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Sharon Vinderine

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How My ADD Made me a Better Business Owner

Posted: 12/03/2012 8:20 am

Attention deficit disorder is characterized primarily by symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour or by the significant expression of all three. Although never formally diagnosed, I would venture to say that I am indeed the perfect definition of someone with this disorder. Good luck getting me to focus on what you are talking about for very long, whether I'm reading or listening, attention span is short lived.

Hyperactivity, well that was definitely me before children, a full time job and a travel schedule that sometimes rivals an Air Canada pilot. Impulsive behaviour -- that is me at the core. I go with my gut, inevitably, I make rash decisions in the interest of just getting it done and I can't say I thoroughly think through every decision. I think about it but I don't necessarily always think it through. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but that's the way I do it.

I am a case where ADD just works. It took years of practice, patience from those around me including teachers, parents and my awesome husband but I have found a way to make it work for me. Don't get me wrong, I am not here to argue that this is not a serious condition at times, with varying degrees of severity and depending on the stage of life can have a significant impact, I am simply here to tell you how I think ADD has possibly helped countless entrepreneurs get to where they are today, including myself.

I am in great company, from John F. Kennedy to Albert Einstein to John Lennon, each of these people suffered from varying degrees of ADD. I would say they did pretty damn well for themselves. Here is where I think some people get stuck in their ADD diagnosis. They see it as a negative and use it as a crutch. I've seen firsthand where someone was diagnosed formally with ADD and literally used that ADD diagnosis as their excuse for everything. Personally, I feel it is my drive. It is the thing that has let me become a driven entrepreneur with very few regrets.

Some attributes of ADD and their positive spin on your business:

Inability to focus very long: True, I will start talking to my husband about something and while he is trying to respond I have already remembered something I should have done five minutes prior and thinking about where to write it down so I won't forget. The plus side? If you're my husband, there isn't one but as a business person, when listening to people, I tend to listen but while they are talking, unbeknownst to them, they are triggering idea after idea. Picture rapid fire missiles, that is figuratively what is going on in my brain while someone is pitching me on why I should use them as my web developer.

Very little patience: git'er done. I don't want to wait for you to think it through, analyze it, develop spreadsheets and do a cost benefit analysis. Launch it, sell it and let's see how it goes. It sucks? OK, ditch it, you didn't spend that much time preparing for it so don't waste too much time regretting it. Worked like a charm? Fabulous, now spend the time fleshing it out and getting it to its next stage of success. This is not a certain formula for success and nor am I recommending that this is the way you should run your business, but what I am saying is that this tends to be an ADD trait and I'm trying to leverage it to the best of my ability.

Sleeps very little: Why? Because as soon as there is even a remote level of consciousness, most entrepreneurs are jarred awake by a new idea and need to tell Siri about it so they don't forget. People with ADD or self diagnosed ADD have very little brain rest. They are constantly exercising their brain by jumping from thought to thought, idea to idea which leads them very often to be able to look at a situation using "outside the box" thinking.

Easily bored: Yada Yada Yada, yes, that is very often what I'm thinking when someone is rambling on about something that doesn't interest me or doesn't have immediate benefit for me. But talk to me about something interesting, and boy oh boy, I'm focused like nobody's business. In fact, it is usually a topic that I know nothing about that gets me hyper focused. People with ADD need constant brain stimulation. They are NEVER satisfied with the status quo and need to be growing and evolving constantly. I am on a plane right now weighted down by my Popular Mechanics and Scientific American magazines and can hardly wait to get my hands on them. 

ADD while having its shortfalls, certainly has its benefits. It's like a nuclear core reactor; nuclear is not something you typically consider as something great but yet it serves a purpose and provides energy that allows us to heat our homes, microwave our food, and charge our devices. Looked at from the negative angle, its a nuclear reactor for goodness sake, who the heck wants one of those? Guess you could say I'm a glass half full kind of person.

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  • You're restless.

    Children with ADHD can be overly energetic, but adults may just feel edgy or restless. "Adults don't show the more obvious signs such as running and jumping," says Colette de Marneffe, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Silver Spring, Md. "Hyperactivity presents more subtly in the form of restlessness." However, you may recall a rambunctious childhood. Dr. Wetzel had a patient who recalled spending a lot of time in the school hallways because "he couldn't sit still." It's a "classic story," he says. <strong>More from Health.com:</strong> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20418651,00.html" target="_hplink">10 Things You Should Do If You Have Adult ADHD</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20480962,00.html" target="_hplink">10 Tricks for Paying Better Attention</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20307161,00.html" target="_hplink">7 Celebrities With ADHD</a>

  • You have a child with ADHD.

    ADHD appears to have a genetic component. When one member of the family has it, there's a 25- to 35-percent chance that someone else in the family does, too, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, some adults, who may have had the same symptoms when they were children, realize that they may have always had the condition without realizing it.

  • You have relationship trouble.

