The following article has been published with kind permission from Pete Quily.
By Pete Quily, Adult ADD Coach
I have Attention Deficit Disorder (which I find is more of a surplus really). I coach adults with ADD, have an ADD resource website with over 100 pages of information, an ADD blog, and have ADD. So, I’m fairly familiar with ADD. I’ve been using Mac computers for 20 years, sold them for seven, and have spent thousands of hours on the net. So, I’m fairly familiar with the high tech world.
I’ve noticed there are many similarities between the two worlds.
I believe there are many people who work in the high tech industry who have ADD, much more than the average of the population.
Approximately five per cent of the population has ADD and 85 per cent of adults with ADD don’t know they have it. It seems to me ADD and the technology industry is a natural fit. The constant change of the high tech world can be stressful and troubling for some people but it’s often stimulating and energizing for the ADDer. A great source of Dopamine hits. Although, there are no specific statistics a number of other ADD experts I’ve talked to agree with my observation.
Many people only see the many problems associated with ADD, and many people, especially men avoid getting diagnosed for ADD. The delay in getting diagnosed is that some people portray it as an almost totally pathological condition, and they view it as just a weakness.
To put it into perspective, I thought I’d write a list of some advantages of having ADD in the wired world to help people in the industry recognize and develop their ADD related strengths as well as managing their ADD challenges.
I also hope this might help those who may be afraid of getting diagnosed and treated (medication, Adult ADD coaching, therapy etc.) for ADD because of the negative stigma promoted by the people that condemn ADD as a moral failure. (i.e., “there’s no such thing as ADD, turn off the TV, stop eating sugar, beat your kid more often, and twirl around 3 times and tap your heels and it will go away). ADD is an inherited neurobiological condition. Every medical and psychological association has stated this.
As more people realize the advantages of having ADD, they will be more inclined to seek diagnosis and treatment. Some people believe ADD is related to IQ, the idea that all ADD’ers are slow learners or below average IQ, wrong. I have it and I made the Dean’s Honours list and many PhD’s have it. MENSA has an ADD special interest group with 573 300+ members. It comes down to a difference in brain wiring, and in some fields (high tech, marketing, artists, the media, entrepreneurs) the unique wiring of the ADD brain is a competitive advantage.
Top Ten ADD Advantages in a High Tech Career.
1. The Ability to Hyperfocus.
Hours of full engagement and concentration in a task, IF you find it interesting. You can get into the zone and be totally immersed in what you’re doing while the outside world disappears. When I went on the net for the first time in 1993 at an Internet cafe I got on the machine at 8 pm and around 4 am decided it was time to go home.
2. Rapid Fire Mind.
Your brain processes information at hyperspeed. You can do things in 30 minutes on a computer that might take other people hours. Downside if you’re stuck with an old machine and not enough RAM you’ll be frustrated cause it can’t keep up with the speed of your brain.
3. Multitasking at Will.
Able to run 14 apps at a time and effortlessly switch between each without breaking a sweat. Able to do several projects at a time with ease.
4. High Energy Level.
You’re able to keep going on a project (if it’s interesting, ADDers are more into creative and entrepreneurial activities than clerical and repetitive ones). 14-hour days? No problem. Adrenaline is my fuel source:)
5. Highly Creative.
Able to think beyond the idea of a box. This comes naturally for ADDers, while others pay thousands of dollars to try and learn this. Since you take in more information than the average person, and you’re easily distractible, you’re more likely to view a problem from many different angles than vanilla people (non ADDers), and therefore come up with more possible solutions to a problem. Need an idea generator? Find an ADDer.
6. Quick Learner.
IF it’s something you’re interested in. ADD is mainly a condition of boredom; you have no trouble paying attention to something if it’s interesting. Most people find it difficult to do boring or repetitive things but these can often totally shut an ADDer down. Your rapid fire brain + highly creative mind + the ability to hyperfocus equals fast absorption of new information quickly. Dr Ed Hallowell, who has ADD and has written several Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder, said he stopped teaching Psychiatry at Harvard University because the non-ADDers brains were just to slow and they took so long to get it. He got tired of being continually frustrated waiting for them to catch up to the ADD students.
7. Stimulus Seeking Brain.
A perfect match for the wired world, an under stimulated brain and an over stimulated virtual environment. Being an info junkie can be a good thing. Well, not always:)
8. Constantly Scanning your Environment.
Allows you to notice more and find information and resource that others miss. Also allows you to see possible problems before they arise, and opportunities that others may not see because they have tunnel vision vs. multiplex vision. An ADDer invented the electronic ticket.
9. Great in a Crisis.
High energy intense situation? Lots of chaos and change? Sign me up; I thrive on stimulation, change and chaos. We can create order from chaos effortlessly. We can also create such an environment as well if needed.
10. Risk Taker.
Impulsivity means you’re more willing to take risks and have a bias for action, act now while the opportunity is hot instead of getting into analysis paralysis. Many entrepreneurs have ADD i.e. Paul Orfalea who founded Kinko’s, JetBlue Founder and CEO David Neeleman who attributes his creativity to ADD. Both are Billionaires. Imagine how successful a high tech CEO would be if they didn’t take many risks.
This is not to say there are no disadvantages or real problems associated with ADDers in a high tech career, there most certainly are, and if you don’t learn to manage them (see Top 10 Ways to Manage Adult ADHD), they can a great deal of trouble and grief to your life (and those around you), but that’s another article.
If you have or think you have ADD and work in a high tech career, what are your ADD competitive advantages?