How Gaming Can Be Positive For Kids
with Eric Siu, Author of Leveling Up
Eric Siu is the founder of content intelligence software ClickFlow, which helps you grow your traffic while looking like a genius. He is also the Chairman of ad agency Single Grain and has worked with companies such as Amazon, Airbnb, Salesforce, and Uber to acquire more customers.
He hosts two podcasts: Marketing School with Neil Patel and Leveling Up, which combined have over 43 million downloads to date.
He also speaks frequently around the world on marketing and SaaS.
In his youth, Eric was not academically or socially successful, but he was a serious high-level eSports and poker player. He ultimately found how to convert his focus and success in gaming into a very successful career in marketing. He also contributes to Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Insider, Forbes, Fast Company, Time Magazine, and more.
Thanks for joining me!
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Intro (00:03): This is actually the most fun game when you're in the real world, when you're helping people, you're actually going to get stuffed back in return as well. I just think it's, it's going to be really fun for people to understand it that way. Welcome to the parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author ADHDaholic and mindset. Mama honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.
Penny Williams (00:46): Welcome back to the parenting ADHD podcast. I'm really excited today to be talking to Eric Siu about the positives that we can find through gaming and technology with our kids. Thanks so much for being here, Eric, and giving us a little bit of your time and your insights. Will you start by introducing yourself, let everyone know who you are and what you do.
Eric Siu (01:10): Sure. And thanks for having me. So my name is Eric you know, Siu and I, my ultimate mission is to help level up the world and, happy to go into that a little more, but I own a couple of marketing businesses. I also invest in different marketing software companies and have a podcast called leveling up and another one called marketing school. And you know, I just love learning. I love teaching. And fundamentally, if I think back to my history, everything has really been built on learning and educating. So all of my businesses, whatever it is exactly really comes from me, just kind of learning in public.
Penny Williams (01:43): Awesome. And so how did you come about writing a book on using gaming to succeed in life?
Eric Siu (01:52): Yeah, so for me growing up maybe age eight to 22 years old, the one thing I really excelled at was games. And, back then my parents would actually we'd get into these huge fights and they would take away my keyboard. They would take away my mouse and you know, there would be, there would be periods of times where we just wouldn't talk to each other. And what I didn't know at the time was a lot of things that kids would learn from sports, such as teamwork, resilience all the things you learned from that. And, the, the importance of building the right habits. I actually all got from gaming. So, when I was about 12 years older, so I was playing this game where I had a team and I was part of a very you know, think of it as you know, when you're playing on a varsity team, you feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself.
Eric Siu (02:40): And that was very much what I was doing. And I was playing with people in my team, on my team. These were lawyers, some people were wealthy, people that own planes, most of the people were college. Kids are older and yet a 12 year old kid like myself. So you can imagine, I mean, there's just so much I learned from these people and those skills compounded over time. And you know, my argument is that gaming creates leaders. And if you actually think about life, everything in life is a game and it's actually a much more fun when you, when you look at it that way, I'm happy to elaborate on that, but I'll just leave it at that for now.
Penny Williams (03:13): Yeah, definitely elaborate on that. You know, there are, we get so caught up as parents and the amount of time that our kids are using with screens for my own son, for instance, who has ADHD is on the autism spectrum. That was the one place that he feels good about himself. That was the one thing in his day where he succeeded, where he could easily talk with other kids and be social where face to face. That was a lot harder for him. And so I have always been much more relaxed about the time that I let him spend gaming, because I understand that he's building skills and he's building confidence and a sense of competence, which he really wasn't getting at school because school was so hard for him.
Eric Siu (04:05): Yeah. So I think that's really well put. And I think to your point, if someone's gaining confidence, whether it's from sports and by the way, sports have been around for thousands of years, that's why it's okay. Gaming still has a stigma attached to it. And again, when I think about it, when you go into the world of sports, if you overtrain, you might tear your ACL, you might get injured, same thing with gaming. If you overtrain in the sh you know, I call it the shadow world, you go into the shadow world for too long, you're going to overtrain. You might develop unhealthy habits. And, I end up hurting yourself right. Mentally or physically. So what are you going to sports or the world of gaming? You can bring those skills back into real life and make a bigger impact on the world.
