Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
How a CEO with Dyslexia and ADHD Runs His Company (wsj.com)
156 points by sergeant3 on May 23, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 94 comments

As an attorney who has struggled with dyslexia and ADHD my entire life, I can attest to the frustrations associated with responding to emails. While most people are able to quickly, if not subconsciously, craft a well thought out response, I spend countless minutes if not hours, fighting to find a way to transfer the sentence I have in my mind on to the screen. For those who do not have dyslexia, the best way I can think of to describe this limitation is the feeling you have when you are trying to remember a word, name, or sentence that is "on the tip of your tongue." It is frustrating and often becomes overwhelming.

I sometimes lose words. Like chair disappears from my mind, I can describe one, I know what one is, but the label for it is gone and even if you say it I may or may not recognize it. I don't have dyslexia, but a mental health issue that causes it. The funny part is names do the same thing, they're labels for specific people.

I experience this, too!

I do this as well!

I have dysgraphia, which is similar to dyslexia, but it only affects writing. It takes me a frustratingly long time to write emails. I've literally spent two hours writing a 100 word email before.

In general, I can write an email quickly, coherently, or succinctly, choose two.

My writing ability in a particular medium about a particular subject improves with time, to the point where I feel as though I don't have a learning disability. However, I find myself back at square one if I try to write in a new context. It's really maddening.

The worst part is that other people don't understand it at all, yet they think they can speak somewhat authoritatively on the issue because they (like all people) have had difficultly learning something in the past.

It's exhausting.

Do speech to text software, or recording and then transferring to text sidestep dysgraphia?

Kind of. There are two types of dysgraphia, physical, and cognitive. For people with physical dysgraphia, they do effectively sidestep their limitations.

I have cognitive dysgraphia. Basically most people don't think about writing once they've learned to write, they just write. That is, they've automated the physical component of turning words into text.

I, on the other hand, have an extremely diminished ability to translate language into physical expression. Basically whereas forming letters for other people is always automatic, I always need to think about what a letter looks like and then draw it.

I've been trying to use speech-to-text software for probably 20 years now. It has definitely improved, but it has never gotten to where I want it to be. For one thing, written speech is fundamentally different than the spoken word. There is a lot of implicit formatting that speech-to-text completely misses. Adding in this formatting adds back in all of the overhead that I hope to avoid by speaking in the first place.

One of the biggest issues is that speech-to-text works great when your vocabulary is limited. I think this is one of the reasons why it has always been a reasonably popular option for doctors and lawyers when compared with other fields. I think speech-to-text suffers when it comes to general-purpose writing because the vocabulary is so much larger, and understanding what word is intended requires a lot of context.

I've tried recording, and it works reasonably well, but it is really slow. The best coping strategy I've found is to write down all of my ideas on notecards (or any paper really) and then arrange them in a logical order. I then type out a rough draft using the notecards. I then print the rough draft and then type out my second draft (rather than editing my first).

Fundamentally, my dysgraphia shows up in testing as substantially lower working memory when writing than when performing other tasks. (To the tune of two standard deviations or so). I think my method works because it sidesteps the need to hold information in my head while writing.

I wonder how much, if at all, has the spread of auto-correct helped with overcoming that?

Or encouraged it?

In the LD advocacy community, there seem to be two types of arguments made in support of entrepreneurs/leaders with LD (typically dyslexia and ADHD).

The first is the notion that people with LD have certain deficits, and because they are forced to work around these deficits they develop other skills that are important for leadership. The article makes this argument at various points.

The second is the notion that people with LD also have direct advantages (as opposed to the indirect advantages described above). These are often described as creativity, being able to see the big picture, or having superior management skills. Interestingly, this article did not make this type of claim.

As the founder of a startup whose technology improves reading ability and focus for people with LD, I am a bit conflicted about this dichotomy. After all, if my software helps dyslexic and ADHD folks to read more like neurotypical folks, then do they "miss out" on the indirect benefits of LD? If so, perhaps they would be better off without our assistive technology.

On the other hand, if the benefits of LD are direct, then there would be no tradeoff. A dyslexic person using our software would retain all the creative and other benefits of dyslexia, but they would just be able to read much faster than before.

I'm curious to know what folks here (HN + A11Y) think about these two common claims about LD. Do you think the benefits are more indirect (like the article focuses on) or direct (which the article does not claim)?

As someone with ADHD that has gone back and forth on these feelings over the years, I think I agree with both of those claims, but with a pretty big asterisk.

I'm a developer, and I'm fairly certain that my insistence to have automated testing, one-click deployment, and general "automation" of anything and everything that can be automated have led to some very good results, and most of those evolved to become non-negotiable in a project I'm on simply because I won't be able to do them myself with any kind of consistency.

And I also attribute my ability to pick up on new skills or languages to my ADHD because I spend a lot more time in the first few stages of a skill because I hopped around so much and never really stuck with something.

However, I don't believe these things to have been a net benefit on my life when combined with the downsides of ADHD. Unmedicated I was an absolute mess, and it was only with medication, AND learning the skills to manage it, along with a good support system that I was finally able to get some kind of benefit from it. And all of that didn't really come together until my early 20s for me.

I really think that any benefits someone might get from a disability like mine, can be artificially re-introduced if they do really provide benefits. And I'd wager that an "artificial disability" which was designed to do this would provide greater benefits as it could be more targeted at actually trying to improve the skill in question, plus has the added benefits of being able to be "turned off".

And all that being said, this is all just the comment of one person with ADHD. Others could feel very differently.

