When Under-Thinking Things Is Totally Brilliant

“That’s why I hired you,” my husband’s boss told him with a smile. It was Day Two at a new sales job when my husband’s training session was interrupted by a phone call his boss needed to answer. Rather than wait around, my husband hopped out of the car and began cold calling stores in […]

“That’s why I hired you,” my husband’s boss told him with a smile.

It was Day Two at a new sales job when my husband’s training session was interrupted by a phone call his boss needed to answer. Rather than wait around, my husband hopped out of the car and began cold calling stores in the shopping center where they parked.

“Did you just wing it?” I asked him when he told me the story later.

“Yep,” he said. He knew enough about the product he was selling to make a compelling approach, and that was good enough. The opportunity was simply too good to waste.

Had I been in the same situation, I would have stayed put – quietly. No need to go knocking without my ducks lined up in a row. What if I totally screw something up? What if I make a fool out of myself? My neurotypical brain rejects risks, especially spontaneous ones.

Is it my husband’s ADHD impulsivity that gives him this courage? Or is it just his character? I’ll never know.

But I do know that anyone with ADHD grows accustomed to winging it in life. Maybe they tune out of a conversation, and then fill in the blanks at lightning speed when they snap back. Maybe they forget a crucial piece of a presentation, and improvise with something just as good – or better – on the spot. Maybe they start painting a room before they’ve moved all the furniture out of the way, and come up with quick solutions on the fly to protect the sofa from stains. (Maybe I know this one from personal experience with my living room.)

Of course, impulsivity doesn’t always produce good results. My husband tells me that when he was young, he would frequently run out into the street in his underwear because playing outside was so much more fun than putting on pants.

Thankfully, he’s overcome that particular quirk, but he still acts impulsively in other ways that produce questionable results.

Yet, after hearing about his go-getter day on the job, I realized that the impulsivity I so often begrudge is not necessarily an evil thing. Quite the contrary. It is what helps him speak up in a meeting with a brilliant answer. I, on the other hand, check and double check my thoughts until I ultimately convince myself to keep quiet.

His impulsivity is what helps him put on a huge smile to go meet a new neighbor the second they arrive, genuine interest and welcome in his demeanor.

His impulsivity is what helps him throw together a Sunday school lesson for a group of teenagers when he shows up to church and finds out his partner isn’t there – and then to get the teenagers genuinely excited about their hour with him.

When he’s able to put his impulsivity to good use, he’s pretty unstoppable.

So I’ll do things my way – I’ll sit at home, writing carefully-worded and analyzed emails to clients, while he goes barging into stores, impressing the socks off business owners with his on-the-fly personality and zeal for the product he’s selling.

And we’ll both do fine.

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