Adults with ADHD can thrive at work, at home and in social environments simply by implementing the right strategies, systems, routines and habits. However, they often worry about revealing their ADHD because people doubt the existence of ADHD in adults or misunderstand its implications. Our society is biased against people whose brains work differently, and people have been brainwashed by the media into thinking that Adult ADHD is being used as a crutch for lazy or stupid people.
This is simply not true. In my experience, most adults with ADHD work harder than the average person because they always feel they must do more to compensate for their “flaws.” However, you don’t just have to take my word about the existence of ADHD. In more and more empirical studies, many researchers confirm that Attention Deficit Disorder is a real genetic, neurological condition that affects adults as well as children.
The Hunter-Farmer Theory
One hypothesis used to explain ADHD is that the “symptoms” of ADHD may actually be a series of genetic traits inherited from our ancestors. Thom Hartman, a pioneering lay scholar in the field of ADHD, proposed that Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder was something other than a disorder when he introduced us to his Hunter-Farmer theory.
Over the course of history, survival skills have changed. Early humans were hunters, gatherers and nomads. Thom Hartman theorizes that, just as people’s talents and strengths vary today, some humans were better suited for hunting than others. These people were hyper-aware, noticing every stimulus in their environment. Today we call this “distractibility”, but as a hunter, if you don’t take notice of your environment, you’ll either miss your prey, or worse, become the hunted.
The same applies to impulsivity, which allowed the hunter to rapidly identify and seize opportunities, such as an unsuspecting antelope suddenly descending to the waterhole. Taking time for consideration and planning would more than likely leave the hunter hungry as the antelope escaped. In fact, when examined more closely, we realize that all or certainly most of ADHD symptoms would make a person a better hunter.
With the evolution to farming as a way of life, and later to industrialization, different characteristics became better adapted for survival. Non-ADHDers, which Hartman calls farmers, had to work linearly. For the farmer to have a successful crop, things had to happen at certain times, in a certain way, interspersed with a lot of waiting. To organize the crops to maximize their yield farmers had to develop more linear thinking.
Today, your success often depends on your role. An ADHD “hunter” is still best equipped to play the role of hunter, as an artist in search of inspiration, an entrepreneur in search of business opportunities, as a firefighter, police officer, emergency medical technician ready to react instantly in potentially dangerous situations, or an investigative journalist with insatiable curiosity for continuous novelty. The non-ADHD “farmer” is more at home in a cubicle in today’s modern corporation. One is not “better” than the other. Strengths only become symptoms when you try to conform to a lifestyle that doesn’t fit your style.
You’re Not a Hunter; You’re a Creative Genius
Additionally, numerous brilliant people have achieved a great deal of success despite having been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. A small sample of such successful adults with ADHD might include David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airlines AND the inventor of the electronic plane ticket. Just think back to when plane travel meant dealing with a travel agent and finding time to collect your printed tickets before going to the airport. What an amazing accomplishment!
Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinkos, is diagnosed with Adult ADHD and he put his out-of-the-box thinking to work to create a business offering services for college students and small businesses throughout the US, and Richard Branson, the flamboyant and highly energetic owner of Virgin Enterprises (Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines and Virgin Radio to name but a few) is another renowned entrepreneur with numerous businesses around the world.
Many others we now recognize for their genius lived before our time and likely had Adult ADHD. When we study their life stories, their achievements and the strategies they used to become successful, we see that Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison exhibited many of the signs of ADHD. Einstein had great difficulties in school and was very disorganized. Edison was kicked out of several schools and burned down the family barn with one of his inventions, but held over a thousand patents for his inventions, and was a keen businessman and entrepreneur.
Adults with ADHD who play to their strengths have long distinguished themselves. Many ADHD experts agree that some of the most amazing, out-of-the-box thinkers probably have been or could have been diagnosed with ADHD. Whether or not they had ADHD, we will never know since they can’t be diagnosed, but exhibiting some of the worst symptoms of Adult ADHD didn’t stop them. So obviously ADHD is not a scapegoat used by stupid people.
As a Creative Genius, you will succeed once you embrace your strengths, pursue your passion wholeheartedly and realize that your “weaknesses” are just differences people don’t understand. Like Richard Branson, Pablo Picasso or Robin Williams… your brain delivers an endless flow of ingenious, inventive, inspired and (often) wacky ideas. And when an idea excites you, just like them, you have the ability to hyperfocus as you create new businesses, art or inventions that astound everyone.
Add to this list the modern day famous entrepreneurs and Creative Geniuses with ADHD and you’ll see that you’re in excellent company. Jim Carey (actor), Michael Jordan (sports star), Stephen Spielberg (director), Charles Schwab (business leader), Stevie Wonder (musician) and John T. Chambers (CEO of Cisco Systems) are all succeeding wildly in spite of (or because of) their ADHD.