As another developer with ADHD - I was diagnosed at 31 - I agree with everything you've said. In my 20s it was solely my ability to pick up things so quickly along with being in a career that was less strictly 9-to-5 that kept me in work - things are much better now, although as you say there was a considerable adjustment period after starting medication that involved a lot of unlearning poor coping mechanisms and learning new skills.

As someone diagnosed at 33, I agree.

It kind of feels like growing up as a commando in a battle zone, and now switching to proffessional paintball.

There is absolutely no benefit to having a LD. Seriously, there is NONE - people with LDs who attain success do so in spite of their LD, not because of it. This notion that LDs make you more "creative" or whatever is backed by absolutely no research and is mostly a bunch of feel-good nonsense.

A great reference for this is Dr. Russell Barkley:


His Youtube videos/lectures are extremely insightful as well:


Thanks for sharing your perspective. Do you have an LD yourself? What do you think of The Dyslexic Advantage [1], which was written by experts who have very strong academic credentials?

Looking forward to checking out Dr. Barkley — thanks for sharing.

1: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052RHC2K/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?...

You realise Russel Barkley had a brother with adhd who died in a car crash?

He's extremely negative about adhd.

There has been evidence to suggest greater skills in other areas - the research isn't enough yet as it's only a few papers. But Russel barkley always jumps on any notion of improved skills and smashes it with as much passion as he can. I can understand why he hates adhd.

What? What does any of that have to do with anything I said? Why would a trained clinical psychologist be anything but negative about a brain disorder that, when left untreated, contributes to poor long-term outcomes in (1):

-academic performance

-self-esteem regulation

-addiction and drug abuse

-antisocial behavior


-social outcomes

That's like saying an oncologist is really negative about cancer. There is nothing positive about a deficiency in executive functions. There is nothing to be gained by having a stunted capacity for working memory, being unable to plan ahead or stick to a schedule, being impulsive to the point that you are disrupting other students and or coworkers, being unable to properly regulate ones emotions, and not to even mention the loneliness, social anxiety, depression, etc that one develops due to being socially ostracized due to the aforementioned ADHD symptoms.

ADHD is a serious neurological disorder that ruins people's lives. There is nothing to be positive about (other than that it's treatable and manageable). A clinical ADHD diagnosis is a disaster, not something to tout as giving you some sort of edge up in "creativity" (because it doesn't).

(1) https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1741-...

Just because a person is a "trained clinical psychologist, doesn't mean there is no bias in their work. ALL SCIENTISTS - are aware they will have natural bias whether they like it or not.

My point: was that using Barkley to justify something "having no benefit" is not a good justification.

Looking at the negatives you've given here - these are all consequences of a lack of help, support and self-acceptance - where a person has fallen through society because of being different. We obviously get this a lot with adhders because we are different - society isn't set up for us at the moment - but people with adhd are NOT BORN WITH:

- obesity, addiction, antisocial behavior, low academic performances(don't get me wrong academia is fucking hard as fuck it sucks your soul and takes your life away...it also takes enormous strength of character to persevere)

I'm not knocking Barkley's work - no need to attack me here - he's done incredible things to make sure that adhd is regarded as a genuine condition that needs treatment, help and support - IT DOES.

On Barkley his work focuses specifically on the deficits - even his books focus on this - it focus on the negatives - again for good reason he wants people to take it seriously.

I notice btw - you're fixated on there just being "creativity" as a positive for adhd - and it being some disease (it's not fyi medically a disease) - so i'm not gonna sit here and start posting the papers which posit the opposite, that humanity needs these characters in order to thrive, or the recent papers that show if a person with adhd is put in a good environment for them - they thrive - because I think you're someone who will probably respond aggressively. I'm not going to bother posting about the amazing shit i've seen working with adhd kids either.

Because nothing I say is going to change you're mind. You sound mad as fuck and upset about adhd.

And I can't be fucked.

I've seen how bad it is - about 10 of my members with adhd have addiction issues - i'm under no delusion.

My Dad with ADHD died of alcohol, was in and out of prison. However - they never had help and support or knowledge of adhd until it was too late. :(.

My work: researcher in neuroscience and a software developer, adhd coach, have adhd and dyslexia, have 18 close family members with adhd(Nan had 10 kids, her mum had 10 kids, huge family), worked with kids with adhd for 3 years, give workshops on adhd, volunteer at a charity for adhd, run my own company part-time creating tools for people with neurodiversity and therapies for stroke and dementia patients.

I attribute my struggles to being able to better understand others with cognitive deficits - and it means I run a successful business with it.

If there's anything I can help with - please let me know.

I can't speak for dyslexia, but I have ADHD. Something that not many people talk about is that there are two sides to the ADHD coin.

On the one hand, I get easily distracted from things that I am not interested in. I have trouble focusing in boring meetings or mandatory classes about subjects which don't interest me.

On the other hand, when I do something that I am interested in I get hyperfocused. It is pretty similar to a flow state - I don't notice time passing and I often literally don't hear people when they talk to me. When I am hyperfocused, people often have to shake me or put their hand in front of my face for me to notice them.

This has played out much as you'd expect - when I am doing work that engages me I am super productive, able to sit for hours and bust out a program or read a book in a fraction of the time it takes other people. However, when my work is uninteresting to me, I really struggle staying focused and it tends to take me much longer than it should.

Overall, I'd say it has been a net benefit in my life - I've been able to complete many side projects outside of work and school due to my hyperfocus, and this tendency has driven me to find work that engages me.

As a person with ADD and autism, I would jump on anything that helped me work around the deficits of my condition. The benefits, such as they are, are mainly indirect.

