We spend too much time talking about the things that make life harder. We also spend too much time thinking about our differences in a negative light. We focus on how the average person can do basic things (like remember names and phone numbers) much better than we can and why that sucks. It’s worth taking a step back to get some perspective so you can:
- Stop focusing on being better as simple/basic thing and focus on being really good at more impactful things.
- Stop giving yourself excuses for not being productive, successful, etc.
- Start appreciating what you’re able to do that the average person can’t — or can’t do at the same velocity.
- Start being able to move towards doing more of the things that you’re better at or even uniquely suited for.
What we’re good at
“Creativity is just connecting things.”Steve Jobs
Our minds are constantly running in different directions. We very rarely follow a neurotypical processing path when it comes to digesting information, problem solving, or brainstorming. In practice, this means:
- We capture “hidden” details and put more emphasis on them than others would. This is especially helpful when it comes to in-person meetings (or even video calls) where people are processing additional information like body language, ton, and interpersonal dynamics. This helps us decode the things that were meant but maybe not said out loud and generally makes your contribution to bigger meetings like that invaluable. Maybe its’ not typical creativity, but it’s still connecting things that others wouldn’t see.
- We’re actually really good at figuring out what is missing or what would make something better. Whether it’s a physical product, a digital experience, a story, or just a conversation, you can almost always count on being hit with a flood of ideas. We tend to write those ideas off because they don’t take much time to come up with or because we aren’t sure why we cam up with them, but if you take a little time to validate them you’ll find out there’s a lot of potential there. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me and months later there was a new product on the market, a competitor launching the feature I thought of, or technology hitting a milestone I had been thinking about.
- We’re good at figuring out how to present something. Be it visual presentation, copywriting, literal presentations, or packaging, we tend to be really good at figuring out how to make things look interesting and appealing — probably because we’re (at least subconsciously) aware of all the things that effectively capture our attention.
When we’re giving something to own or a chance to work on something we’re really interested in, we are able to dive in at a level that is close to superhuman — and for longer than most people can tolerate.
In a professional environment, I’ve seen this happen most at the beginning of something. Starting a new job/role, kicking off a new project, developing a new process, etc.
I personally experience this most when I get pulled into something that has the potential to make a huge impact, something that needs to be fixed or course corrected, or something that has constraints that make it more challenging than the average “project”.
Interestingly enough, hyperfocus make actually be tied to our low dopamine levels as that makes it harder to switch gears. I like to think about this in terms of momentum. If the average person is pushing a car, we’re pushing a semi truck. It’s a lot harder for us to pick up momentum, but it’s also a lot harder to stop or turn once we’ve got it.
While I see/hear that anxiety about what *could* happen is a common stressor across people with ADHD, I don’t see many linger on what just happened.
As it turns out, we’re constantly training ourselves to solve problems and move forward. On a daily basis, we’re testing new strategies, working to establish routines, and pushing ourselves through mental walls that may jump in our way. Our default mental state is “solve”because we’re so used to having to think critically about so many different things.
This raises our tolerance for all kinds of stress and allows us to keep a focus on the solution rather than the problem. We’re able to identify our options, weigh them against each other and decide on the best course of action faster than most can process the problem.
Now step back a bit and think about how rare this mindset is or how much coaching it takes to get people there. How many people do you know can come to the table with a ready-to-go solution shortly after a problem surfaced? How many direct reports have you had move on from failure or a major issue in just a couple of days or even hours?
I’ve directly or indirectly managed hundreds of people across multiple disciplines over the last decade and I’ve seen the benefits of having neurodivergent thinkers in the right roles. In fact, I’d hire all of them again for a role I felt was remotely relevant to their skills-set.
The biggest differences between successful and unsuccessful people with ADHD:
- Successful people don’t ever use it as an excuse.
- Successful people know what they’re good at and don’t hesitate or question themselves when doing those things.
- Successful people also know where they struggle and learn to lean on their teams to help fill in those gaps.