Published on ADDitudeMag.com

Make It Work, People!

Mayhem or meditation: Do what you love, love what you do. Follow your heart and it will lead to the best career path for you.

by Bill Mehlman


I should clarify something. Lots of things, actually, but most of them aren't any of your business, so let's talk about your choice of profession.

Your choice of profession should be whatever interests you the most. What gets you up out of the nice warm bed in January and off to the office/store/lab/driving range, full of new ideas for doing your best. It's not the profession that matters, it's your position therein.

Now before the clarification continues, let's look at one of the many paradoxical aspects of ADHD. You would THINK that we, the many, the twitchy, the impulsive, would do best in a quiet, even monastic setting. No noise, no interruptions. And, conversely, that we would be at a terrible disadvantage in a high pressure, rock'em-sock'em kind of job. Not necessarily.

I spent most of my working life in kitchens. Forget Iron Chef, that pathetic farce. If you can ever get into a real kitchen, a kitchen in a big, busy restaurant, on a Friday night, you'll see what Hieronymous Bosch and Dante were trying to depict. (Can't you just picture old Dante, slapping his doublet and saying, "Now that's what I'M talkin' about, fratelli!)

It's a study in controlled — and sometimes uncontrolled — collective insanity. And yet, those sauté lines were where I spent some of my happiest hours. Why? Simple. It was so busy that NOTHING could distract me. Hence part one of the paradox.

To be a good cook, I had to do all the thinking and planning and preparation before service started. I had to have my mise-en-place. Once the orders started coming in, there was no time to start mincing shallots. I didn't think, I just did. My world was reduced to a little area between the range and the counter, maybe six or eight square feet, and the temperature was about 125º F. The orders came flying in, and all I could possibly think about was getting them done.

Years later, I got into catering. This, you say, would be perfect for an ADHDan. Lots of time to prepare. No one yelling. You knew your schedule a month in advance. And guess what? It made me insane. I detested it.

One classic sign of ADHD is time management, or perhaps, time perception. I loathed having to figure out schedules, organize workflow, stuff like that. Eventually I got pretty good at it, but it was a struggle. I used to lay in bed at night sick to my stomach, knowing that I was totally disorganized, couldn't plan, and had to get out a perfect five-course dinner for 300 guests in a week. Some very dicey moments, I assure you.

So, to return to the clarifying: you need to find out your ssssttttyyyylllleeee.

You love finance? Don't let anyone tell you that you can't work on Wall Street with ADHD. But you do have to figure out what your comfort zone is. You like the action? Get into trading. The day will fly by and you'll love it. You want peace and quiet? Get into research. Find a slot where they'll give you a little office and you can spend your days reading 5,000 line spreadsheets and making notes.

It's up to you, mayhem or meditation. And even within a given slot, there are distinctions. You hear the call of the legal profession? You have the same choice. Spend your days and nights reading the tax code and asking your secretary to bring you some more tea? Or are you a jungle beast? Get in the courtroom, my friend, and litigate. Scheme, scream, connive, browbeat, whatever you have to do. It's a great stage for you.

Just stay out of catering.


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Source: Make It Work, People!