Does ADHD Help Or Hurt Entrepreneurs?
David Neeleman, Richard Branson (allegedly), and other famous entrepreneurs have claimed they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Whenever someone famous claims to have a disorder, everyone else with that disorder rushes to point out how that disorder is actually a competitive advantage, perhaps even desirable. I call this “Einstein child syndrome,” after all the parents who, when my elementary school teacher mother, would tell them their child was having problems in school, would say “Well, Einstein also didn’t do well in school.” What my mother often thought, but never said, was “Yeah, but trust me, your child ain’t no Einstein.”
I was diagnosed as a child with ADHD, and I’m an entrepreneur. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. I’m less interested in whether it’s a coincidence, and more interested in learning how to deal with it in a way that either; a) minimizes the damage, and/or b) turns it into an advantage. The realistic side of me focuses on the first option, and optimistic side of me focuses on the latter option. Although “focus” is, perhaps, the wrong term to use, because I’m not sure my attention stays on anything long enough to be called “focus.”
The more I’ve studied ADHD and entrepreneurs, the more my opinion is that while ADHD is definitely a negative, with proper controls put in place a person can compensate for it such that the positives outweigh the negatives. Weaknesses can become strengths, or can lead to strengths in other areas that compensate for the weakness, just as someone confined to a wheelchair may develop stronger arms than they ever would have had otherwise. This isn’t to say they wouldn’t prefer to have the use of their legs back, or to have escaped the condition in the first place, but hey, since you’ve got it, might as well make the best of it and appreciate what silver linings there are. Why not make it an excuse to become a better overall person?
I’m still early on in my thoughts on this matter, but I’m doing research on it and will be writing up something for Forbes soon. What are your thoughts on ADHD and entrepreneurs? How can an entrepreneur compensate for ADHD, and how can one turn a disorder like ADHD into a net positive?