Sometimes, my brain feels really, really broken…
I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. That’s most definitely NOT why I’m writing this. In fact, by the end you may wish your brain was broken in the way mine is. Or, if it is, you may actually learn to embrace it…
I’ve been diagnosed with Adult ADHD. The lesser-known Inattentive subtype. Which means my mind is bouncing off the walls, even when my body isn’t.
I skip from idea to idea to idea, tangent to tangent, faster than I can even stick with them. Sometimes, it leads me to stopping in the middle of…
And moving on to the next thing.
Okay, joking aside…
That’s not the only way my brain is broken. I get caught in thought loops. Sometimes, really negative. Sometimes, full of regret. Maybe bordering on some other diagnoses, though I haven’t been diagnosed with anything else (nor do I really want to be).
A lot of this, when I was younger, really contributed to a sense of isolation. I felt different from everybody around me. Profoundly alone. I had friends, yes. I had peers. But I often felt like nobody understood me. And I struggled to let out the real me.
I wore masks. Not literally, but figuratively. We all do.
But mine was thick enough that it actually got in the way of me reacting to things in the moment.
Maybe you’ve had this experience…
Someone says something to you. It’s bad — nasty. You get a little fire inside, ready to say something sharp, witty, and on-point as a comeback. But you freeze. The right words just won’t come to you.
You know you could and should have a response. But you don’t.
You’re stuck. Frozen.
Seconds feel like hours. Your face flushes with embarrassment. Your opportunity to respond quick enough to feel and sound sharp slips away.
Until, mere moments later, you retreat in shame. Your ego battered. Your pride damaged.
At this point, anything you say will be too-little, too-late. Even a good comeback becomes a joke, as your slow-thinking becomes the new target of humor and derision.
Now this situation sounds a lot like bullying. But this happened to me a thousand times as a kid, in situations where I wasn’t directly being picked on. But I felt like I was — just because my brain stopped working the moment I felt like I had something to say.
The more times this happens, the more you start to feel like a failure…
Wow. Flashback here. In first grade, I was in a talent show. We were doing a play. I don’t remember much, except that each kid — and there were 4 or 5 of us — had one line.
We literally had books in our hands, to read our lines.
When it got to me, I had that same freezing feeling. I stared out at the crowd, and didn’t read my line.
Didn’t READ my line. It wasn’t even that I couldn’t think of what to say. I totally, completely froze.
All I had to do was read it, and I couldn’t even do that.
Eventually, the other kids jumped in, and the play went on without me.
My broken brain taught me to hate failure…
My old boss Jeff, who once hung out with NBA and NHL stars while reporting on sports for his local newspaper, said there were two types of athletes that really succeed.
Those who love winning, and those who hate losing.
For those who love winning, they work hard to achieve their goals. They’re after the glory. And with enough dedication and the right opportunity, they do well.
But those who hate losing are relentless. Every loss feels like a total personal failure. They take it hard. And then, they get up, dust the frack off, and get in there again.
He said he knew a lot of people who did well in sports (and later, in life and business) because they loved winning. But few had the kind of relentless enthusiasm that comes from hating losing, and doing everything in their power to prevent it. He said that was me.
But what does this have to do with success?
Well, my coach Joseph Rodrigues does these YouTube videos. He studies books, in deep, and takes a ton of notes. Then, he’ll talk for an hour or more about the big takeaways from the books, reflecting on the contents and his experience and application of the principles they contain.
He recently did a video on Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho-Cybernetics. I’ve read the Dan Kennedy version. I’ve also listened to the audio program based on the book. I’m more than familiar with the material. But I went through Joseph’s video anyway.
And while Joseph was describing how we program our automatic success mechanism (based on the book), I realized something…
I realized that immediately AFTER all my moments of failure, I was programming myself for how to succeed in the future…
You see, I talked about how sometimes my brain gets caught in these loops. Sometimes, they can be really negative.
And in a situation like I laid out above, that’s exactly what would happen.
Let’s go with the first grade play. After I trudged off stage, head-down, embarrassed, I went back to my seat. I sat down, and sulked.
And while my friends told me it was okay, I started that negative thought loop.
“Where did this go wrong? Why did it end up so bad? Why did I face-plant?”
But I didn’t just ask those questions. While my broken brain piled on the doubt, my conscious mind started to defend itself. And came up with answers.
Not only that, I’d think about how to do it better the next time.
This is how I turned on my automatic success mechanism…
Some people hate failure, but they feel like they’re stuck in it. The one thing I had going for me, even with my broken brain, is that I felt like I could overcome my failures. That even if I failed today, I didn’t have to do it again tomorrow.
So as I asked all those questions about my failure, I would start to rehearse all the better things I could have done and said.
Then, in my imagination, I’d repeat the scenarios over and over again, inside my head. Thinking about what I could have done better.
Then, in the theater of my mind, I’d start to imagine the same scene, but with me doing and saying all the right things to succeed.
What started as regret turned into practice for how to succeed the next time…
Now I know I was creating success thinking patterns…
Now I do this consciously, not unconsciously. Now I do this with intention, instead of simply as a manifestation of my broken brain.
Now I mentally rehearse how to succeed in a situation before I get into it.
Does this mean I’m always on top of things? Absolutely not!
Does it mean I never fail today? I certainly DO fail, often!
But what I have now is a plan in place that limits potential failure through preparing for potential negative outcomes… Plus an understanding of how to turn failure around quickly and consciously, to recover and reorient myself to success.
And I have compassion and empathy for those unique ways in which we’re ALL broken…
Which thankfully has helped me recognize how sometimes our brokenness can be both our biggest weakness and our greatest strength and super power.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,