Eric Siu (04:43): And the reason why I think this is a big deal is, you know what, when I think about investing, for example, like whether it's I invest in stocks or whether I go try to acquire a company, there's so many games within that, or, whether I'm trying to, hire an amazing person, right? This is all related to business, but we can really relate to real life as well. When you're thinking about you know, pleasing your spouse or pleasing your children, like, what is it that makes them, makes them happy? What makes them tick? Right? And so you have to think about everything in life is a puzzle, and you're constantly figuring out like, how to make all the pieces work together. And when you look at it that way, when every day is just about getting 1% better, just leveling up 1% better every single day.
Eric Siu (05:22): And there's not necessarily any end game that's tied to it, then it just becomes a lot more fun that way. And you know, for me, it's all about playing a game that doesn't end, it's an infinite game. And that just becomes more fun because you end up trying to optimize for playing with people that have a long-term focus that have that want to play longterm games. Right? So it just, gamifying life to me at the end of the day, like every day when I wake up, I'm just like, okay, I'm going to do meditation. Or whether it's, training or even, journaling in the morning, all of these different things. To me, they're just little power ups. So when my day actually starts, I'm already charged up and ready to go. And so it's no different than how I felt waking up when I was 11 or 12 years old, that same excitement I actually have now, because I'm largely doing what I want to be doing.
Penny Williams (06:07): That's amazing. I love that you equated kind of getting started with your day, all the things that set a good tone and energy for the day as power ups. Like this is language that we can be using with our kids. Now, our kids who are so into gaming, we can already be sort of helping them apply this way of looking at life as kind of this game as well. I'm a serious game. I don't want that to sound like that we're taking away any, sort of seriousness to that, but it works for a lot of kids who are really into gaming.
Eric Siu (06:40): Yeah. Well, I mean, Penny, I mean the other side of this might be like, how seriously should we take ourselves? Cause, at the end of the day, the, the world has been around for billions of years. We're, we're not even a speck in the grand scheme of things. And we're just a bunch of, talking, talking monkeys on a planet, right. Just running around and I don't want to oversimplify it, but I think it's maybe not taking it that seriously. And so that's just a different perspective. I'm not saying I'm right or wrong. But I just really wish that growing up, my parents approached it from a an area of curiosity rather than using a blunt instrument and just taking things away from me and document talking to me about about it. Yeah. I just wish it would have been, Hey Eric, why are you so interested in this?
Eric Siu (07:19): I'm a little concerned about all the time that you're spending here. Can you tell me what you're actually learning from this and why you're spending so much time here? And I think that would have led to a conversation who knows where it would have gone, but I think, when you take stuff away from anybody, whether it's children or adults, nobody wants that to happen to them. And I just don't think, do I feel that different than when I was at 12 years old? I think at the end of the day, we're just we're all kind of children in a sense.
Penny Williams (07:43): Yeah. I mean, we're the same people all throughout our lives. I always thought that when I got to be an adult, I was going to be really serious and very responsible. And you know, all of that sort of fun attitude and adventurous spirit and curiosity would be gone. And it's not like, I feel like the same person just older and I've learned more things, but you know, at the core, we're really who we are from childhood. And I want to emphasize your point that we need to talk to our kids about why they're so into it, why they're so into gaming or anything else within their lives that they're feeling really passionate about because there's so many clues there, for me, I was fortunate enough to know, to ask that question of my son, what is it about this that makes you feel so good?
Penny Williams (08:33): Why do you want to spend so much of your day on the computer? And he would share with me, well, it's easier for me to talk to people there and you know, the kids come up to me at school and ask me, how did I do this in this particular game? And I feel important, and I feel like I'm really good at this. And it's hard to be good at a lot of things. And that was so valuable that really did help me to set my expectations as a parent around gaming. You know, a lot of parents want to just put down some arbitrary time limit, and this is what we're taught to do as parents. One hour of screen time, a day or two hours of screen, time a day, depending on age. But if that's where my kid feels really good about himself and he's not getting it the other 23 hours of the day, like I want him to spend more time doing that. I want him to build those skills and have a good sense of himself, that there is something that he's great at and it can lead to jobs. You know, that's another thing is that that industry has really exploded. And so it's not frivolous in a lot of ways. It's not frivolous because they're learning skills as you were talking about is not frivolous because they really could have a career in that area if that's really a passion for them too.
