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Are You One of Us? Adult ADHD & Career Success

Harness your energy to effectively multitask. By Martin Yate, CPC

Are you good at starting things but not finishing them? Does your mind wander? Do you sometimes spin in circles unable to gain traction? Did impulsiveness get you in trouble at school? Has it hurt you at work and in relationships?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be one of us, and if so, you have a liability -- your mind operates in ways that can hurt your career. But here’s the good news: you can turn this liability into a positive asset. That’s right; with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) comes great power, and it’s time for you to harness ADHD’s awesome potential for success and change the trajectory of your life.

I know all about the double-edged sword of ADHD, because it has propelled most of my life’s disasters. And yet, since I’ve learned to harness it, it has become one of the driving forces behind all my greatest achievements.

Many of the World’s High-Achievers Have a Dirty Secret

Let ADHD propel your success as it has these household names: Presidents Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson are ours.Creative geniuses Mozart, Picasso, Dali, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs are ours. Entertainers like Stevie Wonder, Will Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Kate Beckinsale, and Pink are like us too.

Major achievers in every field of endeavor are our fellow travelers, and when you learn to harness ADHD’s special powers, you too can achieve success and fulfillment in ways you never thought possible.

The Kid Who Never Finished Anything He Started

Growing up, I was always in trouble. Family and teachers constantly told me I was a screw-up and that I would never amount to anything because I never finished anything. You have probably lived through the same criticisms. But what they saw as a defect is in fact something I have come to see as the greatest blessing of my life.

What happened to the kid who couldn’t finish things? Today, I am a NY Times bestselling author, and many people say I have redefined the way we understand modern career management. I have 14 books in print in some 63 languages around the world. I co-own a couple of optical patents for red eye reduction. I last danced with a professional ballet company at age 55— oh, and I’m probably the world’s worst bass player.

I screwed up so many things over the years, but then in my 30s I stumbled onto the code and life blossomed.

Your Two Special Powers

What everyone has always told you are problems—you can’t sit still, and your mind skips around—are actually tremendous powers.

First, you have a mind with a natural aptitude for multitasking. Multitasking is one of the most highly prized of all professional skills, yet most people think multitasking means being reactive to all incoming stimuli and therefore jumping around from one task to another as the emergency of the moment dictates. When these people “multitask,” it looks like they’re the ones with ADHD. And guess what? Nothing gets done.

But in reality, multitasking is about time management, organization, and establishing priorities. With your ADHD mind, you are uniquely suited to this priority-based changing of activities. You just need to take your brute ADHD strength and channel it in the directions you want.

ADHD has not just given you the ability to juggle multiple projects at once; it has also given you the rare ability to focus with laser-like intensity when you want to. This is your second special power, and like the first it can be harnessed.

This ability to hyper-focus for long periods of time, combined with your Energizer Bunny physicality, gives you an ability to outwork and -- with the right focus -- outperform just about everyone around you. You can probably learn to be twice as productive, everyday, as many people around you.

Now apply this not just to today, but to a year and to your life’s goals, and you have better tools and a better chance of reaching those goals.

But to do this you need to discipline yourself, and turn that focus into something that you make happen, rather than something that just happens to you.

Harness Your Powers

So how do you harness these tremendous powers? The following secret has been the biggest discovery and source of fulfillment in my life. Your mind, like mine, skips, but here’s the big secret: you can control where it skips!

You have one of those minds that demand something to chew on—always. It skips because you get bored easily and your mind looks around for something else to sink its teeth into. The solution: feed it nutritious challenges. Harnessing your mind begins with something as simple as making two lists of what’s important to you:

  • One list for the things you need to do at work today.
  • Another list for the things you want to do in life. Then learn to recognize when your mind starts to wander, and give it productive choices to latch onto from one or the other of your lists.

If you keep the focus on your day’s priorities, everything and more will get done. You won’t work any harder, but you will get more of the right things done more quickly.

Make Time for Your Mind

End each day by thinking over what you’ve been focused on, and what you have achieved on each of your two lists. Plan what you will do tomorrow and know why you will do it. Then start each day with the same goal-oriented meditation, looking for ways to streamline your activities and move forward with different projects simultaneously.

Embrace yourself for who you really are and learn to harness your very special powers of achievement to change the trajectory of your professional life. Crack the code and you really can move from frustration and failure to success and fulfillment.

Martin Yate

Martin Yate, CPC, author of Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, is a New York Times and international bestseller of job search and career management books. He is the author of 11 job search and career management books published throughout the English speaking world and in over 50 foreign language editions. Over thirty years in career management, including stints as an international technology headhunter, head of HR for a publicly traded company and Director of Training and Development for an international employment services organization.


