A Successful Career With ADHD
Entrepreneur Brian Scudamore harnessed the positive aspects of ADHD to build two companies, proof positive that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder doesn't have to limit your career aspirations.
By Wyatt Myers
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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When you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, even everyday activities like carrying out a task or having a conversation with someone can be a challenge. Often, children who are diagnosed with the disorder need medication in order to lead successful lives. Usually, ADHD continues on into adulthood.
Although this could lead you to think that ADHD prevents job success, the truth is that countless people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are not only good at their profession, but actually have wildly successful careers. Some people even attribute their success, in part, to ADHD.
ADHD at Work: Brian Scudamore's Success Story
Brian Scudamore, a 41 year old from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was first diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in his early twenties. "It became obvious when I was speaking with people and just couldn't focus on the conversation," he recalled. "I was constantly being asked if I was paying attention. I was distracted in school and became the class clown in order to divert attention away from what was really going on. I was continuously suspended and kicked out of class for not paying attention or for distracting others. This led to me skipping class and resenting school."
Scudamore's early experiences with ADHD don't sound like a recipe for career success. Nevertheless, as time went on, he gradually began to use his ADHD and his imagination as assets for honing a successful profession. Now he is the founder and CEO of two successful companies: 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, the world's largest junk removal service, and 1-888-WOW-1DAY! Painting.
"A big part of what attracted me to running my own business was the flexibility," said Scudamore. "I think most entrepreneurs have some kind of ADHD in their DNA that pushes them to explore ideas in a less constricted environment. I can't force myself to crank out a task. I need the flexibility to get the job done when I'm ready. I always get things done, but my process definitely can't be confined to a rigid, repetitive schedule."
Scudamore, who doesn't take medication for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, believes that ADHD actually provides him with many positive attributes that have been helpful in his career. "The energy spurts and moments of intense, laser focus have helped me explore ideas quickly and comprehensively," he explained. He calls his moments of intense focus "Jerry Maguire moments," based on the scene from the popular Tom Cruise movie where he puts together an entire manifesto in one sitting. "I've put together five-year projections in one day," Scudamore added.
Being successful at work hasn't always been easy, Scudamore said, but he's developed a more rigid structure in order to help him keep his focus. "I used to come to team meetings full of new ideas, ignoring the ideas and strategy we had committed to in the previous meeting," he admitted. "This pattern obviously became frustrating for those around me and held us back. So I decided to create a system that outlined the company's priorities for each quarter and then publicly commit to them. No new ideas until the old ones had been realized or were properly assessed."
Scudamore's Tips for Career Success With ADHD
The key to success in your profession, Scudamore said, is to be true to yourself but also to be honest with others around you. If they know what you are going through with ADHD, they will be more understanding of your needs and some of your shortcomings. "I make sure to give myself the time and space I need to get things done," he said. "I accept that I'm not always ready to complete a task. Fortunately, the people I work with closely every day are understanding and just tease me when they see me drifting during our conversations. They don't take it personally!"
With an upfront approach to ADHD and an upbeat attitude, Scudamore says, people with ADHD can gradually find the positives in the condition and downplay the negatives as it relates to their job. "You need to be honest with yourself and play to your strengths," he says.
Video: Top careers for people living with ADHD
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