Eric Siu (09:56): Yeah. I mean, look, there's three things. I think human beings ultimately want it's it's connection, it's contribution and it's vitality. You want to have your health. That's one piece of it, but what I got from gaming and I'm sure this is the same thing with your son, you got, he got connection. And he felt like he was contributing to something that was bigger than himself and that's worth its weight in gold, whether it's, feeling that way in the gaming world. But also it was translating into, into real life. The only reason in high school that I got to hang out with the quote unquote popular group was only because I was good at games. So, that was gaming was kind of accepted as I was growing up. But so I kind of finessed my way into this group. So I got that connection in real life.
Eric Siu (10:33): So I felt like I needed to continually reinforce that I was, number one or top. And so a lot of the habits that I've created from gaming, whether it's being able to, because of gaming back in the day we couldn't communicate that through voice. So, I was able to increase my typing speed. Now at my high point, I can go up to 144 words for a minute so I can work a lot faster. And I could just do a lot of things and this is all not to brag. I'm just saying that there are benefits to these just, there's, it's, there's a balance for everything, right? Just don't overtrain in these worlds.
Penny Williams (11:04): Yeah. I love that you brought up the balance too, because if they are gaming and doing nothing else, then that is a problem. Like there has to be that balance. Can we talk a little bit, maybe about other ways that you've used that experience of gaming to help you in life? Like you were talking about your morning routine as power-ups, what other things can we sort of start talking to our kids about and helping them to be able to make the connection and translate that into more of their life?
Eric Siu (11:33): Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, one of the chapters I have in the book is about the apprentice mentality, meaning that you approach things no matter how good or how experienced you are from a position where you might have strong views, but you hold them very loosely. So this can also be known as the beginner's mindset where it's like, Hey, like, look, ultimately I don't know that much and I'm not going to let ego get in the way. I'm never as good as people say I am. I also not as bad as people say I am. So by thinking about things that way it allows you to approach things from a very humble standpoint. And so I used to get very, when I used to play games, I would get to a point where I would get very arrogant and very cocky.
Eric Siu (12:14): You know, when I was in my teenage years, because I was all about preserving a record that I had. So I might be, I might have like 35 wins and zero losses, and I was all about the vanity metrics, right? So just when you, when you get more humility, when you approach things from a beginner's mindset, you learned that, that, that, that stuff doesn't matter. And what ultimately matters is that you're continually learning and you're getting better every single day. So that's one piece, I think, there's a lot of pressure as a child growing up thinking about, Oh, like, I need to be good here. I need to be amazing at this. And I need to be an expert, but the moment you start to think that you're an expert, that's when things start to fall apart.
Penny Williams (12:47): Right. That's so true. There's always more to be learned.
Eric Siu (12:50): I think another one, Penny, I mean, this is probably more counterintuitive and I don't think many parents will like this, but we have to think about all the things that have been created around us and in the world. And Steve jobs used to say that everything in life is a remix. So when you think about the mouse, they actually stole that from Xerox. And when you think about the GUI, the graphical user interface, they stole that from Xerox as well. When you think about Elon Musk and his space X rockets coming back to earth, the fundamental base design of the rocket still looks the same as maybe in the sixties, the seventies, right? The big difference. Now, as they come back to earth, Picasso said, great artists steal. And so I have a chapter in there called thievery and the whole thing around it is we hold this whole, like, we have to be original thing.
Eric Siu (13:35): I'm very sacred, right? I'm original. Oh my God. You know, I'm not here to copy, but reality is we're copying everyone all the time. You know, the fact that people are listening to this podcast, they're looking to iterate on what makes sense to them and apply it to their life. And so I'm trying to remove that kind of sacredness around having to be original and the pressure of that and saying, Hey, it's okay. Like if you, if you learn something or you quote unquote, copy it. Even if you make your copy 10 to 30% of it, it's completely original because it's yours.
