Finding Joy on the Job
Success -- After 34 Different Jobs
In the two years since he hung out his shingle as a grant writer, Daniel G. has enjoyed remarkable success, winning $3.5 million for various community organizations. But Daniel's career path has not been a smooth one. "My working life has been like wandering in the desert," says the 43-year-old resident of the rural Southeast.
That's putting it mildly: Before becoming self-employed, Daniel tried 34 different jobs, including salesman, administrator, janitor, press helper, and landscaper. What made him keep switching jobs? Boredom, mostly. "I got the feedback in my old jobs that I was good at starting things but not at finishing projects," he says. "Being a self-employed grant writer is a way around that, because there are defined projects with a defined life to them."
Around the time he struck out on his own, Daniel read Driven to Distraction, by , and John Ratey, M.D. He realized at once that he had many of the traits described in the book. He consulted a doctor and, sure enough, was diagnosed with ADD. Daniel had always considered it something that affects only children, but he began taking a stimulant medication and found that it helped him focus. He also started to ponder his work habits -- the good and the not-so-good. "My lack of follow-through had always bothered me," he admits. "I felt like it was a moral failing. I didn't know that ADD was the reason I got bored so quickly."
Now Daniel is convinced that ADD makes him a better grant writer. "Having ADD helps you make connections between things other people wouldn't see," he says. "I'm constantly scanning the environment, and I always notice opportunities for business." Like Katherine, Daniel enjoys seeing his work translate into tangible benefits for the community. "It's not just about dollars," he says. "My work has to be in line with my values."
With the encouragement of his ADD coach, New York City-based Bonnie Mincu ( ThriveWithADD.com ), Daniel starts each workday by setting goals. At first, he says, he was too optimistic about what he could accomplish. That led him to take on too much work -- and to miss critical deadlines. Bonnie helped him pinpoint how much time to allot to various tasks. She also taught him how to break multi-step projects into their component parts and to predict the roadblocks he might encounter. His improved time management skills help him avoid taking on too many projects at once.
In addition to Bonnie, Daniel employs someone to help maintain his files. And each Saturday, Daniel meets with his "accountability partner," a friend who helps keep his career on track. "I'm honest with him, telling him about my failures and pointing out where I need to grow," Daniel explains.
Daniel says that one of the best aspects of self-employment is being able to juggle his schedule. The goal is to take advantage of the times of day when his concentration is at a peak. As he puts it, "I've finally given myself permission not to start work at 8:00 a.m." He often works late at night, when the quiet helps him focus. When he gets stuck on a particular problem, he goes for a run. If he has a "eureka moment" while running, he speaks into the tape recorder he carries with him. When he gets home he transfers his thoughts to paper so he can act on them.
In addition to his tape recorder and a PDA, Daniel uses Mindjet mind-mapping software and an Invisible Clock, a gadget that beeps or vibrates at preset intervals. "I play 'Beat the Clock,'" he explains. "I tell myself I can do a task for 15 minutes, and then I start the clock. Once I get started, I usually stay at it. I kind of trick myself."
Daniel is now working to secure a grant worth more than $1 million, and he doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon. "I'm stimulated by learning," he says, "and grant writing is like being in school -- you're learning all the time."
This article comes from the June/July 2006 issue of ADDitude.