Join the Discussion

Recently diagnosed

Recently diagnosed with ADHD, mid-40's.  I have a great job managing many people, making a healthy salary.  After spending the last 48 hrs feeling sad, finally finding an explination for all the years of names I couldn't remember. Unable to get through a full page in a book.  Bringing my kid to the wrong place in a neighborhood I'd grown up in. Lost keys and forgetten appoinments.  I really needed a positive side.  I'm a single mom and my drive to not let them struggle was something I would consider my ability to have "lazer sharp focus" on a goal and I've always said to my girls that with or without a degree if you want something you can work for, you can out work anyone to get it.  I've already beat this.It's only been a few days, thank you for making my day.      

If you're interested in a job

If you're interested in a job as being a CNA, you may be pleased to learn you could take online classes rather than traversing to a training facility. Make sure you have completed the syllabus forced to sit for your CNA exams. 

Just about all of the things

Just about all of the things you say is astonishingly accurate and that makes me wonder the reason why I had not looked at this with this light previously. Your piece really did turn the light on for me personally as far as this subject goes. 

Your story is inspirational,

Your story is inspirational, thank you for sharing positive possibilities around harnessing ADHD powers.  Recently, I was diagnosed of having both inattentive and hyperactive type ADHD by a neurologist at age 40.  What a blessing to have an understanding of why it takes me 2-3 times to complete task and why it is difficult to get started!  I'm in the process of transitioning from one career to another within my organization, so now I can visualize being successful in HR!

Your ADHD is a powerhouse of

Your ADHD is a powerhouse of achievement and creativity. Did you know that some say it isin the American DNA?I'm English by birth and came here in my very early twenties and thoguht about this. What do we do with ADHD kids today? Some of the lucky ones who escape meds become  great athletes, talk to heads of University athletic deparyments and they'll tell you upwards of 70% of their kids are ADHD. I have had kids and thier friends in elite sports programs and have seen this to be true talking directly to these kids.Now how does this apppy to us today? Well what did you do with kids who were bouncing off the walls 100, 200 and 300 years ago? You put em on a big-ass sail boat and sent em off to the American colonies. I mean who else but us would have what it takes to walk 3000 miles across this country hacking farms out of forests along the way.Even in your 50's it is not to late to start living up to your dreams, every dauy we wake on the right side of the grass we are ahead of the game.

That's when I stumbled on it

That's when I stumbled on it and it isn't too late, all my achievments date to after my discovery of what I really had to offer,  and that I was not the screw-up most authority figuers in my life had always told me.

Good for you my friend, you

Good for you my friend, you are so lucky to crack the code so early in life. I look for you to do many great things in your adult careers and to live a joyfull and successful life. If you come to the website and send me an email, there is something I would like to send you - a copy of Secrets & Straetgies For First Time Job Seekers, which will give you a blueprint for your professional ife over the coming fifty years. You have the horsepower, the brain power and the energy muchcacho and this will give you a plan of attack, and my gift to you. Martin

This is probably one of the

This is probably one of the most inspiring things I have ever read. I had depression from when I was 7 years old to when I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 14. My elementary and middle school teachers would make me scared to come to school every day because I knew they would punish me and yell at me, even though it taught me nothing. They said they would be surprised if I graduated from high school with my class.Once I was diagnosed with ADHD I was able to focus on the good of having it. Now I am second in my class getting through high school with straight A's and I am not ashamed of my ADHD like everyone thinks I should be, it's the greatest thing that could have happened to me. It's really a gift rather than a disorder.

wow realizing this in my 30s

wow realizing this in my 30s and accepting this fact really make sense now.

I've been told I "couldn't

I've been told I "couldn't possibly have ADHD, you're too good at multitasking".  But then I've been labeled an "airhead" too because of my inability to focus and impulsiveness. Being diagnosed after 51 years of allowing others to define me has been one of the greatest blessings in my life.  My ADHD doesn't define me, but it certainly gives me more freedom to accept who I am.Thank you for these tips; I've no doubt it will be helpful to me and many others "of us". :_ 

I totally agree Martin. When

I totally agree Martin. When you can cope and harness ADHD, you can turn it to a great advantage. Most children & youth nowadays receive medicine therapy. But I think this is given to easily and too soon. The pharmacy industry is semi responsible for this.

I cannot tell a lie, that

I cannot tell a lie, that really hleped.

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