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What’s the best job in the world for you and your mindset? Or for anyone with ADHD? Being a comedy actor, director, producer, and writer, I know what I’d suggest.
And yes, I know that’s actually four jobs, not one, but then I have ADHD.
Now, let’s be clear, by ‘best job’ I mean the most fun… joyful… engaging… challenging.
Not the most lucrative. I’m saying ‘best’ as in ‘spiritually rewarding’ versus ‘financially rewarding.’ Not that joy and money are mutually exclusive.
So, does that mean I recommend that anyone and everyone with ADHD get into comedy? No. First of all, I don’t need the competition.
Plus, if I stop and think it through, (which is not like me), I realize that not everybody loves getting up in front of large crowds.
Apparently public speaking is a bigger fear for most people than death, poverty, or listening to a political debate.
Everyone is Different (How Annoying!)
Every person is a unique individual. We’re each weird in our own way. Whether we have ADHD or not, we all have our personal buffet of challenges and strengths.
I suppose this is good, and it makes for a more interesting world. But the fact that everyone is different is exhausting isn’t it? I find it takes a lot more energy to remember people’s likes, dislikes, marital status, or name. By the way, if name tags are so handy at conferences and other events, why don’t we all wear them? All the time. That would save me a lot of mental strain. Who’s with me on this?
What Was I Talking About Again?
Oh, right. The ideal vocation for someone with ADHD.
After editing interviews with a dozen experts to create The Perfect Career for ADHD, it is clear to me that there are two universal truths for ADDers and work.
First Universal Truth (FUT): There is no one all-round right job. (Don’t pout! This is good news. If there was only once choice, it wouldn’t be a choice, right?) Your ‘calling’ is whatever calls to you.
In the Perfect Career video, Wilma Fellman, a Career Counselor who specializes in folks with ADHD, explains that every member of our tribe has a unique combination of challenges. Your personal pot-pourri of strengths and weaknesses are different than mine. Sure, there is lots of overlap.
It’s like human faces–lots of variation from one individual to the next, but generally a nose, two eyes, a mouth, forehead on top, chin near the bottom. And yet these elements can produce faces as different as actress Zooey Deschanel and billionaire Richard Branson. (Two people who are very open about having ADHD.)
So, yes, there are common challenges for people with ADHD. (Easily bored. Impatient. Able to focus when interested.) This is why it’s not surprising that certain occupations attract a disproportionate number of ADDers. In fact, as Dr. Margaret Weiss jokes, there are certain jobs that only someone with ADHD would even consider! (She was looking at me as she said this.)
This Is a Big Deal
Second Universal Truth: Finding the right job can be crucial for someone with ADHD.
As you can probably attest ADHD is very situational. In the right situation we can soar. (Onstage at a Comedy Club, I’m great!) And in the wrong situation we will struggle mightily, or simply give up. (Doing my taxes. Making follow up calls. Following a To-Do list…)
The first time I watched the finished version of The Perfect Career For ADHD, I was struck by two things. One, framing it as a parody of Mad Men really worked. (Although my Don Draper was a bit more Pee Wee Herman.) Second, I realized how lucky I have been to find a job, or rather a series of jobs, that really play to my strengths.
One piece of advice the experts all recommend is ‘Handing off the stuff you don’t do well to someone else.’ Sounds sensible. Not so easy to do.
Handing off chores that I hated was not something I did for a very long time. Even though I hated them. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed that I started to understand that I didn’t have to do everything myself. And I was wasting my already limited willpower trying.
Funny, if you’d ask me, ‘Can one person do everything?’ I’d have said, ‘Of course not.’
Why then, do I, and many of adults with ADHD, think we have to do everything ourselves? Perhaps when you’ve grown up feeling you can’t trust yourself to do things, you find it hard to trust others.
If you try to do everything, which is impossible and exhausting, you end up living a very small life.
Almost every career you can think of involves working with others. Somebody made doing stage and television productions require me to work with scores of other people: experts in costume, makeup, set design, lighting…
I was glad to hand off those things because they were exotic specialties. Yet I insisted on struggling to finish my taxes every year, which meant they were always late. I spent more on late fees and fines than we now spend on our bookkeeper.
That’s right, we have bookkeeper who handles almost everything. Flawlessly. For her, numbers and precision are a real strength. She finds it interesting. Challenging.
Remember I said everyone is unique. Well, bookkeeping is the Perfect Career for her.
