Hola! Last time I checked, it was Monday… Which means it’s time to answer your questions!
For those of you who may have questions that you haven’t sent in yet, I have an opportunity for you.
Usually, my queue is weeks or even months long to answer questions. But from time to time (when I haven’t given you a hard enough time) it gets short. Which means, if you time it right, you can send in a question one week, and get it answered the next week.
That’s the case right now. The first person to send me their question on marketing, selling, copywriting, business, life, whatever — at [email protected] — will get it featured in next week’s Mailbox Monday.
But you have to be fast — because I only answer one a week. If you’re not first, I’ll add you to the queue in the order your question is received.
Okay, on to today’s question — and it’s a bit of a different one, about ADHD…
You’ve mentioned ADHD in passing…
What about the gifts of this condition? Rather than the limitations.
I know some… The ability to get really excited and INTO a product (the impulsiveness)… The ability to HYPER-focus (something most people don’t realize about ADHD)… The ability NOT to sit on the fence, but have an opinion… The ability to know that taking action is often the right thing to do… And there are others.
Would be interested in your take on how ADHD has helped you to success… Not been a negative. (I, frankly, prefer to see it as a gift).
I love this personal question — and I’m not afraid to talk about my ADHD…
(That’s actually a trait of a lot of folks with ADHD. I guess it’s part of our unfiltered approach to interacting with the world.)
But first, I do want to acknowledge that ADHD can sometimes be a challenge.
When I was in grade school, I did pretty dang good. When we had one teacher all day long, and the work required was pretty structured, I excelled.
But then when I hit middle school, I hit a wall.
Suddenly, I had eight classes and eight teachers and eight subjects to manage. Suddenly, I was dealing with work outside of school, and having to be responsible for that. Suddenly, I needed more focus and organization than ever.
Note: this was all BEFORE I was diagnosed with ADHD.
In some classes, it wasn’t too tough. When I liked a class or got into the work, I could stay focused. I could get the work done that needed to be done. I could hit deadlines.
But it wasn’t always easy.
When I didn’t like a class, or the teacher, or had any reason to not really be into it… Well, I let homework slip. I missed deadlines. And I’d fall behind in class.
My ongoing pattern — usually for one class per semester — was to let my grade dip down near failing, for most of the semester. Most of this was because I wasn’t doing homework. Then, at the 11th hour, I’d do all the homework as “make up” and bring my grade back up to a C or better.
This went on for a long, long time. Through high school. And into college. The first year, at least. Until I realized how expensive it was to have to take classes over.
Suddenly I shaped up, sat in the front of classes, got homework done before deadlines (usually in the last couple hours before, often overnight), and maintained a B-or-better average through the rest of college.
It was only after all this that I finally got tested for ADHD, and found out that these are quintessential behaviors of someone who is ADHD:Inattentive. If you don’t know, that’s a type of ADHD where your mind bounces off the walls, if not your body.
(I even eventually went on drugs to try to manage my ADHD for a bit. But I was reminded that what you’re taking is basically a really clean version of meth. Literally — ADHD meds and meth are both amphetamines, in fact the ADHD drug Desoxyn is literally FDA-approved methamphetamine. It wasn’t good for me, and thankfully — after some effort — I was able to rid myself of the high-powered meds. I do have a pretty substantial coffee addiction now, but that’s relatively manageable.)
There are actually lessons in my failure…
First off, I want you to pay attention to the fact that I said I did miserably in ONE class per semester. The rest, I did pretty well in.
I did poorly in classes that weren’t interesting to me.
In classes that were engaging and held my interest, I was actually able to do well. The question about HYPER focus is very important.
For those of us who have ADHD, we know that our attention and focus aren’t necessarily less, but less controllable. That is, we have trouble forcing ourselves to focus on things we find boring.
But if we are interested, we can have trouble wresting focus away. ADHD kids, stereotypically, can sit still for hours on end at a video game console. But in a desk at the back of a classroom during a boring lecture, we can’t sit still for a second.
In addition to me making the conscious choice in college to get whatever was going on under control enough to pass all my classes, something else was going on. After my first year, I reached a point where I was able to choose most of my classes.
I pursued something interesting to me (psychology) and found classes that would hold my attention.
In short, I tapped into my hyper focus more, and reached a point where I had to deal less with general education credits that tested my inattentiveness.
Lesson? If you have ADHD — or simply trouble staying focused — it might not be YOU. It might be what’s going on around you. If you’re in school, are you in the wrong classes? If you’re at work, are you in the wrong job? If you’re in business, are you working with the wrong clients and customers? If you’re not engaged, it might be what’s around you — not a personal flaw.
By changing what’s around you — and what’s expected of you — you can actually spend more time in a hyper focused and productive state, and less worrying about staying focused on tasks that don’t fit you.
Which exactly why…
ADHD is a super-power of so many successful entrepreneurs…
In order to be successful in the work-a-day, cog-in-the-machine, cubicle-farm world, you have to have certain “conformist” traits.
You have to be willing to do what your boss tells you to do, because it’s your job. You have to be willing to focus on tasks, whether you like them or not. You have to follow rules. You have to sustain attention. You’ve gotta deal with rules, and order, and politics, and crap.
(I decided somewhere in my mid-teens that I was not destined to work in a cubicle farm — I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew it was NOT THAT.)
On the other hand, to be a successful entrepreneur, you usually need to be a nonconformist. You have to be willing to break rules. To upset order. To chase opportunities. To shun convention. To pursue passions and interests. And to ignore a lot of the consequences.
This represents the ADHD person to a T.
I’m certain that’s why I’ve found that — when questioned — many of the brightest and most successful entrepreneurs I know have had ADHD, or at least enough traits that they’d likely be diagnosed if they ever tried.
But they should NOT take drugs for it, in most cases.
Rather, they need to build systems around them that allow them to channel it for productive purposes.
Entrepreneurs are creators and innovators — and with the right organizer on their team, can be unstoppable.
Richard Branson, perhaps the most famously ADHD entrepreneur of all, has hundreds of companies, none of which he runs. He just dreams up ideas and what will make them successful, and gets them rolling so other people can run them. That’s ADHD heaven.
Personally, here’s where I think my ADHD has been most helpful…
Actually, where it’s been most harmful is on page 15 of a sales letter, when I just have to get it done. That’s when it’s the most challenging.
But in my ADHD brain, I’m constantly making connections. I’m never settled. I’m drawing connections that don’t show up to less flighty minds. These are all valuable in finding and developing big ideas for copy promotions.
Also, when I work with business owners and dive in to understand how they do things and — importantly — how they can do things better and more profitably, it’s my ADHD brain that’s curious and asks tons of questions and wants to understand it all. And then, that draws up a random experience from four years ago that’s suddenly relevant and shows the answer to multiply sales.
If you don’t have ADHD, I don’t want to dissuade you from going down the entrepreneurial path. There are plenty of entrepreneurs who have been successful with their own non-ADHD superpowers.
But if you DO have ADHD, and sometimes feel like you have trouble fitting in, or wonder how you can succeed with a mind that moves a mile a minute, I want you to know there is hope and models of success you can follow.
And ultimately, it’s often our differences that are our superpowers. Despite the fact that society treats people who are not “normal” (whatever that is) as bad, it’s usually these ways that we’re not normal that we’re able to harness and use to accomplish extraordinary (read “extra-ordinary” or beyond ordinary) things.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets