Today’s successful entrepreneur might possess an MBA, well-connected parents and plenty of chutzpah, but there’s one often misunderstood component and it goes by the four-letter acronym known as ADHD.
Experts say Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition shared by most entrepreneurs, some of whom have a knack for controlling their ADHD so they can foster success in their professional lives.
“I bet 80 per cent of entrepreneurs have it,” says Dr. Ned Hallowell, a U.S. psychiatrist and leading authority on ADHD. “Although way fewer have been diagnosed with it. Almost every entrepreneur I meet has it and when I talk to groups of entrepreneurs and describe ADHD they’re all jumping out of the chairs saying that’s us.”
Many of ADHD’s traits are those needed to win in the business world: creativity, high energy, risk tolerance, quick thinking, multi-tasking and resilience. Or, as Hallowell puts it, it’s like having a Ferrari engine for a brain with bicycle brakes. Some manage to harness its power, while others fail.
ADHD impairs how people manage their attention. Some people with ADHD flit from one thing to another, others hyper focus. What makes it tricky to diagnose is that many of its long list of symptoms can be thought of as extreme forms of normal behaviour. Ever been called a chatterbox? Told you have ants in your pants? Are you forever losing your keys and missing appointments? Do you blurt out your thoughts or do things before thinking them through? Do you spend a lot of time daydreaming or playing video games? Are you easily distracted, overly sensitive and forgetful? They may be signs of ADHD, or not.
In good company
After years of struggling with anxiety and depression, scattered and impulsive thinking and being a workaholic, comedian Rick Green was diagnosed at 47, shortly after his son had been diagnosed with the disorder, a common occurrence as ADHD is highly hereditary.
“I went through life in a wrestling match with an invisible opponent,” says the now 62-year-old Green, who today uses his comedy to tell others about ADHD. “And the thing about that was I didn’t even know I was in a wrestling match. I just thought this is what life is like for everyone and it’s not.”