping forwards to 2020s. I was diagnosed with ADHD in college. For 20 years, I thought I was disabled. I thought I was less than because my brain doesn’t work quite right. On My Guy Knows a Guy podcasts, I kept meeting people who attributed their success to their ADHD, their autism, or whatever their neurodiversity was. Finally, I thought, “Wait a minute. What if my ADHD is also not a disability, but simply a different form of cognition and has some pluses and minuses and if I can lean into the pluses, find some great value.” In 2021, I was doing a lot of network. I was making money from it. I just make a lot of making other people a lot of money, as making a lot of connections for people. Finally, it was pointed out to me that some people will pay for introductions, for someone to do that work for them. I love making connections so what this ADHD is this dopamine-seeking activity and so new experiences, and for some people on the downside, ADHD can manifest as cheating on partners, or drinking too much, or jumping out of airplanes or racing, drag racing or whatever. But that same need can be fulfilled by meeting new people.
I was just compulsively meeting people. I used to joke I was a compulsive networker, and then I learned more about ADHD. I actually literally am a compulsive networker. I have a need to meet new people have new experiences and have new conversations. That’s a really useful trait if you are leveraging a business, have you hire me, and I’ll connect you to people I meet. Because I never get tired. I love the process of meeting new people. It’s simply the results of that are now what I built a business on. I was meeting people before, it’s what makes getting anything from it. Now meeting people making introductions to my clients, everybody wins. I got a business built out of it.
(06:15) Dr. Doreen Downing
I also interviewed somebody once who had ADHD and described it as a superpower. That’s exactly what it sounds like you’re saying,
(06:27) Michael Whitehouse
Yes, I actually launched a podcast called Neurodiversity Superpowers, to interview people who feel it as a superpower and tell that story. Because there’s so many younger people, like me 20 years ago, who need to hear these examples of your dyslexia, your ADHD, your OCD, your chronic depression, whatever it is. Here’s someone who has the same thing you do but here’s how they’re using it. Whereas if you’re in school, and teachers are like, if we give you enough drugs, we can probably squeeze you into this box, so you can go get an office job someday. Versus if you can lean into this thing that makes you unique. You can be a millionaire like the person on this podcast.
(07:04) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. Oh, this is wonderful. This is wonderful to be such a motivator out there right now in a voice that your uniqueness, whoever you are, not only has value, but you can make money off of it.
(07:19) Michael Whitehouse
Yes, that’s kind of the way I was going or trying to go with that too. Also, for employers too, because I think a lot of employers, they talk about accommodating neurodiversity, and if I’m a boss, I hear accommodating neurodiversity. I say What’s that going to cost me? And that sounds expensive. Turns out, it’s usually not. Often cost nothing. It’s simply a matter of recognizing that this worker due to the way their neurology works, shouldn’t go to meetings. They can never go to meetings. That doesn’t cost anything. You just need to adjust who does what on the team and what you should be doing anyways, as a good boss.
(07:56) Dr. Doreen Downing
Talk more about neuro diversity. What that is.
(08:01) Michael Whitehouse
Neurodiversity is any form of neurology that causes someone to interact with the world differently. That’s ADHD, autism, dyslexia, OCD. I had one person show us aphantasia which is the inability to visualize imagination. He can perceive something does exist, like my business in a year will make a million dollars. He can perceive that, but were you and I might be like, when I have a million dollars, I’m going to picture myself driving my new car, talking to my employees. He can’t picture any of that. He’s just like, there will be a spreadsheet. It will say a million dollars and I’ll make a million dollars and with that I can buy these things. There are all these different ways that— The human brain comes in a whole bunch of different configurations besides the standard off the shelf configuration and of course, it’s a continuum too. Some people are a little ADHD, some people are a lot ADHD, some people are more inattentive type, some people are more hyperactive type. There are all kinds of different ways. But the point is because brains operate differently, they are good at some things and not so good and other things. An example I use the metaphor is picture a Jeep, a four by four Jeep. Now jeeps don’t handle that great on highways, they don’t have very good gas mileage, they’re not the smoothest ride. But if I take my Honda Civic off road, you discover what the Jeep is for. I’ll get about 10 feet and get stuck in the mud where the Jeep is going to go through bouncing through the puddles and jumping over the routes and climbing up mountains. The off road vehicle is optimized for off road, but most travelers use highways, so when you’re on the highway, it’s like this is not a great car. Once you get to the mud, it’s a great vehicle.
