My parents spent a lot of time worrying when I was a little kid. I would spend hours concentrating on one task, I spoke too fast to be understood (and still do, though I’ve finally slowed down a bit so as to not alienate most people), and I kept trying to figure out how light got from the wall to the lamp by cutting live wires with metal scissors. (Needless to say the last was a phase that didn’t last long.) At one point, they took me to a psychiatrist to find out what was wrong. The first two items made my parents fear I was autistic. That last made my dad think I was an idiot.
Well I wasn’t autistic (and I’m not an idiot). The doctor just said “he’s trying to talk at the same speed at which he thinks. And he can concentrate very well.” Gee, that helped.
Were I to have been born today, I can pretty much guarantee I would have ended up in the ADD (attention deficit disorder) camp. I would have likely been forced to take Ritalin and would have been constantly reminded of my “disorder.” As it turns out, this disorder is probably the best thing that could have happened to me, or for that matter, to anyone. In fact, over the years I’ve realized that kids with ADD have an advantage over their non-ADD peers. We’re faster thinkers, perfect multi-taskers, and are the kings of controlled chaos.
Now, you could say I have a learning disorder. After all, I —
- speak too fast,
- tend to lock out the world when I’m doing something that gets my interest (I’m not talking minutes, I’m talking 12+ hour spans),
- and rock back and forth when I’m sitting and learning or doing something else in which my mind is blazing. (This is something I’ve been made fun of unmercifully since I was in grade school. At one point, while at a job counseling session, this little “trait” ticked off one of my classmates so much that he stopped the session and told me “I don’t know who would ever hire you. If I was your boss that would drive me nuts.” Thank God he’s not my boss.)
But the advantages to having this particular disorder? There are many, especially in this “all news, constant change, all the time” world the Internet has thrust us into.
I ran across the following list which I think very much captivates the whole “ADD is an advantage idea.” It’s good to see I’m not the only one that sees this as an advantage instead of a dysfunction. I’ve reprinted part of the article here. (Click here to read the entire article.) There’s a lot of information and if you have or know someone who has ADD this is a good way to better understand the function of those with the “dysfunction.”
The following are ten reasons ADD is actually an advantage:
1. The Ability to Hyperfocus.
Hours of full engagement and concentration in a task, IF you find it interesting.
2. Rapid Fire Mind.
Your brain processes information at hyperspeed. Downside if youâ€™re stuck with an old machine and not enough RAM youâ€™ll be frustrated cause it canâ€™t keep up with the speed of your brain.
3. Multitasking at Will.
Able to run 14 apps at a time and effortlessly switch between each without breaking a sweat. Able to do several projects at a time with ease. [Edit: This one used to piss off my old boss at Dev Shed to no end. He considered disorganized that I had so many apps running at a time, to the point where he would come over and order me to close some of my working windows. He called it disorganized. I call it my modus operandi. (I also call his style of dealing with the situation “micromanagement”.) And actually, it’s not that I CAN multitask, it more like I HAVE to multitask.]
4. High Energy Level.
Youâ€™re able to keep going on a project 14-hour days? No problem. [Edit: I take adaptagenic energy drinks like XS Energy to slow down. I’m serious. The caffeine helps me act like a “normal” person for a little while. (The sugar in Red Bull negates this, however, and pushes me into hyperdrive, followed by a nasty sugar crash.)]
5. Highly Creative.
Able to think beyond the idea of a box. Since you take in more information than the average person, and youâ€™re easily distractible, youâ€™re more likely to view a problem from many different angles than [non ADDers].
6. Quick Learner.
IF itâ€™s something youâ€™re interested in. ADD is mainly a condition of boredom; you have no trouble paying attention to something if itâ€™s interesting. Most people find it difficult to do boring or repetitive things but these can often totally shut an ADDer down.
7. Stimulus Seeking Brain.
A perfect match for the wired world, an under stimulated brain and an over stimulated virtual environment. Being an info junkie can be a good thing.
8. Constantly Scanning your Environment.
Allows you to notice more and find information and resource that others miss.
9. Great in a Crisis.
High energy intense situation? Lots of chaos and change? Sign me up.
10. Risk Taker.
Impulsivity means youâ€™re more willing to take risks and have a bias for action, act now while the opportunity is hot instead of getting into analysis paralysis.
Again, check out the whole article. Highly recommended reading.
(By the way, ADD is way over-diagnosed. A lot of the time — probably most of the time — it’s just a matter of discipline on the part of the “ADDer’. I’ve met too many BS ‘ADDers’ who didn’t have ADD at all. They were just undisciplined slobs looking for an excuse for their “inability to focus.” In those cases it’s called not having discipline.)