You Were Made for Business
My name’s Katie. And I have ADHD.
No this is not a drug advertisement.
I just want to put it out there. I want to let you know that this is part of my working and private life.
Like a lot of my clients, I have a history of fighting my impulsivity, wrestling with time management, and - oh my god - I can procrastinate out the wazoo.
But I know my brain now. I understand - as most successful ADHD entrepreneurs do - that my brain works. Like it works really well. It just works really differently.
It’s not bad. It’s not broken. It’s just…different. Like being left-handed.
And just like being left-handed, being a successful adhd entrepreneur means you just need to grab your momentum by a different handle.
People with ADHD are, apparently, “300% more likely to start their own business,” according to Psychology Today.
So before you start thinking you can’t do this, you need to pause. Because having ADHD might be just the thing that gives you leverage in the marketplace - if you approach it with a little knowledge, good tools, and an informed re-frame.
What Is ADHD?
I don’t want to get too wonky here, so really quickly - ADHD is what’s known as a “neurodevelopment disorder,” which basically means it’s linked to how the brain develops.
In real-life terms, I’d say it’s a way of processing information that impacts how you interact with time, data, impulse, and focus.
Myths abound about what causes it. TV, sugar, and I’m guessing social media - that’s always a “culprit” nowadays - are among the usual suspects.
But studies suggest that there’s a likely genetic component. Some environmental factors - like neurotoxins in pesticides and prenatal exposure to smoking and alcohol - could also be contributors. But…the point is it’s still up for debate.
But the real point is that over 350 million adults are affected with ADHD. And a shocking amount of them become entrepreneurs. Like… butt-kicking entrepreneurs. And a lot of them link their success to harnessing the ADHD way of working.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the challenges of ADHD entrepreneurs. But more importantly, we’ll talk about their superpowers. In the end, you might come to realize that being part of this group is the best thing that could’ve happened to you.
The Suck Side of This Deal
Let’s first go over the rough parts of this deal. The stuff that ADHD entrepreneurs have to wrestle against as they build a business.
A lot of what ADHD entrepreneurs struggle with is going to connect to creating structure.
When you run your own business, you’re the boss. You’re making something from scratch. So it’s your job to create the scaffolding of business processes. Yeah, you can hire help for this, but you’re the person at the front.
This isn’t always a comfortable place for ADHD entrepreneurs.
Instead of seeing our business as a series of solution-oriented actions. It can begin to look like a tornado of conflicting priorities. Arrows of operation going in 100 different directions.
And it’s your job to create a throughline, a system. It can trigger overwhelm in ADHD entrepreneurs. It can also trigger creative thinking (but more on that in a bit).
Ultimately, the struggles of the ADHD business owner boil down to two camps.
Attention and Impulse.
It’s under these two umbrellas that you’ll see a lot of the usual neurodivergent challenges.
In the “Attention Camp,” we have:
Getting distracted easily
Trouble completing boring tasks
Little or no sense of time passing
In the “Impulsivity Camp,” there are:
Not good at assessing danger
And then there’s Procrastination. Holy Moly.
Procrastination isn’t technically a symptom of ADHD. It’s more like a behavioral product of other ADHD symptoms. It’s a compensation strategy.
A lot of ADHD entrepreneurs will procrastinate because of the feeling of not knowing where to begin. Or because they dread a task sensing how tough it will be to make it to the finish line.
Procrastination regulates the ick feeling of facing those potential failures. That being said, it can also be a doorway to creativity.
Oops! I’m getting ahead of myself again. That falls under ADHD Superpowers.
The Superpowers of ADHD Entrepreneurs
Time Management. Distraction. Completion challenges. Being forgetful!
“Jeez,” you may think, “what’s the point of trying?!”
Take a breath and listen.
If you’re, like me - and Richard Branson, and Walt Disney, and David Neeleman - if you’re a neurodivergent business owner, yes there are things that you’re going to have to navigate differently.