Same thing with ADHD. You put me in a job where I’ve got to go process spreadsheets and pay attention to details and notice if there’s a point 01 variance somewhere or something, I’m going to be terrible that job. If you judge me on that, you’d be like, he’s a terrible worker. He’s lazy. He’s distractible. He has no attention to detail. He’s awful. But you put me into a networking environment, and I meet someone, and it’s almost like a psychic phenomenon. I’m talking to someone like, “Oh, you know who you need to meet? You should talk to this person and this person and this person.” Then I got an email three weeks later, “I told him, it was amazing. How’d you made that connection? That was incredible. We’re doing this huge deal together.” Because that’s where my superpower is. And as an entrepreneur, a lot of neurodiverse people go into entrepreneurship, because they can follow their path where it’s supposed to lead versus in corporate, where it’s like, you work for us, you’re an interchangeable cog. Here’s where we’re going to put you. Do the job the way we want you to do it. In entrepreneurship, you can do it your way. That’s something a lot of companies lose out on their best workers, because they try to treat everyone the same. If you’re willing to be a little more dynamic and accepting. That makes leadership more difficult, because when you’re leading 100 people, you have to lead 100 individual people, not a team of 100.
(11:25) Dr. Doreen Downing
Exactly. It’s like having a fleet of several different types of cars, like you explained.
(11:31) Michael Whitehouse
Yep. But it’s not too difficult to do it if you’re not obsessed with control. I realized one of my hobbies is studying history. The Prussian military, which was the gold standard of militaries in their heyday in the 18th and 19th century. Their concept was to give clear but limited orders. Instead of saying, take this unit and take them around the right, and this unit is going to go the left, this unit is going to go up the center. They, the army commander, would instead tell them, “Take the town.” No details. The general in charge of the army, he knows the supplies he has, he knows what resources he has, he knows what the land looks like. They just tell him to take the town or take the town in 48 hours. That’s the whole set of order. There’s one example of an order from the top commander that said, I want to sleep in this city tonight. Those were the orders. It was basically you’ll do it. I don’t care how. You figure it out. You know what your standing orders are. You figure it out. Most companies don’t do that. Most companies are do it this way and this way. Then at three o’clock do this, have a meeting at four o’clock. As opposed to you tell the team leader, hey, I want you and your team to do this task, these are your deliverables. This is how you’ll know it’s done. You do it. That allows the team leader with a team of six or so who knows their individual people’s strengths and weaknesses and whatnot to manage them individually and maximize them. As opposed to the big boss saying, everyone needs to come in at nine o’clock, leave at five o’clock, do this, do that, have this kind of computer, have their desks set up this way, no personal items. When you do those things, you lose efficiency, you lose productivity, and you’re going to lose your best people, because your best people could work anywhere. Your mediocre people, those people, they need the job because they can’t find another one. Your best people, they can have a new job tomorrow. They’re only staying around because they like you. You’re going to lose your best people and be left with mediocre people, unless you give them the environment they want. Accommodating neurodiversity doesn’t cost money. It makes money. Not accommodate neurodiversity. That’s what costs money. That can be really expensive.
(13:59) Dr. Doreen Downing
It sure sounds like you would be the leader of your own company. There’s a way in which I like to hear your vision. I think sometimes the way you were describing leaders as being very controlling and well, annals, we say in psychology, but this whole idea of being open to some vision and holding the possibility I guess is what I’m thinking. It’s not the how, it’s the vision.