Funny thing, when I talked a bit about my work she just shook her head. The prospect of being a writer, actor, and director, ‘In front of all those people…’ terrified her about as much as that giant shoebox overflowing with crumpled receipts, invoices, and letters from the tax department used to paralyze me.
This is going to be one of those stories where I admit to resisting something that turned out to do me a world of good. Dunno if that’s a ‘guy thing’, or an ‘ADHD thing’, or a ‘Rick thing.’
But it’s going to take me a minute or two to get there. Stay with me! (Or skip to the end, then come back and read chunks in a random order until it makes sense. Hey, it’s your ADHD, do what works for you.)
So, as you well know, there is a lot of confusion about ADHD. Some people don’t believe ADHD exists. Including a lot of ADHD experts. And even some folks like us who have ADHD.
“What did he just say? ADHD Experts don’t believe in ADHD?” Yeah. Kind of. It’s the name, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
It’s those first two words. ‘Attention Deficit.’ The fact is, most of us can hyper-focus when we’re interested. So saying we suffer from a Deficit of Attention is a bit like saying someone who is seven feet tall has “Door Frame Head Bang Disorder.” Yes, that’s one problem a 7’ person faces, but there’s a lot of other issues they deal with. And if they love basketball, being 7’ tall isn’t a problem at all. ADHD is complex. Who among us only suffers from a deficit of attention?
This must be why, these days, every expert we interview is keen to talk about ADHD as a deficit of Executive Functions. Executive Functions are, well, think of it this way… Imagine a top-level executive at a company that makes toilets (it’s just an example, ok?). Call her Tanya. Of Tanya’s Toilets. As a top executive, Tanya doesn’t make the toilets, she doesn’t test them, or work on design, engineering, or a thousand other details. The ‘doing’ gets done by others.
So what does Tanya do?
What Is Executive Function?
That’s an executive’s job. And part of your brain has that job. That’s its Executive Function.
Part of my brain is supposed to have that job, too. But that list of Tanya’s roles? That’s not me. At least, that’s not my brain’s natural inclination.
If I was working at Tanya’s Toilets I’d be in the design department, coming up with a dozen ideas a day on new designs, ways to improve efficiency, and… Okay, I’m going to switch from a mythical toilet factory to my life. (Insert your own joke here.)
Can I Trust These People?
Back in my early days, writing for stage and radio, I had to create systems to keep track of scripts as they moved from a funny idea to a finished performance. It was difficult and took a lot of time and energy for me. It was exhausting. Disheartening. Which meant my personal life was a mess.
When I began working in television, I discovered the power of the Production Manager and the other specialists who didn’t come up with the funny ideas, but could get them produced. They created the system and kept it humming with far less stress that I ever experienced. All I had to worry about was being funny. Wooooo hoooo!
Admittedly, it was unnerving to have other people making all these decisions—at first. I discovered I have, well, control issues. (Who me? Really?) But… deep breath… By the time The Red Green Show hit it’s stride, I learned to trust the team to work their magic.
Work Was Going Great! But…
When I launched my own series, History Bites, I was the Host, Head Writer, Producer and Director. I still had a strong team to support me, but work was taking everything I had.
Then I discovered coaching.
I’d like to be able to tell you that I instantly knew an ADD Coach would be the answer I didn’t even know I was looking for. Alas! At the time I thought, “I don’t have the time or money to fit coaching into my schedule.”
Looking back now, I can see it was a bit like driving madly around North America at full throttle searching for an address I desperately needed to get to, but had no idea how to find, and complaining, “I don’t have time to stop and plug it into the GPS.”
What Can A Coach Do?
Remember that list of Tanya’s Executive Functions? Managing time and resources? Checking progress, following up and providing feedback? Motivating and supporting? Keeping focused on goals? Yadda, yadda, yadda…
OMG! These are the precisely the things a coach does!
But, you may well ask, and if you didn’t, I will ask for you, “What if I already have a doctor (or a therapist or an analyst or…)”
Totally different story. Like saying, “I already have car, and a tank of gas, why do I need a GPS to navigate?”
My doctor was there to help me stop the suffering. Starting with medication. He could help me work through emotional stuff, beliefs, and feelings. We worked on areas where I felt I was ‘broken’ or ‘failing.’ Crucial stuff.
If I was to give my life a grade, my doctor helped me go from an F to a C. My coach has taken me from a C to an A. An A+ on a good day.