I am sure you know this but not all dyslexics have problems with reading I had a reading age on 20 when I was 9 or 10

My problems are with writing mostly

Isn't that dysgraphia?

there are lots of different terms for the different ways dyslexia presents

What's LD?

I think "Learning Disability."

Learning Disability or Learning Differences

neurodiversity is not well understood. This book explains that well: https://www.amazon.com/Reason-Jump-Inner-Thirteen-Year-Old-A...

there are no benefits to LD or psychopathologies.

there are no benefits to LD or psychopathologies.

there are no benefits to LD or psychopathologies.

any person who does fine with an LD would soar far, far, far higher without one. learning coping mechanisms brings you up to just barely below normal par. they don't let you exceed normal, because nobody else needs coping mechanisms to bring them to the level that they are already naturally at.

for every CEO you see waxing about their issues, remember that there are perhaps ten thousand people with similar LD and other issues who ended up in prison or beaten down at the margins of society. maybe even more. we'd do well to develop some kind of cure to these problems...

ADHD makes learning more difficult, but it's not LD.

LD is not ADHD

What's surprising, and admirable, to me is that he worked his way up with those traits vs founding the company.

As he says in the article, it's a lot to do with picking the right people to support you. Though the cynic in me suspects by eschewing detail and email, he had a lot more time for corporate politicking.

The thing about disabilities like ADHD and dyslexia is that some people "suffering" from them succeed. To succeed they pick up a lot of personal strategies that can be used for other things than managing your disability.

ADHD for instance forces you to structure your life. Because you won't be able to get out of bed in the morning, cook dinner or clean the house if you don't.

Being structured is a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life though.

The down side is that very few people actually manages to succeed.

What does it mean to structure your life?

For me it means being very conscious of organizing and structuring my life. My keys hang in the same place by the door every time. I keep my work laptop in the same place everyday when I come. I keep my bike stuff (helmet, bottles, gloves) in the same spot. I have the same breakfast shake every day, which I buy in bulk and is always stocked in the fridge.

It's all kind of obvious stuff that everyone could benefit from, but my wife can be much more casual about handling details on the fly.

You need external regiments and mechanisms to stay on a schedule, complete projects, stay on task, and remember important things. People with ADHD spend considerable effort to establish and monitor these systems to keep them on track because without them they'd be lost.

Some subtext in this article seems to be that the company was already a healthy environment which allowed him to easily adapt and thrive despite his inherent challenges.

He could just as easily have found himself in a company that wasn't as accommodating or healthy and foundered.

Unfortunately it's hard to assess how bound to processes a company is until you're well past the onboarding/honeymoon phase.

Or worse, in my unfortunate experience, finally land at a company light on procedural, reasonably good at executing, and investing in improvements to the development stack only to have that crushed by a supermassive org acquisition with absurdly burdensome procedural overhead and have that overlay existing practices rather than supplant them while still expected to execute not only as if nothing had changed, but as if we should have improved thanks to it all thus setting me back effectively years professionally and rendering my time investment almost entirely void...

That's an interesting take. My shrink is not very keen on that style of outing, his thinking being that unless you have an actual mental illness that makes you disconnect from reality, you have to take ownership of your life, and labels are a way to skirt your responsibilities. That does mean adapting your life to whom you are, wether you have an identified quirk (ex. ADHD) or some kind of non-pathological personality trait (ex. "I want to paint canvas all day long").

Maybe we need more CEOs who never emails, maybe we need also CEOs who do everything by email, so that workers have a range of choices on the kind of companies they work for. The counterpoint, of coure, is that culture tends to uniformise everything.

The article is literally all about how Bassoul has adapted his work to who he is.

Does your shrink have the same objection to the label "arthritis"?

Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko's, also has Dyslexia and ADHD. https://www.amazon.com/Copy-This-Hyperactive-Dyslexic-Compan...

Seems intuitive. You don't need laser focus on details to be a CEO. You need some of the things ADHD people uniquely have, such as a tendency to try new things, or rather to try more things, than others might.

As someone with ADHD, you are really romanticizing ADHD. It's not a benefit.

> You need some of the things ADHD people uniquely have, such as a tendency to try new things, or rather to try more things, than others might.

Hm, people without ADHD can try a lot of things too... can you please explain why you feel people with ADHD are better at trying new things? If you have ADHD yourself, do you find this to be true?

Of all the successful CEOs, do you think there is a higher occurrence of folks with ADHD? I ask because in my mind, these are the people who have been good at a lot of things: Jobs, Musk, Thiel, Altman, Bezos -- the most salient examples of multi-disciplinary folks I can think of do not have ADHD (well unless they are keeping their ADHD private).

It was explained to me in a talk I went to, which made reference to a study that was done. Alas, it was years ago and I don't know how to find it again. But you can easily reason it out for yourself. Let's say Person A approaches activity X the normal way, does it the "right" way, and succeeds. In the same amount of time, Person B starts on X but soon transitions to Y, and then again to Z.

In the same amount of time, A has tried one thing and finished one thing, while B has tried 3 things and finished none. People who are like A can't stop harping on B for not finishing X. However A didn't even think about Y or Z. Sometimes Y & Z turn out to be better than X. (For that matter, sometimes the reason you're bored of X is not because something's wrong with you, but because something's wrong with X.)

Being "distracted" is also known as being sensitive to your environment. Focusing on X comes at the cost of ignoring Y & Z. And vice versa, too, but that idea already gets plenty of airtime.

In an organization there are people who start things, and people who finish them. Entrepreneurs and executives usually seem to be more about starting things. Technicians, managers, organizers, they're the ones who follow through. So IF there's a place in the firm where ADHD might not be too much of a problem, and might even help, CEO is it.