    A newly minted relationship is often exhilarating, but the novelty can wear off in time. "Oftentimes adults with ADHD really have a hard time with that transition," notes de Marneffe. "When the relationship becomes more stable and predictable, conflicts tend to emerge." Being easily distracted or inattentive -- symptoms of ADHD -- can also sabotage existing relationships with family, friends, and significant others who view their loved one's behavior as self-centered, Dr. Wetzel adds.

  • You smoke.

    About 40 percent of adults with ADHD smoke, versus only 26 percent of the general population. "Nicotine is very effective for a lot of ADHD symptoms and it's not uncommon for me to see someone for the first time after they quit smoking," says Dr. Wetzel. That's because they often start to have more problems with focus and concentration, he explains. Adults with ADHD are also more likely to use alcohol and other drugs, and at earlier ages, than people without ADHD.

  • You had academic problems as a child.

    If you suspect you have ADHD as an adult, an early history of ADHD symptoms -- difficulty sitting still, paying attention to the teacher and focusing on your work, for example -- can confirm the diagnosis. "What adult patients will tell you over and over and over again is that they had to work twice as hard as their peers to get half as much done in school," Dr. Wetzel says.

  • You're a champion procrastinator.

    Do you live deadline to deadline? "I can't tell you how many times a patient has told me, 'I'm the king of procrastination,' or 'I'm the queen of procrastination,' because they feel like no one else can put things off like they can," says Dr. Wetzel. It makes sense, he adds, because when people with ADHD are under the gun and anxious, that's when they can focus. Constant anxiety, however, can be very stressful.

  • You're a thrill seeker.

    People with ADHD are often drawn to activities that are stimulating. They may engage in risky behaviors, like fast driving, gambling and even extramarital affairs. The key is to channel that desire for excitement and novelty into activities that don't jeopardize your work and family life, says de Marneffe. Parasailing or other high-adventure activities may be good outlets.

  • You lose things all the time.

    Is losing your cell phone, wallet or keys part of your daily routine? People with ADHD frequently misplace common items. Dr. Wetzel describes ADHD as an "underpowered state of consciousness." If you set down your keys and you're not really paying attention, your brain doesn't lay down a memory of the event. "It's kind of like it never happened," he says.

  • You have trouble on the job.

    Everyone encounters some task he doesn't particularly enjoy, but most people are able to find a way to complete the boring aspects of their job, says de Marneffe. People with ADHD, however, have a hard time doing that. Jobs with a lot of repetition tend to be a poor fit, she observes. Choose work that engages you and fulfills your need for novelty and variability.

  • You have a quick temper.

    If you fly off the handle in a fit of anger or frustration one moment but are completely over it in the next, it might be a sign of ADHD. Because this type of irritability can also be a symptom of bipolar disorder, some people with ADHD can be misdiagnosed, says Dr. Wetzel. (However, you can also have both.) It's important to get a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

  • You have problems completing tasks.

    Is your house cluttered with piles of laundry? Is your expense account still a work in progress? Failing to finish tasks can be a symptom of ADHD in adults. Dr. Wetzel, author of the e-book "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Patients-Family-Friends-ebook/dp/B004S3I8Z4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1305231560&sr=1-1" target="_hplink">The Adult ADHD Handbook for Patients, Family & Friends</a>," finds the most successful ADHD patients tend to be entrepreneurs who recognize this shortcoming and surround themselves with people who will focus on the details, finish the paperwork and handle the mundane portions of a task.

  • You're impulsive.

    If you blurt out whatever's on your mind without weighing the consequences, it might be a symptom of ADHD. And acting on an impulse, rather than thinking things through, can cause trouble with family and colleagues. Examples would include abruptly quitting a job, having unprotected sex or impulse buying with little thought about the repercussions.

  • You can't relax.

    Your spouse wants to catch a movie, but unless it's the thriller you've been dying to see, you may get up several times or have random thoughts that distract you from the plot. Being calm requires a quiet mind, and that's tough for people with ADHD because "so many other things can take over their consciousness," Dr. Wetzel says. "People with ADHD will tell you it's almost impossible for them to meditate."

  • You're easily distracted.

    You're on a conference call, but your mind keeps wandering. Next thing you know, you've lost chunks of conversation. With ADHD, sustaining focus is a real problem and a core feature of the disorder. Unimportant things -- from external noises and movement to daydreams -- grab your attention. Move to a work space with fewer distractions or use white noise to block out other sounds in the surrounding environment.

  • You're disorganized.

    Here's the tip off: Your desk is a mountain of paper and you just wasted a half hour searching for an important legal document. Or maybe you failed to make appointments for your children to see the pediatrician, and the school wants their immunization reports -- pronto. If you have ADHD, getting and staying organized is a challenge for you. Breaking organizational tasks into smaller steps may help, according to the National Resource Center on ADHD, in Landover, Md. <strong>More from Health.com:</strong> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20418651,00.html" target="_hplink">10 Things You Should Do If You Have Adult ADHD</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20480962,00.html" target="_hplink">10 Tricks for Paying Better Attention</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20307161,00.html" target="_hplink">7 Celebrities With ADHD</a>


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