Penny Williams (14:02): Yeah. We repackage things as we learn them and we use them, we take other ideas and we might repackage them or formulate them differently and to somewhat of a new idea, but there's really no new idea completely and utterly new it's all from our own experiences and what we've seen and heard and read and done. You know, we put together from a lot of different things,
Eric Siu (14:29): 100%. I mean the other thing I would leave the audience with, I think that would be helpful for both the parents and the children would be, there's a concept of the wealth ladder. And what that basically is, is if we think about our career we might start out going to school where we're getting educated. And then maybe after that, the next step up the ladder is building great habits. And the next step after that is maybe you go get a job and maybe while you're getting a job, you want you to decide, you want to take it to the next level and you don't have to, by the way. But if you decide, Hey, I want to take it to the next level. Maybe you start a side hustle, right? Maybe the side hustle was doing consulting work on the side, maybe do an e-commerce drop shipping business.
Eric Siu (15:06): We have a lot of different options there. And if it starts to go really well, maybe you can start to hire people and you can quit your full-time job. And eventually you can get to the point where you decide to build other types of businesses or invest in other types of businesses, right? So there's like, there's a ladder in a career, but there's ladders to everything else too, whether it's, in sports or anything else that you're training for. So I think for most people, they feel that sometimes they feel inferior. Maybe they're comparing their chapter one to someone else's chapter 25 and they want things to happen quickly. Well, understand that you have to beat certain levels to get to the next one. And in life, you don't have to move to the next level. You can stay where you're currently at. If you're happy, that's totally fine. But you just, you don't deserve to go to the next level until you beat the current one. That's just how life is.
Penny Williams (15:47): I love that because our kids right now see successful people, their age, online influencers, YouTubers, and they get this really unrealistic idea that fame and success is quick and it can be a real struggle. You know, for instance, my own son makes digital music and he puts it on YouTube. And then, a week later he didn't have millions of followers and other people do. So he thought he was a complete failure at it and wanted to give up. And so this idea that everything is leveling up doing a level of succeeding going another level is really great for, I think just this generation of kids too.
Eric Siu (16:30): That's a really good point. And I think one thing too if we think about one of our generation's best investors, Warren buffet, he's worth $85 billion right now. And 84 billion of that didn't come until after his 65th birthday, he didn't make his first billion until 58. Right. And I'm not saying people should become billionaires or anything. I'm just saying, all this stuff takes time to compound, leveling up is really just compound interest over time. Right. So when you think about the best investors in the world, they have a very long-term outlook. And so I think looking at your life, sure. I, I, early on, I said, we're just a speck in time, but I'm still relatively speaking. It's still a very long time. And so what I found is that I had a lot of pressure in the early days, like, Oh my God, everyone's growing faster.
Eric Siu (17:10): And then I just realized, well, it really takes two to three years to start to build an audience or two to three years to start to build a business. And most of the time people give up too early because and you know, one thing I was telling myself was, I was being very selfish because I kept looking at my metrics. I kept thinking about, Oh my God, nobody's viewing my stuff. And so I kept thinking about myself, myself, myself, when reality is you end up building an audience, people follow you just like they follow your podcast right here, because they like what you have to say. And it took a lot of time to, to get there. Right. to build your voice, to develop that. And I think again, most people just give up because they feel the pressure from not being seen. And that's why that's why people get filtered out.
Penny Williams (17:50): Yeah, that's so true. And everything that you're talking about, you're talking about business, but it can apply to two general life skills and like relationships. Nobody is good at relationships, right? From the start we get better. We build relationships with people, we build connection. And in school, you're learning more, you're doing better. You're building your maybe study skills or your homework aptitude. And like, all of these things can be seen in that same way that you just keep building on where you start from. And that nobody starts at the top. They're all starting from a beginning point and moving up. And that's, that's really hard for kids to kind of think about, I think in the current culture that we have with technology and everything being so available immediately and see, just seems different than, than it really is a lot of times.