But he isn't literally trying the things.

My former CEO had some issues with Dyslexia and focus. He had major issues reading/spelling, and honestly all the employees noticed it.

Also he would kind of zone out a good amount while someone was talking about something and get caught repeating something or asking someone to repeat something.

But he was a very good person and always showed a strong interest in each employees' well being. We all respected him a lot and trusted him with the company. He really came across as a genuine person and we all just looked past the Dyslexia/attention issues.

Another dyslexic checking in. Was diagnosed in school but it's relatively mild. My spelling is terrible which can be embarrassing in a business context. Also am fairly useless at coding without a proper IDE - which is another reason I try to advocate against pure-whiteboard style interviews.

I can't speak to Dyslexia, but running a medium-to-large company sounds like a dream job for ADHD types.

Rapid context switching in the job description? Sign me up!

Agreed, now just need to figure out how to bypass all the other stuff on the way there!

It's not so much rapid, as uncontrollable :(

My COO is amazing and I'm super lucky to have her, she basically runs the business for me so I can focus on the company and the customer. I learned early my dyslexia lets me think about the business well but someone else should operate it for me. Teams are important.

> I do very little emailing, no Facebook, no LinkedIn.

I'm jealous about this. I'm a bit neurotypical but there's no way I can just sit in my bedroom with my awesome project - "Build, and they will come" huh?!

Ah, but you're not alone without FB and LinkedIn! You have us, here, and Reddit over there, and...

Hey social networking for business is no joke! I have precious amount of quota for socialising ... and spending a lot of it on HN, oh dear things are going well D:

Facebook and Linkedin aren't going to help much though.

It always encourages me to see other people with Behavior/Learning disabilities succeeding beyond the expected standard. I will say that as many have pointed out, some of these traits do not have to mean a long lasting deficit in ability or capacity. By learning to achieve the same results in the areas that these issues compromise you develop new neural paths that can also be used to be more efficient and generally better at many other areas of life and life management.

I don't understand why this is a big deal, people seem to think disabilities (not limited to ADHD nor dyslexia) are barriers.

People learn to overcome all sorts of disabilities all the time.

In my opinion, this article shouldn't single out that ADHD and dyslexia as a limitation, in a way you can say the contrary, that it's what made him where he is. I'm sure Steve Jobs wouldn't have been as successful if he didn't have dyslexia.

This is a common trope in the ADHD community. Namely ADHD makes us more creative.

I'm for positive thinking, but I heard about a study that claimed skills like creativity do _not_ go down once you are being treated for your disabilities. I do not know the details of the study, though.

Unfortunately this trope has meant that I've met many ADHD people who refuse to do medical treatment because they don't want to lose their gifts.

My theory has been that people with ADHD tend to end up having lives with rough social interaction, and you end up living a childhood more prone to "creative" endeavors like reading books or other activities you can do alone.

But for those of us with this disorder, getting proper treatment can get rid of a major social barrier almost entirely. I'd recommend at least trying medical treatment and evaluating the effects you feel.

> Unfortunately this trope has meant that I've met many ADHD people who refuse to do medical treatment because they don't want to lose their gifts.

I'm ADD and autistic; I've seen this in both communities, and I hate it. Recognizing that disabilities need not define you or limit you is a fine thing. Going from there to the notion that disabilities are good and it's the healthy people who have the real problems is devastatingly toxic.

>Going from there to the notion that disabilities are good and it's the healthy people who have the real problems is devastatingly toxic.

I see the opposite as toxic. I am very creative but because of my creativity I have trouble, sometimes, keeping focus on things I do not deeply love to think about. I get very bored very fast doing things that does not fundamentaly engage or motivate me. I know this disabilitates me but I also know that the other side of that coin, my ability to dive in to a problem and go deep, for a long time, and after some time resurface with a solution, more than compensate, which shows in my pay-check I guess but also because I am well integrated in the team. Perhaps well-integrated because I know everyone is a little ADHD/schizo/gay/rasist/and so on. We all have a little bit of everything in us. That's why I struggle hard in every team I'm in to make us a well-functioning but heterogenous team. We all need to be our best selves but more imporantly, our selves. If not at work, when?

I struggle with meds.

I can't visualise things as much - and it fucked up my maths quick thinking. Stops me going as deep 'into the zone' and I can't pattern match.

Same with when I'm driving - I can't focus in the front, cars behind, sides... I can get a 3d map of what's going around me by looking at all the mirrors simultaneously (apart from passengers). It's got me out if some bad near crashes: dog on a motorway, flipped car in front... Etc... Because I already had an exit route pattern in my head of most possibilities going wrong.

Can't do this on meds for shit.

Can pay my bills on time though.

> My theory has been that people with ADHD tend to end up having lives with rough social interaction, and you end up living a childhood more prone to "creative" endeavors like reading books or other activities you can do alone.

I know quite a few people with ADHD and they are the opposite, they tend to have trouble reading books, especially thick ones, due to their trouble to focus for longer periods. But they all love social interaction and are very good at it.

ADHD's primary effect is lowered inhibition. One of the consequences is that when untreated you end up blurting things out instead of just thinking them.

It usually leads to some pretty abrasive interactions with people, at least in childhood. You end up just kind of pissing off everyone around you.

As we reach adulthood though, your "being an adult"-ness can end up helping you out in controlling this. And people around you might be more likely to support you/deal with you (because they too have become more like adults).

I think that in adulthood you can find comfortable spaces to be in despite speaking before thinking. But as a child it's harder (at least that's what I experienced and saw with my friends).

