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“When I Grow Up I Want To Be…”

Ask most kids what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll get very clear answers.

Which may change from week to week, depending on the video game they’ve played.

I had no idea.

“What do I want to be?” From age 8, to about the time my first marriage ended, that question invariably triggered a snowstorm of ideas, then brain freeze. I didn’t have an answer.

Then I realized what I wanted to be: Happy.

Oh, and I wanted to be engaged in something valuable.

And having fun. Learning. Exploring. Curious. Involved. Healthy… Now I have a whole list of things I want to be.

But of course the question is really, “What do you want to do for a living?”

Now, I look around and wonder, what can I do now that would have me be happy, engaged, exploring, having fun…

Notice the word ‘Wealthy’ isn’t in my list.

And sure enough, I’ve managed to achieve that quite nicely. Bravo to me.

Do What I Love?… What Do I Love?

Our first film, ADD & Loving It?!  contains a lot of sage advice about ADHD. Including a few gems on careers.

Dr. Ned Hallowell made one point that still resonates with me: “Find the right job. And marry the right person.”

Since then, we’ve done full-length programs on how to find the right job.

(Come to think of it, we’ve also created a very smart video on how to have a great marriage when you or your partner have ADHD. And there’s a surprising overlap with finding the right job.)

In The Perfect Career for ADHD  video, you’ll find some great suggestions on figuring out what you want to do. (All wrapped up inside a Mad Man spoof. Remember, I’m all about fun, engaged, happy…)

As you’ll see, finding the ‘right’ job is easier said than done. But it’s quite do-able.

Likes and Dislikes in a Job

If you’re wondering how to get into a career that is more interesting, more rewarding, more challenging, (Or less challenging) here’s a suggestion.

Start by listing what you like, and don’t like:

  • Do you like working alone?
  • With others?
  • Do you like to lead?
  • Or be part of a team?
  • Do you like office work?
  • Making things?
  • Being outdoors?
  • Being your own boss?

I suspect that like many adults with ADHD, you’ve worked in a wide variety of fields, and for different companies.

You actually have an advantage.

It’s true! You have more first-hand knowledge about what you like, and what you don’t.

“I hate working on a computer.” “I like having a really clear task.” “I love helping people.” “I can’t stand dealing with people and personalities.”

Think about the different environments. Would you say, “I love a busy, active, lively workplace.” Or perhaps you sense, “I need quiet. Silence. A space without interruption.”

The Right Job For You? Well, Who Are You?

Finding the right job involves understanding your ADHD. “I need to be moving.” “I’m awful with paperwork.” “I talk. A lot!” “I struggle with doing the same thing over and over.”

Great, perhaps you’d like being a hair stylist. (On your feet all day, moving, talking, every hour a new person, a new challenge.) A fitness instructor. Yoga teacher. Entertainer. The Military. Tennis coach. Whatever turns your crank.

Sales is another area where many folks with ADHD soar. Sales can satisfy your ADHD-driven desire for movement, novelty, and short, intense challenges, and clear payoffs, AND it can also fulfill your particular passion—selling clothes, hardware, vacations, cars, kitchen appliances.

I Sense A Theme Here…

In The Perfect Career  video, Wilma Fellman, a career counselor who specializes in helping people with ADHD, makes a number of interesting suggestions on how to go about finding a job that works for you.

One way to find what you were ‘meant to do’ is to find the common elements in the jobs you’ve had. Even if you disliked a job, what was the best part? Was there one positive? One thing you looked forward to? Or felt proud about?

Look at all the elements you’ve loved about your work, and also, the things you do in your spare time, looking for common themes. I highly recommend you do it with someone who knows you. Even better, a professional counselor.

When I looked back at everything I’ve done, the common element was obvious to me: “Comedy.”

My coach saw something different, “What about education. Sharing knowledge. Opening minds. Freeing people from suffering… and you do all of these things with comedy.”

At that moment I saw the difference between my mission, and how I carried out that mission.

Comedy is what I do, and the comedy opens people’s minds.

How Do I Find Myself? Ask Someone For Directions

The Red Green Show, Steve Smith, Rick Green

Rick Green on the set of The Red Green Show

When my coach suggested that I am a natural born teacher, I suddenly recalled a conversation with Steve Smith (a.k.a. Red Green). 

As I started my own show, History Bites. I admitted to being nervous about combining comedy and education.

Steve smiled, “Actually, almost everything you write on The Red Green Show has an element of teaching.”  Steve started out his career as a teacher.

He saw something I didn’t.

It’s true, other people can never truly understand us, but I’m not sure I understand myself. Others may see strengths that we don’t.

The truth is, whether you’re talking with your BFF in a café or sitting in a therapist’s office, the easiest and fastest way to see what’s going on inside you, is to ask someone else what they see.

Take what they say with a grain of salt. But also look for the grain of truth.



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  1. mcfarlane June 14, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    When I was nine old and in Miss Smith’s special education class, I wanted to be normal. When I was 20, I still had to work hard at university partly because I have dyslexia, but I liked who I was and now who I am.
    All students are our future.
    Wayne (It can be good to think differently) McFarlane

  2. Rick June 16, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    That’s wonderful, McFarlane!
    I agree it can be good to think differently. Especially when what’s needed is different, innovative, paradigm-shifting thinking and a fresh, powerful perspective.
    Not so much when it’s time to follow the rules and do the paperwork as it has to be done. Then it’s a challenge.

  3. danodea July 10, 2016 at 10:01 am

    “The truth is, whether you’re talking with your BFF in a café or sitting in a therapist’s office, the easiest and fastest way to see what’s going on inside you, is to ask someone else what they see.
    Take what they say with a grain of salt. But also look for the grain of truth.”
    I like that advice. I am afraid (well, that may be too strong; let’s say “concerned” – no, afraid is probably the right choice of words) to find out what people see.
    Part of the reason is an assumption I’m doing something wrong and people will simply confirm that (which, in some twisted way, confirms that I’m some sort of bad person). Another part is that I’ve been acting my entire life, so what people see is an effect of how I’m trying to act, not who I am. There are a lot of internal arguments going on between what I want to do and what I think is the right thing to do, and although I almost always opt for “the right thing” that’s not always the right thing (logic isn’t a good way to communicate with emotional individuals).
    I need to clarify that. I’m not talking “ethically correct”; I don’t have any issues with being a moral person (well, OK, maybe a few, but in a minor sense; I don’t cheat, lie, or steal, and I’m non-violent). I’m referring to how I treat people emotionally. I’m wrong so often (that is, I say what I think will be the right thing but which inevitably results in “I can’t believe you said that!”) I don’t trust my gut reactions at all. In therapy, “Tell your wife how you feel” will almost always be misinterpreted, and “How do you think your wife feels when you say…” is a trick question. Even explaining “I can’t read people” isn’t good enough. “Dear, I need to be hit over the head with it, repeatedly, or I won’t understand.” That’s not ADHD, that’s something else; sorry.
    I think I need to stop there – but you get my drift.
    As usual, Rick, thanks for the insights. I’m sure I can do something with this one, just not sure what yet.

  4. yakkyjoe September 1, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Wayne McFarlane, nobody is normal. It is just that some of us are better at putting up appearances.I don’t want to be normal because what normal seems to me is being depressed. Anti depressants are the highest prescribed drug in North America. I am of the opinion that every alcoholic has depression and is self medicating. It ruins far more lives than ADD. We are just really annoying to live with.

  5. raph009 June 14, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    That is very true. The best counsellor I had found the common denominators in my interests and from that point on, it’s been much easier to figure out which step to take next or why some things just didn’t work out no matter what.

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