(14:35) Michael Whitehouse
Yes, make sure everyone understands the vision and the ultimate objective. Because no one person can be responsible for the individual actions of a whole bunch of other people. You only have so much bandwidth, so much memory, so much capacity, and even you are responsible for one or two people, that gets to be a lot. If you’re trying to be responsible for dozens or hundreds, then you massively lose efficiency. Everyone should be working in their zone of genius. They should do what they’re great at. If you’re the boss, and you’re the boss, because you’re great at leading a team, you shouldn’t be worrying about if the reports are in 11-point font or 12-point font. That’s not your zone of genius. If it is, you probably shouldn’t be the boss, you should be like a graphic designer, because that’s what you should be doing. The boss needs to do boss things, needs to be at this high strategic level, letting the people who are good at what they do.
(15:35) Michael Whitehouse
Now, they may say, well, but the team is terrible. Laying these reports out that don’t make any sense. Well then put someone in that team who knows how to lay a report out. Or sometimes they’re terrible at it because they’re not allowed to do their job. They tried to do it and they’re second-guessed, or they’re spending all their time waiting for approvals, or something else is happening. But yeah, it’s about letting people work in their zone of genius, letting people work in their greatness. The more you do that, the more so it’s going to be. That’s also why I don’t do much in the corporate space. Because I just don’t have the patience for the corporate politics and all that. Now, if someone in corporate says, “Hey, we’d love to teach them how to network and get them out there building networks.” I’ll totally come in and teach them. But I don’t have any patience for the corporate rigamarole. I want to work with entrepreneurs because entrepreneurs, the boss is the boss, the owner is the owner. If he says we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it. I want to deal with people, I don’t like dealing with entities, with organizations, because I just don’t have attention for that, quite frankly.
(16:42) Dr. Doreen Downing
One of the things that you’ve just said that I feel like is inspirational for anybody who’s listening today. That’s the zone of genius. I just want to highlight that. People who are trying to fit in boxes and finding your voice is something about finding your zone of genius.
(17:05) Michael Whitehouse
It’s realizing that you have some zone of genius. There’s something you’re great at. Because a lot of people out there, they’re working crappy unfulfilling jobs, because they don’t think they’re great at anything. I often talk to these people, and they say, “The only thing I’m good at is this thing, but—there’s always a “but”—but I don’t have a degree, but I don’t have a certification, but I don’t have this and that.” Half the time, I’ll say either you don’t need that certification, or there isn’t a certification. I’ve had people say, “I can’t do that because I don’t have a certification.” Now, you can get certified in anything. There’s someone online who will take your money in exchange for a course or certificate in any subject you want to be certified in. But plenty of industries— Now, there’s some, like psychology, where you need to be properly credentialed to be a psychologist. But there’s plenty of places where you don’t need those kind of credentials, especially knowledge work, different kinds of coaching, teaching, graphic design, marketing, all kinds of things like that, where you can start now, work towards that, start helping some people, start getting paid to do some things, and then you want more certifications, go get more certifications, you want more education, you can do that, but there’s no reason to wait for when you got your degree. Unless you’re under 23 and currently in college, I don’t like hearing, “When I get my degree.” Because if you’re 33, and you’re working on your bachelor’s, there’s no “when I get my degree. Like that’s just the infinite future out there. Now, do it now. Now’s the time to do it. Otherwise, you’re just putting off to put it off because it’s easier to say, well, i’ll just take one more class and see where that goes, then I’m going to launch a business. One of those is scarier. But to me, the idea of being stuck, of taking two classes a year, and being on a nine-year career education trajectory, and at the end of that all I’d have is a piece of paper, that’s way scarier than starting a business to me. The image of 20 years went by and so what happened in 20 years? That’s what terrifies me. Starting a business? Win, lose, or draw. That’s not scary at all compared to discovering my life is over and I didn’t do anything with it.