And the important thing: those getting treatment can get a lot of this suppressed! ADHD medical treatment can almost completely remove this from your system (while you're on the meds, at least)

I agree that blurting things out is related to ADD-like behavior, and what you have described is very close to my history.

My experience with treatment, however (which for most is amphetamines) is that I become more verbal and unfiltered while on Adderall, to the point I try to only take it when I am working in a solo setting.

> I know quite a few people with ADHD and they are the opposite, they tend to have trouble reading books, especially thick ones, due to their trouble to focus for longer periods. But they all love social interaction and are very good at it.

For me reading provides a structured, single train of thought that I find soothing compared to my often chaotic thought processes - so much so that if I'm not doing anything else I'll be reading, especially nowadays that a mobile phone is omnipresent.

Interesting perspective, and definitely possible that benefits of ADHD do not dissipate with treatments.

This CEO attributed some of his leadership strengths to his dyslexia (aversion to email, method of running board and other meetings). If there were a treatment that allowed him to read better, what would happen to these benefits? And perhaps the question isn't so much what would happen to this CEO, who is all grown up and has developed his management style, but rather what would happen to kids with dyslexia who could be treated at a younger age. Would they miss out on benefits that he has developed?

If a parent had to choose between enabling their child to read better (which helps with schooling and many jobs) or having the opportunity to develop skills that could help with leadership, how would they choose? There seems to be a cognitive dissonance in the dyslexia community — where parents fiercely advocate for every treatment for their child, and simultaneously also tout the benefits of having dyslexia. If the latter is true, is the former necessary or even desirable?

The problem is that people should learn to accept that there are differences in the personalities and it cannot be homogeneous. They should be encouraged to cope or help them in coping.

I'd like to re-iterate, there are NO benefits to ADHD. It is a medical condition.

If I sawed off your arm, you wouldn't say "Oh well it's possible that the benefits of sawing your arm off didn't disappear with treatments." There are no benefits. I'd rather have my freaking arm, just like I'd rather not be ADHD.

Trust me, there are _no_ benefits to consistently requiring powerful stimulant drugs to even begin to resemble someone who can keep a simple schedule. This disease destroys peoples' lives. You have been sold a false good by the media, hollywood, and people who write trash articles that describe the "benefits" of things such as ADHD, Aspergers, and Dyslexia.

Appreciate your sharing this perspective. Some folks, like @jdormit (on a different thread) indicated an upside in some cases, and an overall net benefit. I wonder if this could just be an issue of magnitude of ADHD? That is, perhaps severe ADHD is more likely to be net negative, whereas mild/moderate ADHD could go either way?

I am certainly aware that the media like to tell feel-good stories, and that this is part of the reason for the positive coverage of dyslexia, ADHD, and other conditions.

I second this, seeking treatment definitely helps with learning to manage the disability. It seems weird describing it as treatment, I would call it more of a suppressor because once they wear off it comes straight back.

One of the best things to deal with ADHD is early recognition as it can cause them to fall behind everyone else. Quickly.

It's interesting though, not everyone knows exactly what it means to have ADHD or what it implies. Because of this, it isn't necessarily the best thing to tell your teachers either because they can start treating you differently. So I suppose the process of overcoming ADHD can heavily rely on your parents and how able they are to give you the extra attention and time you need.

Not to knock reading books, but isn't reading exactly the opposite of a creative endeavour?

Reading creative fiction requires imagination and the ability to synthesize available information into an entire world. Great fiction gives you details and sequences of events, material from which meaning can be made. But the actual rich experience of being deeply engaged in imaginary worlds takes creative action on the part of the reader. It might not feel this way, but the meaning is not "in" the words. It is created by the reader at ... Uh, run time? And it is different for every reader.

Oh come on. Sure, you're not wrong, but reading is still a much less creative endeavour than many other things you could be doing, so the GP's argument holds up fine.

> , but the meaning is not "in" the words. It is created by the reader at ... Uh, run time? And it is different for every reader.

True, but no reader of a Culture novel is going to create a story about two lovers in present-day Seattle in their minds. It's going to be planets and aliens and megastructures and bad endings for every single reader.

GP's argument was that reading is "exactly the opposite of a creative endeavor" ... To me, that does not hold up.

I guess I'm saying reading exercises the creative muscles more than not reading- and possibly more than entertainment where you can be more passive, like TV. Language alone can never fill in all the blanks. Reading IS an act of consumption but also one of creation.

> no reader of a Culture novel is going to create a story about two lovers in present-day Seattle in their minds.

Definitely. The difference between readers at the high level ought to be pretty small, but at the detailed level (how do people look, what is their voice like, how fast are they), stuff it's highly unlikely to really be the same.

I don't understand the medical treatment thing. Why is it so that everything has to be treated? What do you define as ideal? People have different types of personalities and it is necessary in the system. In my opinion it is better to give time to people so that they overcome. We really tend to underestimate the coping capabilities of humans.

I struggled with ADHD on my own for years because of this thinking. I lost a job, I lost relationships, I lost time in my life that I could have been doing something productive and instead was flailing around jumping from one thing to another, the whole time feeling more and more depressed as time went on because I must be the only guy that couldn't "figure this out" without needing to be "fixed" by medication.

I eventually came around, and it's a night-and-day difference. The medication is only a part of the system that I now have to manage ADHD, but I wouldn't be where I am today without it. Not everything needs to be treated, but when that treatment could very well make almost every single aspect of your life better, to the point of allowing you to actually live a live, why would you encourage people to not take it?