BUT. Buuuuuut. You’re going to find that you have certain powers. Skills. Capacities. Ninja-like aptitudes that are perfect for creating a business that dazzles and dominates.
Oh. You don’t believe me? Take a closer look.
ADHD entrepreneurs are associated with:
ADHD thinkers are wizards. They can grab a lot of different elements and combine them in new ways, ways that neurotypical folks have a hard time noticing.
ADHD entrepreneurs work well with metaphors and symbols - which is magic in marketing and communication.
They’re able to see patterns where others only see randomness. They connect regularly with their instinct and can turn and apply that instinct to concrete problems.
There are soooo many strong indicators that people who live with ADHD are used to pivoting and bouncing back.
Each day they navigate in a world set to neurotypical standards. Whether the average ADHD entrepreneur knows it or not, they’ve been building a habit of resilience their whole life. It pays off.
This is Creativity’s baby. It’s the ability to reach new conclusions by unconventional and untried routes. ADHD entrepreneurs can revolutionize industries.
A lot of the superpowers of ADHD entrepreneurs are just the flip side of their struggles. Risk tolerance is one of them.
What could be “impulsivity” when misapplied becomes a useful ability to withstand the normal risks of the business world.
People who can’t deal with uncertainty have a difficult time sticking it out in business. But for us lucky neurodivergents, we eat uncertainty for breakfast.
Some people are freaked out by my energy. They’re like, “Katie, how are you still peppy after all we did today?”
There’s no secret. I love my work. A lot of the time I can harness my ADHD and ride it - fast and furious style!
ADHD entrepreneurs are little Energizer bunnies. When the others are fading out, we’re just getting started.
ADHD entrepreneurs are the curious type. We’re the kind who wants to know why, what, and how. We want to open the locked doors, examine the options, and look around corners. We ask the questions no one else asks.
ADHD entrepreneurs have a bias toward action. We’re not going to make a decision than sit on it forever. Doing is in our blood - or in our brain actually. We are instigators and leaders.
Whoa - wait! Did you say focus?
Hyperfocus: The Superpower of Superpowers
Yes, I did. I did just say “focus.”
I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but ADHD entrepreneurs are particularly brilliant at hyperfocus. And they gain a lot of their market edge from this one capacity, if they use it intentionally.
ADHD entrepreneurs can drop on a problem, task, or project like a laser beam. They can give a quality of focus over to something that goes super deep and lasts long after everyone else taps out.
It’s this focus - mixed with their special brand of corkscrew thinking - that’s produced some of the marketplace’s biggest success stories.
The founder of JetBlue Airways, David Neeleman, made a point of this in Thomas Armstrong’s book, The Power of Neurodiversity. Neeleman's a prime example of the successful ADHD thinker.
“I knew I had strengths that other people didn’t have…I can distill complicated facts and come up with simple solutions. I can look out on an industry with all kinds of problems and say, ‘How can I do this better?’ My ADHD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.”
Sound like anyone you know?
The Bottom Line
Even some of the so-called “negatives” of ADHD can sometimes be a blessing in disguise - if you manage them right.
Procrastination in the hands of a successful ADHD thinker can be an essential step in the process of creation - a new idea that’s unwilling to be rushed to the marketplace. Restless ADHD entrepreneurs could be the only people who take action - when others sit on the sidelines.
The point is your brain is your gift. Or your cross to bear.
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by saying it makes everything easy. Being neurodivergent is a path that requires work. Like anything good.
All I’m saying is you’re not broken. You’re not barred from owning a business.
You actually have treasures in your back pocket. Ready for use.
All I’m saying is…use them.
Time to flex those super strengths!
For tips on how to use your powers better, hang out with me on Facebook.
Tap the link below.
National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, The prevalence of adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A global systematic review and meta-analysis, Peige Song, Mingming Zha, Qingwen Yang, Yan Zhang, Xue Li, and Igor Rudan, the Global Health Epidemiology Reference Group (GHERG)