ADHD / ADHD and the Workplace / Adult ADHD

ADHD: Risk Aversion, Extremes, and the brutal nature of Empire Building

I’ve taken a little break from blogging, but not by choice. Well…by choice, but not by direct choice. When you are being held over a cliff, by your ankles, blogging takes a back seat.

And this is precisely why small business ownership is a great choice for people with ADHD. Nothing makes you feel alive like the potential for failure, humiliation, and financial ruin.

It is an often true fact that small business ownership can be perilous for people with ADHD. But it is equally true that it can feed us in a way that being an employee never will. Gladys Knight said it when when she sang “I’d rather live in his world, than live without him in mine”. In this case, “him” is high stakes, and I’ve simply reached a point where working for other people is boring enough to kill me.

About 6-8 weeks ago, spring hit my new life with an aggression that even an MBA can’t prepare you for — and I don’t have an MBA. It made perfect sense for me to start two small businesses at one time (it did, I swear). I need variety to keep me happy, and I have a high tolerance for risk, if I feel it’s “the right project”. It didn’t make perfect sense for me to also temporarily take the operational helm of a small organization that my husband started a couple of years ago, but with him in the midst of work obligations that prevented him from being able to take care of all of the details, somebody had to do it. That somebody was me. It wasn’t really a choice – we have too much invested in the project to let it fail.

Perhaps beyond the boundaries of ADHD stereotypes, I actually have a good mind for logistical details, and concrete planning. Creation of systems entertains me. My deficit reveals itself in the way I take on too much. And when you take on too much…sometimes details are forgotten or simply not tended. But this time, I was perplexed. I hadn’t actually totally chosen to take on too much, this time. The situation just presented itself. And frankly…because I’ve been training myself out of taking on WAY too much, it made me queasy.

That’s why, after weeks of insanely long work days — spent working through piles that refused, for too long, to get smaller — I’m taking time to put a few safety valves in place, so that when I surface, I don’t find myself in a burned out frame of what my dreams could have been.

I have contacted a bookkeeper to set up some critical systems for dealing with the financial end of things.

I have contacted a hypnotist to help me deal with diet-related issues so that I can stay healthy. Long-story I’ll save for another time. (I can’t eat wheat or gluten and gluten-free cooking isn’t exactly busy-person-friendly.)

I am practicing diligence in taking my medications, and trying to get enough sleep.

And I allowed some things to fall off of the radar — like blogging. You can’t do everything. Sometimes even a workaholic like me needs to admit and accept that.

A few things I’ve learned in this process:

1) Most people have a low tolerance for risk. And I have no tolerance anymore for working with people who can’t tolerate risk. As an equally risk-tolerant friend recently said “Katy, we are the 1%”. What are people waiting for? Death? Are they going to stand up for something they believe in when they’re dead? I’m serious. Find yourself a decent numbers person, and go for it.

2) If the point of life is to sit at a desk working for assholes who don’t appreciate bright and capable employees, then I’m all set with that business. I’m done being hired for who I am and what I do, and then being told not to be who I am or do what I do. Or, my favorite, when they say “you can’t do that”. Well guess what, I already did, and let me give you 4 public examples of how it did. Still stuck spinning around on your broken record? Great. See ya. I’ll be over here working on something groundbreaking. Do yourself a favor and hire someone that doesn’t put a high value on creativity or thinking. Or getting anything done. Yes, I’m still processing a little baggage on this item. Sorry about that.

3) Being treated like crap because I am small, female, and look much younger than I am makes me want to pie people in the face. Well…it used to…now it just makes me do business elsewhere. Because when you’re self-employed you get to choose your allies.

4) Marry the right person. I married the right person. If you aren’t married and your “person” already doesn’t support your world view (in a realistic way) – don’t marry them. They’re not going to change.

5) This is very different from expecting someone to jerk off your delusions. If you have ADHD you have an obligation to get as brutally in touch with your shortcomings as you can, and learn to live with others without blowing sunshine up people’s asses to get away with bullshit. Be real. Be present. Admit your shortcomings and find people who can help you navigate them – or read self-help books.

6) I’ve learned exactly where my limit is. It’s somewhere right around 16 hour work days 7 days a week. And it ain’t pretty. Now that I know this, I’ve modified.

7) That said, for a finite period of time, I can crank some shit out.

8) Self-employment requires a certain amount of faith that your plan will work. Sometimes that faith is all you have, and you have to keep going anyway. This is why you NEED A BUSINESS PLAN. It’s just faith on paper. And a reminder that there are steps, and that you need to keep working the steps.

9) I’m a badass. I’m not perfect. But I’m tenacious. And I’m willing to work hard. Brutally, sanity-compromisingly hard. After that, I have no intentions of giving up. After working that hard, there’s no way I’m letting it be for nothing. I AM THE 1%.

After this trial by fire, I’m happy to say that all three of my current projects are in good shape for this moment in time. There’s more work to do. One of them got short-changed a little bit in the process, but it’s still moving forward so I’m okay with that.

And now I’m just peering over the cliff, not hanging off of it. That’s good enough for now.

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