Eric Siu (18:50): Yeah. I think the, when I think about kids in general, nowadays you have people starting businesses at eight years old, they're starting, e-commerce stores and things like that. I think business is a very exciting game because it does teach you a lot about life in general. How do you, how do you deal with other people? How do you negotiate? How do you deal when, when you know, when tough times hit you. So it's kind of a fast track to really teaching you about life because at the end of the day, business is just interacting with other people and delivering things that people need products or services. So I think they're very, they're very intertwined. I think, there's, people tend to separate them quite a bit, but, but you have, I'll tell you, like, you're looking at some people that are really young and you know, they've started massive businesses and they're just trying to learn more and more and more, they're just trying to level up and that are taking those learnings and then applying it to, their relationships in real life, their family and things like that.
Eric Siu (19:40): So I think, what you learned from family and, and also from your friends, you can translate over to business and vice versa.
Penny Williams (19:46): Yeah. And a lot of people with ADHD are entrepreneurs. They do want to build their own business and do their own thing and, and often succeed at it because there are qualities of ADHD that can make you really successful in that world. Being determined, being willing to take risks, fighting for something you're interested in or passionate about, that's, that translates into a lot of entrepreneurial people who happen to have ADHD. And that ADHD really helps them in that realm in a lot of ways, too, for sure. Can we talk maybe a bit about other skills that you might have gotten from gaming? One that comes to mind for me is learning like problem solving and strategy building perseverance. What else can, can our kids really get out of this time that they love to spend gaming?
Eric Siu (20:37): Yeah. So th this is a big one and I actually got this from poker. So you know, I don't, I'm not saying everyone shouldn't play a lot of poker, but I do think either poker or chess should be required learning in school one or the other, because at least in poker, what I learned and again, do, as I say, not as I do, but you know, I started playing poker at age 18 or so. And what I learned from the game is that you can bring your a game three months, six months, 12 months at a time, and you could still lose because sometimes variance or the math will catch up to you. And that teaches you to be resilient. You can either completely lose your mind, which I did in my late teen years, but I learned to harness and control my emotions afterwards.
Eric Siu (21:17): And that's, that's a very powerful skill to learn, people call it stoicism. But to have that type of resilience, to understand that, Hey, like this too should pass, keeps me calm and a lot of real life scenarios, whether it's with interacting with other people or business. I think that's great. The other thing too, is poker teaches you to think in bets, right? It teaches you how to think about investing when, what the numbers are, are the odds in your favor, should you go in or not? It teaches you how to understand kind of the dynamics of the people around you as well. Can you play against the person? So there's a lot within there that teaches you about life in general. And I, I just think it's, all the lessons I've learned was invaluable. Also don't play beyond your means.
Eric Siu (21:54): Right. I certainly did that in my late teen years. And I didn't have the money and I went in debt. Right. So don't do, as I say, but you know, some of the best business people were investors in the world, they play poker recreationally because it keeps them sharp. So I think, you know what, look, one of the chapters you mentioned, I think you mentioned the word resilience. The chapter is actually titled endurance. So I think we're saying the same things, but I certainly learned that and that trained me for, to get ready for the tough times and, just life in general.
Penny Williams (22:23): Yeah. And what you're talking about with poker is evaluating risk. You know, you can apply that to anything in life evaluating what the risk is and whether it's worth it, whether the reward might be worth the risk in the first place.
Eric Siu (22:36): Yeah. And just to understand too, that, good things take time. I think, short-term pokers definitely gambling. Long-Term dose only the best end up living end up staying around because they've developed good habits and it's the same thing with business too. The ones that stick around and the ones that have a long-term mindset and they, they're not trying to take, big home run bets all the time. So
Penny Williams (22:55): Yeah. So can you recommend some games that you know of that have the sort of long-term longevity that, because I know over the years, my kids have had games where they beat them really quickly and then they want to go onto a new game and what are they playing that really gives them that sense to keep leveling up, to keep working at just getting better and better rather than sort of getting the prize at the end and moving on.
Eric Siu (23:24): So you said a key thing, Penny, I mean, reframing and thinking, Hey, there's actually no end to the game that I'm going to play. So every single day. So my mission is to level up the world and I will never ever accomplish that mission, but that's a mission cause I can wake up for it every single day. And so I'm going to play the infinite game. I can play long-term gains and long-term people, people that I don't want to work, I don't work with them. And so I think business is a perfect canvas for this. And you know, it now you have people that are five years old, eight years old, they're studying Shopify stores. Like I mentioned earlier, you have a lot of different options. It's just very easy to get started on a business now. So, I think if a child wanted to get started with business supporting them that way, I think, business is certain, it can be an infinite game.