This is why we try to classify different types of learning disabilities. There's a difference between "can't focus" and "can't focus to the point of it being a significant detriment to their lives". There's a difference between "I can't sit still" and "I've spent the last 6 hours trying to write a few lines of code but I just can't get my goddamn brain to stop thinking about other stuff for 2 goddamn seconds to even get an on-topic thought in, and now I'm meta-analyzing my own thoughts instead of actually working just making the problem worse and this entire thing is hopeless because if it takes me this long to write a few lines what hope do I ever have of actually completing a program". And that thought process continues for another hour or so interrupted by a "okay just focus" and a few minutes of trying to get back on topic before the spiral starts again until I finally start to make headway only to realize that an hour later I somehow got off-topic again but this time while writing code fixing a bug in some unrelated project, only to then curse myself while dropping that bug only to stare at the fucking screen again not being productive.

It's the former which is a personality and the latter which is a disability.

A day in the life - can relate.

Do you have to be medicated all through your life or can it be improved by slowly weaning off of it? Please do not misunderstand but the reason why I am asking this is because of a genuine concern for people like you to be able to control the thinking by yourself and not be dependent on drugs.

Ref: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201...

Edit: Added reference.

To get the benefits of the medication, I need to be on the medication. It's caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain, and just like someone who has to wear glasses can't be "weaned" out of them, I can't be "weaned" off my medication without seeing the effects of the disability.

I do only take it on weekdays for the most part (mainly because tolerance builds and if I take it every day it can start to lose effectiveness), but I will still take it some weekends if I feel I need it.

And I do control the thinking I do, with or without the medication. It doesn't alter who I am, it doesn't change my personality, it doesn't make me "smarter" or "dumber" or anything like that, it just lets me focus. Even my wife can't tell when I do or don't take it, because externally it's that non-obvious.

It's a medication that fixes a problem. The glasses analogy has always felt like the best fitting one for me, as neither I nor someone who has to wear glasses are really truly "dependent" on the medication/device, but without them we won't be as productive members of society. And we wouldn't be happy.

I understand that you mean no harm, but you come off as someone who doesn't really know anything about the subject and are telling people who do to stop helping. I would suggest you go read up on some learning disabilities, go read up on the studies done and the medications used and the solutions there are out there and the effects they have on not only the individual but their friends, their family, their coworkers, their life.

I have seen first hand cases of dissent being suppressed by giving the reason that if the person does not adhere to the majority point of view then there is something wrong psychologically even if the majority is completely in the wrong. By giving strong medication I see them suppressed of their thoughts completely to the point that they are always dazed.

This is why I am always concerned about misdiagnoses or being taken advantage of. For a person suffering from some physical disease it is easy to see and measure but in case of psychological disease it is tough. Here I am not talking about some developed country but in third world countries where medical expertise is limited and hence are regularly cheated.

Hope you understand where I am coming from. I am not against anybody taking medication if diagnosed properly and sincerely hope things improve in the medical field that they can be off the medication and lead a normal life.

Just a quick question. How do you fair in labor intensive tasks such as woodworking or metal fabrication etc? Do you fair better in those tasks than coding? The same thing with physical sports. Does it help you to focus?

Almost identically in those cases. It feels like the "mind" equivalent of trying to put to magnets together on the same pole.

I'll start, then I'll get distracted or get wrapped up in some small inconsequential detail which feels like it has the pull of a freight train to my attention. It also leads to mostly unfinished projects that i've attempted to do before.

It also happens even during "pastime" stuff like trying to watch a movie or even just hanging out with friends, and if I don't take my medicine for a while, it has actually kept me awake before (yeah, i can't focus on sleeping...)

It's like my mind is going 60 miles an hour but in the opposite direction I want it to go. I can't sit still, I can't just "stop" thinking, and I can't focus on what I want to do.

I get that you might be fearful of medically induced suppression or something, but do a little research before giving your opinion on if people should be taking medication. Giving stimulants to people isn't going to do anything to help with suppressing them. And just because you are fearful of medical suppression, doesn't mean that people should stop taking their antibiotics.

My opinion was wrong and I stand corrected.

> We really tend to underestimate the coping capabilities of humans.

That's great, but you're really overestimating the coping capabilities of people with ADHD - which is defined in relation to causing significant difficulties with ones life. And then there are all of the poor coping strategies which one comes up with over time that can minimise obvious problems while magnifying underlying ones.

Medication makes a huge difference. Would you say the same to a diabetic? If not, why would you say that to someone with ADHD?

I might not have been clear. In case of serious disabilities I really understand with the medication. If there are minor disabilities shouldn't medication be minimized? Shouldn't the person be given time in the society? Is it just the super fast lifestyle which aggravate the disability?

I would not say no medication to a diabetic but I would say to adhere to a good lifestyle and diet to minimize medications if possible.

> In case of serious disabilities I really understand with the medication.

Being diagnosed with a mental condition generally implies serious difficulties - just being a bit distractable won't get you a diagnosis of ADHD.

> If there are minor disabilities shouldn't medication be minimized?

Why? If medication is the most effective way to treat a condition what would the basis be for avoiding using it?

> Shouldn't the person be given time in the society? Is it just the super fast lifestyle which aggravate the disability?

What super-fast lifestyle? There are coping strategies you can develop for mitigating some of the effects of ADHD, and I took part in a study on the effects of CBT used to help adults with ADHD to learn to manage their condition better. These are great, but they don't actually improve my attention, which links into your ability to remember - whereas taking Ritalin daily brings a noticeable improvement to my ability to concentrate and remember the details of my day to day life.

> I would not say no medication to a diabetic but I would say to adhere to a good lifestyle and diet to minimize medications if possible.

Do you think that medication for ADHD isn't already minimised? The implication here is again that you think people are being over-medicated - do you have any evidence for this?