What my coach does is help me create strategies, and generate actions that work for me. My coach gives me straight talk, with much love. She reminds me of my priorities, checks in, nudges me when I go off course, and makes me pause to celebrate and acknowledge my victories so that they don’t slip by unnoticed. Like a lot of folks with ADD, I’m always on the next thing. The next script. Or the next breakthrough flushing mechanism for Tanya’s Toilets.
Just thought of a sales idea: “Tanya’s Toilets. Flush With Success.”
Where Was I? Oh, Right…
The point is, when my wife first suggested we try coaching, I was verrrrry uncomfortable with the idea. Just as I was when Production Managers started taking over all the things I’d forced myself to learn how to do in the entertainment biz. People with ADD can have trust issues, can’t we?
Now, all I will say is this: Coaching has made a huge difference for me. In ways I never would have anticipated. (See, I told ya I would get to this part of the story!)
Coaching isn’t free. But I can tell you that coaching has saved me years of time, money, and effort. I’ve avoided endless frustration. And been far more productive.
A lot of people with ADD we’ve spoken to have expressed similar concerns and questions about coaching. Or they never even realized it existed. Which is why our newest video looks at the hows and whys of ADD Coaching. It explains the many ways coaches work—in person, by phone, on Skype—and how you can work with a coach to create solutions and strategies customized to your needs.
As coach Barbara Luther says, “There’s no one else in your life that’s going to tell you the truth, really truly, and listen and hear who you are, who you are becoming and what you really want—AND keep you working toward that. That’s the coach’s job.”
Curious? Check out the trailer for ADD & Coaching: You Don’t Have To Go It Alone, now the shop.
By Elaine Taylor-Klaus (Parenting Coach, Co-Founder, ImpactADHD)
As parents, we tend to rely on the support of our “village” to help us raise our kids. We appreciate the give and take of a local support network. “Can I drop that off for you on my way home?” “Can you pick up this child for me?” It’s a kind of a dance. We learn to ask for help, and depend on each other.
But sometimes – all too often – your village doesn’t quite know what to do with your ADHD child, or with you. You find yourself bouncing from village to village, or sitting on the outside, looking for a way to fit in. Looking for a place for your child to feel understood, empowered or cherished. Sound familiar?
I WAS A VILLAGE HOPPER
For the first 10 years of my life as a parent, I tried one support network after another. I wanted other parents and schools to understand my children and their ADHD; but, truth be told, I didn’t really understand them that well, myself.
I mean, sure, I thought I did. But I didn’t fully grasp what I really needed to do, as a parent, to effectively support my children. It turns out, setting them up for a lifetime of success with ADHD requires a very different set of skills than just “regular-old-parenting.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I was doing my best to “treat” my children’s challenges with therapies and special programs. I was trying everything I could think of to help them. But I just didn’t know HOW to help them learn to MANAGE their ADHD.
And then, frankly, I lucked out. I accidentally learned the greatest secret of effective parenting for ADHD: THE CHANGES MY KIDS NEEDED MOST, STARTED WITH ME!
IT’S NOT ABOUT THEM. AT FIRST, ANYWAY.
When I started to learn the skills that would really help me manage MY fascinating, interesting and most-definitely ADHD children, a monumental change happened for my family. I learned to really understand the challenges my children were facing, and get strategies for coping and communicating more effectively – with everyone!
The results were pretty immediate. Less than a year into my journey, my then-9 year old child, with Dyslexia, anxiety & ADHD, actually said: “Thank you, mommy. Things are so much better around here.” I kid you not! I had become a much better parent to my ADHD children. And, truth be told, it wasn’t rocket science. I shifted my parenting to a coach-approach, including a solid diet of education & communication, and it made a world of difference!
I wish I could tell you that my husband immediately saw the wisdom of all that I was bringing to the family, and jumped right on the back of my band-wagon. Not so much – not right away. He eventually began to see what a difference the coach-approach was making in our kids’ lives, but he had been quite comfortable denying that ADHD (including his own) was largely responsible for the challenges we were facing, so he wasn’t in a hurry.
During that time, I learned another valuable lesson in family life with ADHD: all it takes is one parent to begin to turn the ship! Sure, it’s much easier when you’re both on board the same ship – or even in the same harbor. But it’s actually not critical. One parent can change the life of a child with ADHD. One parent can turn the tides.
THE GOOD NEWS? TAG, YOU’RE IT!
