Some of us call it a curse. Some of us call it a super power. Some of us wish it would go away. Other business owners with ADHD wouldn’t go back and take a “normal” brain if it was offered to them. David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue, says that if there was a pill to make his ADHD go away for good, he’d refuse to take it, because he wouldn’t be where he is today without it.
Neeleman told ADDitude Magazine,
“I can distill complicated facts and come up with simple solutions. I can look out on an industry with all kinds of problems and say, ‘How can I do this better?’ My ADD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.”
It is true that some of ADHD’s most common characteristics—creativity, multi-tasking, risk-taking, high energy, and resilience—are definitely strengths when leveraged in the right way and in the right career. This is why so many high profile achievers are beginning to publicly embrace their diagnoses of ADHD.
But there are also the other characteristics of ADHD that you may struggle with—procrastination, inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, distractibility, frustration with routine, and time blindness—that can tie knots in your business dealings.
Regardless of how you feel about your ADHD, you know that it affects your business in many ways, ways that others sometimes don’t understand.
Even the experts don’t agree about ADHD and business
I was on an ADHD forum a few weeks ago where a woman was told by her physician that people with ADHD can’t run businesses, so she should just forget about the idea. What followed was a vigorous debate, as forum members gave example after example to prove the good doctor wrong. I personally think she should get a new doctor.
On the other hand, there are physicians like Dale Archer, MD, who wrote in Forbes magazine:
“It takes an adventurous spirit, to strike out on your own. Entrepreneurship fits perfectly with the ADHDer’s need for stimulation and a willingness to take risks. The greatest success stories in business took a leap based on what they saw in the marketplace at a particular moment in time. Rejecting solutions that seemed to be ‘normal’, they instead trusted their instincts and forged ahead with something new and unproven while their more risk-averse peers shook their heads and insisted it would never work.
These ADHD entrepreneurs are also creative, with high-energy and an ability to hyper-focus on something they find innately interesting. This gives them the ability to spend limitless amounts of time accomplishing any task necessary to take their business to the next level. They thrive under pressure or, as ADHD entrepreneur and career coach Laurie Dupar puts it, the ADHDer ‘eats chaos for breakfast’.”
And then there’s the relatively new book, ADHD Does Not Exist, by behavioral neurologist Dr. Richard Saul, who draws on five decades of experience treating thousands of ADHD patients, giving us the impression that ADHD isn’t even real. Dr. Saul’s basic premise is that the current DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) definition of ADHD (and, as the condition is generally understood by the public), is wrong, and does not exist. His beliefs are complicated and not as scary as they sound. Basically he’s saying too many people are being wrongly diagnosed and over medicated, as there other conditions that may be involved.
So what about us . . . the business owners with ADHD?
There’s a magnet on my fridge that says,
“I used to suffer from ADHD. Now I just have it.”
Whether you have been diagnosed with ADHD, have ADHD tendencies, or are just ADHD-ish, here are some things you may have in common with other ADHD business owners that affect your business, in both good ways and bad:
10 ways to spot an ADHD business owner
1. You are easily distracted from your work. This is a problem when customers and others are depending on you.
2. You are frustrated by routine, and crave new ways of doing things. Doing the same thing day after day, or all day long, is torture for you.
3. You are at your best in a crisis! When it really counts, and when others freak out, your brain goes into super mode while staying cool and able to juggle many things. You are amazing!
4. You are good at multi-tasking and free associating. You can have 14 windows open on your computer and 12 projects going at once. (This doesn’t mean you will follow through with all of them, or that something else won’t catch your attention. See #1.)
5. You are an intuitive thinker. You often feel your way through situations faster than people do with logic, and come out with the right answer.
6. You can hyper focus on things you love. It’s no problem to work until the wee hours of the night on something that fascinates you. This is why it’s so important for you to be doing work you love, so you can put that hyper focus to good use.
7. You are late for everything. No matter how much time you have to get there, you always think you can do “just one more thing” before you leave, and the extra time you thought you had just disappears.
8. You need a plan and you know it but you don’t know how to get one.
9. You usually know what to do and maybe even how to do it, but actually doing it seems like a monumental task. You wonder, how in the world do people do that?
10. There is no one better at what you do, but the simplest things can stop your business from being successful. You might be a creative thinker with ideas that have revolutionized your industry, and yet find it difficult to follow through with those ideas. You may be the best acupuncturist in your city, and yet your inability to deal with money has put your business at risk. You may be a brilliant educator with multiple advanced degrees able to do much good in the world, and yet have difficulty staying on point when explaining how you help people.
All of these things make you uniquely you . . . and they make you very much like other business owners with ADHD.
There are more than this list of ten things that identify business owners with ADHD, and that make you ideally suited, in my opinion, for entrepreneurship, but this is a good starter list.
Some research has suggested that a tendency to be self-employed and an entrepreneur is dominant in individuals with ADHD. One U.K. study found a genetic link between a dopamine receptor gene variation associated with ADHD and the tendency to be an entrepreneur. In fact, the gene associated with ADHD is sometimes called the “explorer gene”. How about that? We’re explorers!
Other reports echo this point, saying that people with ADHD are three times more likely to own their own business.
It’s not that difficult to spot an ADHD business owner — we’re everywhere. And with good reason. The hard part comes in understanding which of our characteristics help our businesses and which hold us back . . . and then channeling the ones that help in the correct way, and taking steps to deal with the ones that hold us back.
To talk about the ADHD challenges that may be holding your business back, sign up for a complimentary Instant Insight session. This insightful and personalized no-pressure conversation may be just the thing you need. Click here for more information.