Eric Siu (24:06): It's not like, football or basketball where at the end of the four quarters, there's, there's a score at the end, right? It's not like that. It doesn't have to be like that. And you know, poker is the same thing too. You can keep on going. You can keep on making investments or just investing in the stock market. So I think these types of things directly apply to real life. And you know, to me, a fun game is how many books can I continue to read over time too? That's a fun game that can never end. So ultimately, what, what the individual is, is interested in and just reframing and thinking, Hey, there doesn't have to be an end game because if there's an end game, that means, you're going to behave very differently. You want it to be an infinite game.
Penny Williams (24:44): Yeah. And are there specific video games that give that, that sense that keep going?
Eric Siu (24:51): So, I mean, poker would be an in person game, obviously. I think video game wise I, the problem with video games is that they're, they're not particularly evergreen. What I will say, Penny, is that the games I played when I was maybe eight to 10 years old, a lot of the games you see today are really not that different. And so when I think about the first person shooter games, there, there definitely is, they all have like an end game, right? There's a score at the end of it. But what, like a real-time strategy game, like a StarCraft, as an example, that's like a super version of chess. And I think there's just so many different decisions that you have to make. And I actually remember the CEO of Shopify, which is the e-commerce platform. They're a publicly traded company. They're huge. He has publicly stated that he will hire the best StarCraft players in the world because StarCraft a real-time strategy game is about how you manage your resources. And that's what life is. It's managing your resources, whether it's for your family or your business, it's the same concept.
Penny Williams (25:47): Yeah. And I would think things like Minecraft or roadblocks to your maybe where they're, yeah, they're really building their own sort of environment too. But also, my, my son has designed clothes, I guess, on roadblocks and sells that man gets currency in the game for doing that. And that's amazing. Like it's amazing that they can be in a video game and learn some of these entrepreneurial skills and learn that, if you want something and you don't have enough money, what, what do you do to create that income so that you can achieve your goals? You know, it's, it's amazing how much they really can learn and take away from it. And I think the big thing for us as parents is how do we help them transition from I'm having fun in this game to, Oh, I can apply this stuff to life. And that's exactly what book is talking about and what, we can be doing as parents to go ahead and get our kids thinking about the fact that what they're doing can really help them throughout their lives. What they're finding really fun. They can apply to life. Yeah.
Eric Siu (26:58): I think that's a very helpful reframe and that is the premise of the book. There's over 3 billion people in the world that have played a game. And I think they need to understand that the skills that they have learned can actually translate into real life and they can make a bigger impact. And also understanding that life is actually the most fun game when you're in the real world, when you're helping people, you're actually going to get stuff back in return as well. I just think it's, it's going to be really fun for people to understand it that way.
Penny Williams (27:23): Yeah. I'm really excited about the book and it's called leveling up. Right? Correct. And I'm sure people can get it on Amazon and in bookstores. And I will of course link to it in the show notes, as well as a couple of other resources that you've mentioned in this episode, for everyone listening, the show notes are available at parentingadhdandautism.com/119 for episode 119. Anything you want to leave us with?
Eric Siu (27:51): I mean, it's I think it's just be patient. I think those two words really will echo throughout life.
Penny Williams (27:57): Yes. And so, so important for parents of kids who are neuro-diverse perfect. Perfect. Ending. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your story with us. I know that it's really going to impact a lot of our parents listening and hopefully that will trickle down to our kids as well. I can't wait to start having these conversations with my son and he's a teenager, so hopefully I'll have him read the book as well and really take all of this passion that he has and all this time that he's invested in gaming and make it something that really translates to success in life. It's just an amazing idea. That's really, really fun. Thanks for having me funny. So much fun talking to you. And with that, we'll end the session. So please go to the show notes and check out Eric's work and find ways to learn more than you've learned here in this show. I'll see everyone next time.
Penny Williams (28:54): Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and mama retreats at parentingadhdandautism.com.
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