The ADHD Advantage

Many entrepreneurs will tell others they “have ADD” or have a “slight case of attention-deficit disorder”.

But most don’t: they’re just scattered. They’re trying to multitask instead of focusing. They’re unclear on what to do next in their business. They love starting things, but not finishing; they’re usually juggling a dozen things in their head at once; their workday is incredibly long, but they rarely finish everything.

I first took the ADD short-form test in 2011 and wrote about it on my IgniteGym blog at the time. I should note that ADD is an outdated term for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: they’re the same thing.

However, ADHD isn’t always a downside for entrepreneurs.

“ADD people are high-energy and incredibly good brainstormers. They will often happily work 12 to 15 hours by choice. The business community should not fear ADD. Instead, they should see that they have a potential gold mine here.” 
– Dr. Kathleen Nadeau, a psychologist who is ADD herself (from an ABC News Report)

People with ADD are excellent at seeing a situation from all sides, says Dr. John Ratey. Emergency-room doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs….the ability to approach an obstacle from ten different ways is of enormous value.  Likewise, the ability to imagine oneself in the shoes of others – to empathize – has helped me be more empathetic than others.

And as Leighton Bingham shares on today’s podcast, people with ADHD are actually capable of VERY deep focused work.

Is my truck untidy? Heck, yeah. Can I tell you the phone number of a client from five years ago? Yes. Do I send emails, and then think of another detail, and send a second one…a few seconds apart? All the time.

Do I actually have ADHD? I doubt it. I just lose focus if I’m not disciplined with my attention.

However, even this low-level of distraction sometimes pays off: I’m able to generate ideas rapidly. I can ‘see’ shapes while I’m listening to music, and that helps me appreciate it more. I can switch rapidly between creative and academic tasks, like math. I can incorporate successful ideas from other industries into ours.  And I can write for 5 blogs in the same hour.

Instead of ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ I’d love to see the education system appreciate the gifts bestowed by ADHD. Frankly, in a business environment that’s fracturing our attention more and more, entrepreneurs need to be able to balance focus with mental dexterity.

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