>> Why? If medication is the most effective way to treat a condition what would the basis be for avoiding using it?

>> <snip> whereas taking Ritalin daily brings a noticeable improvement to my ability to concentrate and remember the details of my day to day life.

Wouldn't you worry about the side effects both short term and long term, known and unknown? Effects on the liver etc? Please understand that I am asking to know more. If the person is properly diagnosed and have the disabilities I really don't see any problem in medications.

Just to clear up the misunderstanding I am not against taking medications. I am against bad diagnosis by poor doctors.

>> Do you think that medication for ADHD isn't already minimised? The implication here is again that you think people are being over-medicated - do you have any evidence for this?

Honestly I cannot come to a conclusion that it isn't already minimized because I do not have the statistics nor am I a researcher in this.

Misdiagnosis becomes worse in some third world countries where the medication is available but good quality doctors are not present. Looking at the video linked below the diagnosis in the US too is not done right. Doesn't this cause a problem where there is no proper "measure" similar to blood glucose levels to diagnose diabetes and provide medications? The difference is that if somebody is prescribed diabetic medicines to a non-diabetic then there is a clear misdiagnois. How can you prove it is not the case with the above disorders where there is no way to clearly measure? (I really hope researches put some effort into it so that we get deeper insights on what actually causes these problems.)

What do you feel about this? : https://youtu.be/t90bpFHnFAY

I don't have ADHD or Dyslexia, but I do have NVLD (Non Verbal Learning Disorder) which has many symptoms in common with autism, so I'll try and give you some idea. (This is basically a brain dump, with some limited editing because I should have been in bed hours ago.)

If there was a treatment for this I would jump on it without hesitation. Why? Well, for one thing I would like to be able to tell when someone's lying to me. You all appear the same to me, as far as body language goes; I read only the most obvious or exaggerated cues.

I would also like to be able to tell when someone's wanting to use me for their own amusement before they start, which happens rather a lot, instead of when they start laughing at me.

I really want to understand intent. Did she ask me out, or does she just want to borrow that movie? Did I just get offered a job, or was that mentioned just in passing?

People constantly misunderstand me. Did she tell me about her boyfriend because she's misunderstood me? Colleague standing in the hallway crying, so I stop and ask what's going on. I inevitably somehow mess that up and make it worse, so in future I just walk on by rather than making it worse, and then: what a bastard, just ignoring someone in tears!

Another less-than-favorite "feature" is harder to describe. Someone can ask me to do something, and for no good reason at all there's a little snap in my head, and suddenly everything is about spiting that person, for no real reason. Some of my friends and colleagues are extremely forgiving of this, and I really do appreciate them for it.

Imagine doubting your memory, everything you've seen or heard, second guessing your recall of number or character sequences that you've just this moment read. With that in mind, can you imagine the horror and stress that comes from filling out forms? Did I read that right? Wait, why did I put today's date there?

I could go on for hours, but I've hopefully given you something of the picture. A lot of people think the downside isn't so bad, it's just that I can't remember things I've seen, and if I work a bit harder I'll be normal. For a moment, though, imagine living with just those issues that I've mentioned. With that in mind, I've read that suicide rates are significantly higher than normal for people who've been diagnosed with NVLD, and the author of that paper conjectured that a notable portion of suicide victims may have been explained with diagnosis, but as there's no real treatment for this disorder at this time, there's not really much hope.

I was diagnosed with this around the turn of the millennium, and if I'm really lucky, I may get my first session with someone capable of assisting me any month now. Understanding what's wrong does provide some limited relief, but I started seriously thinking about suicide around the age of 9 or 10 years. 30 years later and I still consider it most days, with varying degrees of conviction. Obviously things haven't been bad enough to go there, but I have been so close to it that a stranger choosing to smile at me on the street can make the difference.

On that note, I might take a few minutes to address all those "suicides are weak pathetic coward" types:

things are bad enough right now that it's looking like an option. There's a lot of negative crap going on, and I've got no way to deal with it. (One symptom of NVLD is an inability to control emotions. I'm not sure if that's specific to me, or in common with others.)

My partner's ruined us financially and is blaming me for it (while refusing to allow me to apply for a job with decent pay in any other city).

My job's a dead-end go-nowhere part-time position with little chance of meaningful promotion. Even if I did learn that one extra skill they've been pushing me to learn, there's no extra money in it so why would I? Wouldn't be the first time, either, because I can do every other role in the business (except sales). It's like a parent who pushes you to get a driver's license so you can go to the store for them.

There are very few alternative jobs around, and my skills for this job are ultimately not in high demand outside a field with high saturation of people wanting in - although I am very, very good at what I do and it'll take years to bring someone up to my level.

When I apply for the few suitable jobs, I never get them and I don't know why. They'll never tell me the real reason why ("..a better fit...") and it may even be that they don't know. It seems quite likely to me that I've committed some faux pas that I won't notice, or someone just took a dislike to me because I didn't react appropriately to body language that I couldn't understand.

I'm unable to save enough to retire, and in the near future I'm going to have to sell my car to cover my partner's debts, so I'll be walking 75 minutes in both directions five or six days a week, sun or snow, for just a little more than unemployment. After that, it'll be my internet gone (which is one of my main outlets) and I'll be completely isolated.

I've basically been unable to do anything worthwhile with my life, and will not have an opportunity (that I could identify) to find anything.

My dream career? Aeronautical engineer working for JPL or the like, unfortunately when you run the math requirement against NVLD, I basically can't do it. It's the same for anything I've ever really wanted to do. (Maths, physics, CS.)

