Born This Way: Personal Stories of Life with ADHD
Read the stories of four successful entrepreneurs, all diagnosed with ADHD, who say that they don’t need to be fixed.
Executive coach and author of Business in Blue Jeans
When Susan Baroncini-Moe was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), in her late 30s, she finally understood why she had a hard time completing projects, forgot things frequently, and talked so much. On the other hand, the diagnosis made her question who she was. Did her diagnosis define her personality?
“I realized it really didn’t matter whether ADHD was responsible for my quirkiness,” she says. “I am who I am. I have ADHD. And that’s just how it is.” She didn’t feel she was broken, so she developed strategies, not to fix herself, but to become a better version of herself.
As an executive coach, Baroncini-Moe understood firsthand how working with a coach could help. So she hired one for herself. It helped to have someone ask her what she had accomplished and to hold her accountable to her goals. Having a coach who has ADHD and “gets it” is her most valuable tool.
Creating systems and staying organized also worked for her. When you have ADHD, it helps to “look at how you function and when you do specific tasks most effectively, and schedule your day accordingly.”
Some of the other tools Baroncini-Moe uses are exercise and meditation. She works at a treadmill desk. Her favorite type of meditation starts with guided meditation and moves to silence, except for reminders to refocus her attention.
Despite finding strategies that have helped her overcome some of the challenges of living with ADHD, Baroncini-Moe is ready to try something new. “I consider myself a work in progress. I’m always looking for new strategies, new ways of improving myself or optimizing my life.”
Founder and CEO of O2E and 1-800-GOT-JUNK
Brian Scudamore got into the “junk business” when he was 18, as a way to pay for college. The idea came to him while sitting at a McDonald’s drive-through when he saw a pickup truck hauling away trash.
Scudamore bought a truck and started a company called Rubbish Boys. He eventually realized that college wasn’t right for him, and he quit school, at 23, to focus on his business. He found that the best way to learn about running a business was to run one. Today, Scudamore is the CEO of O2E Brands, which franchises four businesses — 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Wow 1 Day Painting, You Move Me, and Shack Shine.
“Distracted, high-energy, and impulsive” describe Scudamore to a T. Controlling symptoms is tough, but Scudamore says that understanding his strengths and weaknesses is a strategy that works. He is good at hatching ideas and generating vision for his company, but not so good at managing the details. Instead of trying to do everything himself, he embraces a “two-in-the-box” approach: Scudamore handles the vision, and his COO translates the vision into a business reality.
Managing ADHD takes work. “Over the years, I had to develop tools and tricks to get stuff done quickly and efficiently,” Scudamore explains. He has learned that movement increases his focus. Changing work locations sharpens and extends his concentration. As a CEO, he spends time every week doing work in coffee shops, because the buzz of activity there helps him think more clearly.
Founder of The Hybrid Shop
Matt Curry was diagnosed with ADHD in 1978, when he was in seventh grade. He was prescribed Ritalin, but, after a year, his parents and doctors agreed to discontinue the medication. That was good news for Curry: He discovered that he could be successful without treating his ADHD.
After finishing school, Curry worked in automotive stores, increasing sales and profits at each one, before starting an auto repair shop. One shop led to 10, making him the owner of one of the largest independent auto-repair chains in the Washington, D.C., area. Wanting to share his experiences and success, Curry wrote the book The A.D.D. Entrepreneur, and works with other business owners to help them grow their businesses.
“ADHD is my superpower,” Curry says. “I’m successful because of it, not in spite of it.” There are strategies he uses in his everyday life to help him harness his creativity and energy. When a million ideas run through his mind, he captures them on a whiteboard and narrows them down to “three things I need to do.” He breaks down each of the three things into the vision, the game plan, and the message — what he wants to do, how he will do it, and why.
When his mind speeds like a race car, he slows himself down by taking a walk, going for a drive, or retreating into his office and meditating. There are times when brainstorming with others helps Curry sort out ideas and plans, and there are other times when quiet thinking is most productive.
Curry’s advice to others diagnosed with ADHD is to embrace it. “Put yourself in situations where you are going to be successful,” he says. “People with ADHD are good at sales. You might be good at social work or other jobs where you are helping people. Use your strengths to find your own path in life.”
Actress and founder of “How to ADHD”
Jessica McCabe’s acting career began in 2003, when she landed the role of Nicole in Scorched, an independent film. Since then, she has been in several television shows and short movies, including Lure. But she is probably best known for her YouTube channel, “How to ADHD.” She launched the channel, in which she shares winning strategies about living with ADHD, in January 2016.
McCabe was diagnosed with ADHD when she was 12 and started taking medication soon after her diagnosis. As an adult, Jessica decided she no longer needed medication, and stopped for about a year and a half. “That was a bad idea,” she says. Changing to a different medication helped, but she still struggled with ADHD symptoms.
“As I hit my early 30s, still waiting tables and struggling with my acting career, and after many failed relationships, I decided meds were not enough.” She researched ADHD treatments and found that meds weren’t the answer to all symptoms. ADHD doesn’t just affect focus, but many parts of your life. During the course of her research, she read lots of blogs and watched videos about parenting a child with the disorder, but very few addressed living with ADHD as an adult.
McCabe filled that void by starting her YouTube channel. She researched tools and tips that might help her, and shared what she learned with her audience, creating an ADHD Toolbox.
McCabe is still taking medication for ADHD. What also helps is daily meditation and using fidget toys. She has found that helping others live better with ADHD helps her live better.