Sep 17, 2020
4 mins read
Do you remember “that kid” in your elementary school classroom? You know, the one that got angry every now and then, maybe flipped their desk over and ran out of the room? The one that was called hyper or distracted? He or she may have been fun to hang out with but when it came to traditional learning, it was sometimes a challenge. Some managed to get through school, but for many, learning the way “other kids” learned was a constant battle. And they had to learn in a way their brains would accept.
And then later in life, that kid found what is was like to build their own business and the world changed for them. They found where they belonged in life and began to actually thrive. That kid could have been you, and it was definitely me. A kid with ADHD.
I can’t say that I remember flipping my desk over but I can tell you I spent a few afternoons in the principal’s office. And it was probably at that point and many others for that matter that my parents had much doubt of me being an entrepreneur or being in charge of anything. But for those with ADHD, the role of being in charge and being an entrepreneur is a very natural path.
After I interviewed dozens of adults with ADHD for my book Overcoming Distractions, I found that in fact, they needed to run their own show. And they were good at it. Now, I could have interviewed any entrepreneur but I wanted to find out how individuals that struggled to focus in the first place got so focused on success. I believe the lessons learned from these folks could tell us a lot more about how to overcome a little adversity. I found out a few important things.
First, many of us had something to prove to the world. After a youth filled with bad report cards and being told that you weren’t good enough, many had to prove to others and quite frankly to themselves that in fact they were ready to be a success in life. My grandfather on my mother’s side told her when I was very young that I would never amount to anything. Only because I was tearing the house apart one day when he was over visiting. How many of these stories have we never heard?
We are driven to succeed. Many of those with ADHD are actually driven to be successful. And it could be in part because we received so many negative message over the years. Those with ADHD have gotten the reputation of being lazy, procrastinators and unfocused. But for the businessperson with ADHD, that’s not true.
We move faster than other people. The ADHD brain moves faster than a “normal” brain. Because of this, the corporate environment is sometime not the best place. The pace at which the corporate world makes decisions is painful to those who think faster. We have an idea and we want to see that idea in action as soon as possible. Sometimes its impulsive, sometimes it’s a gut feeling, but whatever you call it, we need progress to keep our attention.
We are idea factories. With creativity comes ideas. I’m not creative in the visual sense, meaning I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life but those with ADHD are creative because they are always generating new ideas and can see the big picture in business. While this is clearly an asset in the business world, if you choose the wrong job or career, you’ll never get a chance to use that creativity.
We maximize our time. A successful entrepreneur, ADHD or not, knows how to maximize time. We know what times of the day we are able to perform certain tasks and we work hard during those times. We also batch tasks. For example, if you need to do a lot of writing, we try to schedule that into one or two days instead of picking away at it between appointments. We also use hyper focus to our advantage. When you can’t pull your kid off of the video games they are playing, that’s not a good use of hyper focus. But when you’re in business and need to get a lot of work done, hyper focus can be your friend.
I hope there will come a day when having ADHD is not a stigma but perhaps seen as an asset to employers. Not everyone can go out on their own but cultivating an entrepreneurial environment in the workplace will allow many with ADHD to contribute their gifts to so many companies and organizations.