(19:37) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, this zone of genius and then you mentioned psychologist. I just had somebody who wanted to explore working with me, and we had a national call and she told me that the person she had been working with or expected her to do something and when she didn’t do it, he would get upset. He said, “You didn’t do what I said to do. she said that what she loved about my interaction with her was that she felt I respected her, that I listened to her. I think that, as a psychologist, finding my zone of genius feels like, “Oh, I get to listen.” I love bringing out the magnificence in people and today with you, if they’re listening, they can’t see how wonderful you are. You’re just beaming. I think when you’re in your zone of happiness, or your zone of genius, people can radiate, and it’s magnetic. that’s what I feel like— Yes, you know what you’re talking about, but also just your presence, just the sparkling you is what I’m enjoying today.
(20:57) Michael Whitehouse
Thank you. Yes, let’s say I’m good at two things. I’m good at making connections and expressing myself, and not much else. Sometimes people are like, “How are you such a great connector? How have you built a business networking?” It’s because I’m not good at anything else. I know plenty of people who are better networkers than me, but they’re better funnel builders, or marketers or whatever, then networker. Networking is a secondary thing they do. They don’t focus on it. There’s nothing I’m better at than making connections and networking, so that’s what I focus on. I think that’s the thing people need to realize. You don’t have to be the best at what you do. You have to focus on what you are best at. That will make it marketable and valuable because there might be someone better than you, but one, not everyone can afford or find that person, and two, that person doesn’t do things the same way you do. If say you’re a coach, and you’re like, “Well, I’m not Tony Robbins. I’m not Les Brown. I’m not Gary Vaynerchuk.” Okay, cool. Well, the people who you can help can’t afford Tony Robbins, Les Brown, or Gary Vaynerchuk. Even if they could, the program they get into is probably a 20-person group program where they get to see the big coach for 30 minutes a month. At your level, you can serve them an hour a week, and help them make much greater progress. It’s good that you’re not Tony Robbins yet. Because people need the person who’s getting started, the person who’s charging $70 an hour instead of $7,000 an hour. There’s a niche for everyone and sometimes that niche is not the top of the market.
(22:47) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, again, what I’m getting from you today is this not only be all you can be but it’s like know who this is. It’s not about trying to get somewhere, it’s about already being somewhere, and acknowledging that, and grounding that, and growing from who you already are. That’s the message I’m leaving today with. We’re coming to an end, and you’ve already blessed us with so many good, wonderful nuggets. How do people find you? It’s obviously on your screen there.
(23:31) Michael Whitehouse
I have my website here. Yes. If you go to guywhoknowsaguy.com, that is the repository of all the different things I do. I also do have an app, The Guy Who Knows a Guy app. The app is a library of content, video, audio, blog posts, all kinds of different things. It’s free. It’s just a lot of me on your phone. At both those places, you can get a copy of my book, The Guy Who Knows a Guy, which tells how I became the guy who knows a guy and how you can follow and become a networker and a connector yourself.
(24:10) Dr. Doreen Downing
Thank you, in addition to how to find you, because it’s hard for me to let go of you because I’m having a lot of fun. Give us one more thought.
(24:24) Michael Whitehouse
One more thought. I think—
(24:28) Dr. Doreen Downing
I just want to say, because you’ve been so articulate, I love the way you paused right there. You just paused and reflected. Hmm, what’s going to come?
(24:40) Michael Whitehouse
Yes, that’s one of the interview tricks is if you don’t have an answer to a question right away, you repeat the question slowly as a statement to buy time, but it sounds very thoughtful. Give us one more thought. One more thought. By the end of that I had one thought. I think the most important thing that I would leave people with is that everyone has a gift. Everyone has something to share, something they are best at, uniquely best at. Oftentimes, people will have this thought of who am I to start a business? Who am I to start a podcast? Who am I to whatever. I would turn that around because you didn’t give yourself this gift. You were given this gift, depending on what you believe, by God, by the universe, by sheer random happenstance. But it was given to you, entrusted to you, and not anyone else. The question is not who are you to do this thing? The question is, who are you to take this gift and stick it in the closet and not share it with anybody?
(25:53) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. Thank you so much, Michael.
(25:57) Michael Whitehouse
Thank you for having me. This has been great.
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.