That one parent who makes the difference can be you.
But you will probably need support in order to do it.
In other words, you can be the one, but you’re not alone. Steven Jobs was the one. He didn’t do it alone.
Whatever else you believe about your “reality” right now – you might think it’s too late, or you need your spouse on board, or there’s just not enough money, or you’re not sure what to do or try – you can make a difference in how ADHD is managed in your family.
The choice is up to you!
You are part of a unique system of support here at TotallyADD.com. It’s like a “cyber-village” to get the education you need. So you’ve already taken the first step. But I want to encourage you to take the next step, to get training, along with coaching or therapy, to help you make real change for your family! Things will improve, dramatically, when you invest in yourself for the good of your child.
THAT’S WHAT I LEARNED. NOW IT’S WHAT I DO.
After searching for villages, I decided to create one. But like parenting, I couldn’t do it alone. With Diane Dempster, we created ImpactADHD.com, a parenting cyber-village, specifically for parents like ourselves, who want our kids with ADHD to thrive.
We support each other, and show parents how to take a coach-approach with their kids. We teach you strategies to help you manage in any challenging situation, and we encourage you to focus on the things that matter most of all, for you and your children. We help you really focus in on what you need to know to help your kids learn to master their ADHD. As Rick Green has said before, there’s lots you could learn about ADHD, the question is, what do you NEED to know?
Your child’s future is a wondrous world of opportunity. What village do you need – does your child need for you to have – to set her up for success? There is no need for you to wander, lost and alone. USE the village that understands and will support you and your family. And take advantage of that incredible give-and-take that happens when we parents lean on each other.
By Elaine Taylor-Klaus
As we start to plan for the post-summer-back-to-school-and-work season, we have an idea of how we want things to go once we get back into some routine. Wouldn’t it be great if everything could run smoothly? And still do what’s best for our selves, or our families, or our job? Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, it feels like that is easier said than done.
A while back, as I was preparing for Autumn, I went back to basics and actually found helpful support using ImpactADHD’s ‘Action Model.’. It’s a terrific structure for taking a coach-approach to life. I find it amazing, really, how magic these five simple steps can be. Whatever the challenging situation you have to tackle, at home or at work, the Action Model helps me address ANY complicated dynamic – even “family or office politics” (and THAT’s sayin’ something!).
Just see how diplomatic I can be in this example!
Scenario: One member of your office or family is upset about a decision that feels insensitive. Rather than telling you directly, that person goes to another family or office member, who raises an objection. This causes a triangulation, and plenty of opportunity for miscommunication. (Does this sound familiar to anyone else?)
Your initial response may be to get angry, or frustrated. You might feel misunderstood, or manipulated. It generates a lot of drama that you don’t really want, draining energy. But reacting in anger isn’t going to get you very far, so you make an effort to consciously escape the Stress Cycle, reclaiming your brain with a few deep breaths (and then a few more!).
Once you are calm enough to proceed, here’s how you might use ImpactADHD’s Action Model as a guide:
Step 1. Take AIM: First, Take AIM on the situation. Take some time to clearly understand about what is happening. Rather than adding fuel to the fire by defending your position or taking a stand on principle, take the time to clarify what is being requested. When you look for it, you’ll notice that there is usually a request hidden in every complaint. Try to keep your attention focused on what is actually important to be resolved, rather than on the blame that is on the surface.
Step 2. Educate: Start collecting information. What would it take to fulfill the request? Who might be able to help? Have whatever conversations are necessary to clarify what is really possible. If this gets frustrating – and it might – stop and calm yourself down before responding to another email or making a phone call.
Step 3. Plan: Before taking action, consider thoughtfully how best to approach the dynamic. You’ll want to consider the 4 critical response areas from the model: Positivity, Activating the Brain, Shifting Expectations and Using Systems & Structures.
- Positivity can help you prevent yourself from getting triggered.
- Activating the Brain can assure that you’re in the best condition to maintain your calm, or think clearly.
- Shifting Expectations allows you to set realistic expectations, based on what you know about the dynamic and the players involved.
- Systems & Structures offer strategies for resolution (but should usually be considered in the context of the other response areas above).
Step 4: Take Action. Choose whatever combination of the 4 responses above makes the most sense. Positivity might have you find compassion for the upset of the hurt party, helping you stay (relatively) un-triggered. Making sure you make decisions after a good night’s sleep can help you avoid getting triggered, as well. Clearly communicating and setting realistic expectations about what is possible in the situation can help you stay focused on the biggest goal of all – a positive, constructive work or home dynamic. Finally, when you make clear requests, and try to keep everyone focused on a positive, shared process, you can reach détente (for now).