Anything I do try will likely get dropped because it's too much effort (I burn out again) or I'll get distracted by another project.

Paper work is pure hell, and I burn out faster than anybody I've met. Mostly, people think that I'm just lazy, but if you ever want to see someone work hard then you find someone with NVLD and give them a (worthwhile) project.

My ex- used to give me hell about it, and my present CEO told me that NVLD is a bullshit excuse for someone who was too lazy to learn how to use their brain.

There's a whole lot of further stuff that makes me too identifiable so I won't add it here, but consider all that I've mentioned above, and think how bleak things look for me - no future, constant cock-ups when dealing with people, no respite from the storm: every day is a new misunderstanding, a new social conflict that I don't have the skills to avoid or repair.

Throw in a bit (...a lot...) of PTSD from an abusive childhood to round things down a bit more.

It seems to me that this disorder is right at the outside edge of what I can cope with, although it really places people and this society at the edge rather than the disorder itself. But for those reading this who are shouting at their screens, "Don't do it!" just relax: I won't. I'll wake up in a few hours and hopefully feel a bit better - maybe the new day won't be so bad. My phone might ring, and that job I applied for a month back will invite me for an interview. I might even get it.

(Imagine that, underneath it all I'm still an optimist.)

Hmmm, this didn't turn into anything like what I was intending, but the basic premise is more-or-less still intact. I'm not looking for sympathy, or people to try help me in one way or another, which is why I like to keep my online identify unrelated to my real persona. I usually don't go back to messages I've posted, sometimes because I've said my piece and that's it, more often because I can't quite remember where I posted and finding it is more effort than it's worth.

In the end, I hope you've got a slightly better idea of why someone might want a cure for something that doesn't really seem like it would be a significant problem. You would be forgiven for thinking that NVLD isn't that bad as most people, including myself, think that way until they start looking at the specifics. I was diagnosed while at university, where staff accept the word of doctors, before I'd seen much of the real world where every second-rate CEO knows more than any damned quack because they worked hard to get where they are. (I only say this in case you, like most others, decide that it's only been a problem since I learned I have it. It's not that way at all, the difference is that now I understand why I am the way I am.)

I'm not familiar with NVLD, but have you thought about reaching out to an organization like


and seeing if they can help you?

That's a good idea, thanks! I'll take a look.

> I'm sure Steve Jobs wouldn't have been as successful if he didn't have dyslexia.

I've seen this claim several times and have tried to find a source to support it. I would love to know if you are aware of one!

I probably should have used a better example, I just did a quick google search and saw that.

The one I use often is John Britten but no one knows who he is nor was he a CEO.

Richard Branson is dyslexic too as far as I know.

I am a programmer with ADHD. I was dyslexic as a child, but grew out of it as far as I can tell.

I have two patents in machine learning, and have been a critical member of multiple "best of the best" teams at a few large software organizations. I am considered a 10x developer.

The negative effects of ADHD are mitigated by medication and techniques you learn with dedication over the course of your professional life. I take Ritalin daily.

I am more creative than my peers. I also have honed skills in graphic design, scientific research, and management. My passion is for building systems that do things that have not been done before. Some projects are user interface focused, some are strictly back-end processing. All have to do with solving a previously unsolved problem. I work mainly in R&D. I am highly paid.

I not good at repetitive (busy) work, so I automate all of that. Automating repetitive work is not repetitive. This is the only remaining negative that I can't shake. I have an immense respect for manual QA testers, that's a job I incapable of doing well.

The biggest differences I've found between myself and coworkers are my capacity for hyper-focus, superior long term memory, and superior spatial thinking capability.

When I set in on something it becomes an obsession. If I am awake, I am working. I can't stop designing/architecting/debugging/evolving, even if I wanted to. I am working while I brush my teeth. I am working while I'm watching a movie. I dream about work. If I am not challenged, I feel like I start to die.

I generally remember anything interesting I read instantly. I'll remember it for years. When I am working through a problem, I have pretty immediate recall of everything related I've read (which I can apply immediately). I read the code of programmers I respect in my free time. I like to memorize documentation as well. My short term memory is garbage.

I can see any working system I've memorized or written in my head, running. I can try changes or new ideas and see their effects without consulting the computer. There is a limit to this, and I write my code to limit the size of any given sub-system to that limit.

My code has a distinct style to it. Some co-workers complain, some love it. No-one can argue with its performance (or my speed in producing it). I write using the entire language, not just the "normal" subset that everyone memorized for technical interviews. I also use a lot of math. A final polish phase to "normalize" code (minimize fringe concepts) is part of my work-flow to avoid consternation from the maintenance team. I want everyone to be happy. Bugs in my code are rare (I am meticulous and bug-paranoid), and I can fix them very quickly. I do not write test cases, but I do write with the debugging interface in mind.

I don't believe ADHD is a disability, I do however believe that individuals with ADHD have to work differently than individuals without. ADHD itself is just a collection of symptoms, and those symptoms are just differences. I am not aware of a chemically ADHD test. Things that are easy for others may be very difficult for those with ADHD. Luckily, things that are very difficult for those without ADHD are sometimes very easy for those with ADHD.

If you have ADHD, it is important to find those difficult things you do well, and design the growth of your career around doing them as often as possible (so others will forgive your growing pain in areas where you are deficient). Anything you're terrible at you'll have to fastidiously practice, or write your own way out of it (make sure that your way is an accepted solution). I keep my ADHD a secret unless specifically asked about it. There are a lot of stigmas attached.


Edit feature isn't working for me.

there are tools for him if he really can't avoid to write that memo; like this spell checker http://www.ghotit.com/ (I am a contributor to the project)

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact