I'm a CEO with ADHD, and it's my biggest strength. Here's why.
- Joe De Sena is the founder and CEO of Spartan, the world's largest obstacle race and endurance brand. He is also the New York Times best-selling author of "Spartan Up" and "Spartan Fit," and recently released his third book, "The Spartan Way."
- As someone with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), De Sena has found it to be his greatest strength as an entrepreneur.
- He says that his ADHD helped him pursue his own dreams, and he can't imagine living any other way. For him, a challenge is a new opportunity for achieving success.
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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is, without a doubt, my greatest strength. It's a major reason why I bounce off the walls until I find something important to focus on.
The kid who "can't sit still," the guy who seems distant in conversation, the entrepreneur obsessed with one idea: I'm all of these things, but I don't see them as negatives in the least.
My most obvious symptom: hyperfocusWhat is ADHD? It's more complex than just a kid who can't sit still. ADHD is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
Symptoms include overlooking or missing details, an inability to listen, organizational issues, forgetfulness, and being easily distracted. My most obvious symptom? Hyperfocus.
Honestly, I view this "symptom" as a home-run trait. Sure, my mind has trouble sticking to one thing, but that means I don't ruminate on irrelevant ideas or spend more than a minute feeling negative. My hyperfocus allows me to actually keep my attention on the things that move the needle each day. ADHD - and my hyperfocus - helped me leave my job on Wall Street to pursue my dream of ripping 1 million people off the couch. As it turns out, evolution helped me do this.
How the hyperfocus trait evolved
Take it from Thom Hartmann, author of "The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child."
Hartmann claims that, in hunter-gatherer cultures, hunters needed hyperfocus more than gatherers. He implies that the ADHD hyperfocus trait provided a selective advantage in the past.
This might not make sense to you, because ADHD and a "lack of focus" are generally perceived as negatives. But think about it for a second. The hunter scanned the environment, looking and waiting for something to focus on. Are you a hunter or a gatherer? Which would you rather be?I know I'm a hunter, and this gene intensifies my inclination to act on ideas that I'm scanning. My supposed "disorder" led me to create Spartan, the Spartan Up Podcast, and the SpartanX Leadership Forum.
When I'm hyperfocused on one idea, I make it great. I only ruminate on what truly matters, leaving all the irrelevant noise behind. So why would I see ADHD as a "weakness?" I can't imagine living any other way.
Why my ADHD is a blessing
Without the hyperfocus trait, I'd lack creativity, spontaneity, and a fast-paced lifestyle essential for entrepreneurship. It's the reason I'm successful, and it's why ADHD is my greatest strength.
I'm a firm believer that we should all admire the things about our challenges that make us who we are. No, I can't sit for too long, but that's why I'm fit. No, I don't always think before I act, but that's why I'm direct and honest with everyone I meet. No, I didn't learn as well as others in the traditional classroom setting, but that's why I have gritty determination to succeed.
My advice to you: Tell yourself that every challenge is an opportunity to achieve success. Turn your struggle into triumph. Transform your "disorder" into an advantage.
Now stop reading, log onto LinkedIn, and tell me which "weakness" you're grateful for.