Step 5. Rinse & Repeat: As with any challenging situation, détente does not necessarily mean that the conflict is resolved, but only that it is over for the moment. You may be called upon in the future to manage similar conflicts. As you avoid getting defensive, and repeat the process outlined above, everyone will come to expect this more structured, reasonable approach to conflict resolution. You’ll have to modify and change things a bit, of course – and I’m certain you’ll have that opportunity. Drama has a way of re-surfacing. But with a simple process for managing it, you can use your skills to keep things positive and productive.
At the end of the day, you want to remain calm and confident. Because it makes YOU feel better when you do. When you find yourself back in the Stress Cycle — whether it’s family or work, it’s going to happen, remember that you can make the biggest difference when you take care of yourself –- breathe deeply, calm yourself down, start over with every difficult situation. When you Take AIM on a challenging dynamic, and stay focused on your vision of what your trying to achieve, the ImpactADHD Action Model will guide you through.
The best part? Your family, or your workplace benefits most of all!
Diane Dempster and Elaine Taylor-Klaus are founders of ImpactADHD.
By Ava Green
If ADHD isn’t real, and no one needs medication, my next line will make no sense at all! But stick with me and you’ll see the connection soon.
ADD & Loving It?! is coming back to PBS and I couldn’t be more excited—it has a really special place in my heart, and it literally changed my life. Here’s why…
Flash back to 2001 and I’m dating the person I’m now married to, my partner, Rick Green. We’re both recently divorced and, it turns out, Rick’s just been diagnosed with ADHD. While the diagnosis made so much sense to him—Finally! An explanation for so many things! What a relief!—it garnered disbelief and some downright snide remarks from friends and family.
I’d like to say that I was enlightened and supportive… but that wouldn’t exactly be the truth. No, instead, I questioned the validity of an ADHD diagnosis and asked Rick to stop taking the pills he’d been prescribed. I was so afraid of the diagnosis and the pills he was taking.
Ugh! What was that response based on? Opinions based on fear and misunderstanding. Not a speck of science-based evidence. I was listening to people who knew as little as I did instead of having a conversation with Rick to fully understand his experience. I had an opinion, and I wasn’t interested in facts.
Luckily, Rick didn’t give up on me. And, in 2008, he pitched a television special idea that would become ADD & Loving It?! which has since won awards and has been seen on PBS by millions of people.
How did ADD & Loving It?! forever change our lives? Understand that before this pitch, we had worked on mostly comedic television. What did we know about doing a medical documentary? Producing ADD & Loving It?! was like taking a private course from some of the best ADHD experts in North America. And that led me to a big a-ha moment: Not everyone thinks the way I do or experiences things as I do.
I realize that this may seem like a very simple realization, but believe me, it was one that had been hidden from me and getting it was huge. It’s really the core of my initial negative response to Rick’s ADHD diagnosis. “If I can get through a day and be somewhat organized, why can’t you? If I don’t need medication to focus, why would you?” And, of course, “I’m getting tired of searching for your keys, aren’t you?!” I was transposing my experience of life on to Rick. Double ugh.
As we traveled and interviewed experts for the show, we began to understand the dire need for good information and help for people with ADHD, their families and their friends. Rick and I began to see that releasing ADD & Loving It?! without a place for people to go to after seeing it would be irresponsible. So we built this website we’re all hanging out in now, TotallyADD.
Our vision was for TotallyADD to be a safe place for people to learn about ADHD in a really fun way and to be part of a community that supports and empowers them. Because sometimes it can take time for the people we love to understand and fully support us. Trust me, I know!
I hope this sheds a little light on why ADD & Loving It?! is so meaningful to me and why it’s such a big deal that it’s coming back to PBS stations.
If it’s important to you as well, please contact your local PBS station and let them know that you want them to run it! PBS listens to its viewers and when enough people write or call, it makes a difference! Then watch for it on your local PBS beginning in August.
Watch the ADD & Loving It?! trailer here: http://totallyaddshop.com/pages/add-loving-it
Ava Green is the Co-Producer of ADD & Loving It?! and ADD & Mastering It! and Co-Founder of TotallyADD. She runs Big Brain Productions Inc. along with her husband, Rick Green.