ADHD, Strength and Resiliency in the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Today, Western society has an epidemic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). What comes to mind when we hear the word ADHD? Probably words like scattered-brained, distracted, and disorganized. But what about words like creative, tenacious, and resilient? Did those positive attributes pop into your head? Probably not, because unfortunately, ADHD has a mostly negative connotation in Western society.
The truth is that yes, having ADHD does mean having some limitations in Executive Functioning, which makes certain tasks more difficult. But having ADHD also means having certain traits that can be quite advantageous in the right circumstances, like entrepreneurship. Given that, it’s no wonder that Dr. S. Perrault in Psychology Today stated that people with ADHD are 300% more likely to become business owners. One research study actually found a clear connection between ADHD and the propensity toward entrepreneurship, likely due in part to their desire and need for high stimulation and risk-taking opportunities.
I have experienced ADHD first hand, having been diagnosed with it at 26 as a 4th year graduate student. Like others, my intellectual strengths allowed it to be masked for many years. ADHD has been extremely challenging for me, but also had many blessings that allowed me to manifest strings of unique perspectives.
What Is ADHD?
Before we explore ADHD and entrepreneurship, let’s talk a bit about what ADHD is. ADHD is a genetic neurological condition that runs in families. However, it can be exacerbated with psychological, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, sexual, and physical abuse. Common traits associated with ADHD are being easily distracted, disorganization, procrastination, and hyperactivity.
This pervasive pattern of inattention or impulsivity interferes with daily life and reduces the quality of social, academic, or occupational functioning.
The Pros and Cons of ADHD
People with ADHD, many of whom are successful entrepreneurs, tend to share positive traits of high energy, determination, creativity, originality, focus, insight, emotional intelligence and people skills. In the field of psychology, ADHD is sometimes called “the entrepreneur’s superpower” because people with ADHD tend to flourish in times of crisis and succeed under pressure, which is definitely an advantage for initiating your own business.
For those of us who are entrepreneurs with ADHD, we tend to have very quick, active, and sometimes scattered minds, which makes running our business quite challenging. We have lower frustration tolerance, and therefore, we can get angrier on the freeway, get impatient with employees, our spouses, with our closest friends and family which strains our relationships. Those who work with us can feel equally frustrated as they might not know the most optimal ways to interact with an ADHD person. We also tend to be more impulsive and can swing from one extreme to the other: from being very disorganized and non-linear in our thinking when we are not interested in a task to being hyper-focused when we are excited by the task.
Impulsivity that comes with having ADHD makes one prone to addiction. The addiction is both a way to escape the suffering of not feeling good enough, and it’s also a way to feel like the hole has been temporarily filled. A person with ADHD might be escaping the feeling of being insufficient in college, graduate school, or their work by engaging in single or multiple addictions (e.g., taking stimulants, drinking alcohol, gambling, and/or having casual sex).
Those of us who have ADHD, particularly entrepreneurs, constantly feel flawed, thus we may try to overcompensate with perfectionism and doing an incredible job at the things that excite us. When we become aware that we are just not good at organizational tasks or a business strategic action plan, we hire someone to execute these objectives.
However, our low frustration tolerance leads to impatience with our employees because they are not reading our mind; thus, we may fire multiple assistants. This stop-and-go process can make us feel us ill-equipped to run our own business forcing us to go back to working for a corporation. However, as we are working for “the man,” our ADHD can still prevent us from completing menial and administrative tasks that are necessary for the company’s success, which may lead to being fired. Our spouses can get extremely frustrated that we are not pulling our weight financially or around the house. Having ADHD increases the probability of going through divorce, having addictions suicidal thoughts, being hospitalized psychiatrically, and other types of social fall-out.
So how do we as entrepreneurs with ADHD rein in the disorganized side to leverage our positive traits and use our condition to our advantage?
How To Leverage Your ADHD
The best way to deal with ADHD is to embrace it. This condition is manageable, and when under control, it can be a rocket fuel that can power enterprises that can change the world. Some experts refer to ADHD as a super engine with tiny brakes, meaning that ADHD gives our brains a ton of power, but very little control over the speed and maneuverability. So how do we build a better braking system for our brains?
We can identify our strengths and activities that make us grounded and help slow us down. Cardiovascular exercise for 30–60 minutes can release anxiety, elicit the brain’s natural painkillers (i.e., endorphin and enkephalin), improve mental acuity (e.g., quick thoughts, memory, cohesive linear thinking, etc.) regulation of our emotions, and reduce reactivity to stressors. We can make a list of resources, including friends, information and tools that help us leverage our talents.
It’s often helpful to consult a nutritionist, as research shows a connection between how we fuel our bodies and our mental attributes. Food is medicine for focus, mood, and productivity. Proteins and complex carbohydrates with each meal are beneficial. Engage in self-hypnosis or mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation. Work with an ADHD coach and/or a strong right-hand assistant.
Finally, we can constantly remind ourselves that our innate need for stimulation is a powerful engine of our creativity, resilience, and success. We can succeed, and thrive, with ADHD!
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