How To Understand ADHD As An Entrepreneur

How To Understand ADHD As An Entrepreneur

How To Understand ADHD As An Entrepreneur

John Torrens
Devin Miller
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs

How To Understand ADHD As An Entrepreneur

What the research shows is that diversity of start-up teams is super important. Start-up teams with a single member with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD outperform. Start-up teams with two members with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD tend to suffer, and they don't perform so well. You probably have examples in your own experience where you see that dynamic play out. So if you are on a team like that, it's really important to realize that yes, even though I am the founder and CEO, you are very influential super important. If you are working with teammates who also have ADHD that you are going to need to address that and come to some sort of place where you can navigate it and manage it effectively. Because it could cause serious problems or it could prevent you from reaching all of your goals.


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and what the research shows is that diversity of startup teams is super important startup teams with a single member with hyperactive impulsive adhd outperform startup teams with two members with hyperactive impulsive adhd tend to suffer and they don't perform so well and you could you've probably got examples in your own experience where you see that dynamic play out so if you're on a team like that it's really important to realize that yes even though as the founder ceo you are very influential and super important if you're working with teammates who also have adhd you're going to need to address that and come to some sort of place where you could navigate it and manage it effectively because it could it could cause serious problems or it could you know prevent you from reaching all your goals [Music] everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the ceo and founder of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast john torrance and uh john we're going to talk a little bit about and it's an area we've talked a little bit on another episode another expert episode where we're going to have a bit of a different focus on it but on adhd and kind of what that means and how it correlates to entrepreneurship and you know does it do harm and does it do good and how you leverage it and how you manage it and all those good things and how you how you deal with that as being an entrepreneur so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast john thanks so much devon great to be here so i gave kind of a brief introduction about what we're going to be talking about but before we dive into the topic at hand maybe just give the the audience a brief introduction about yourself take a minute or two uh let them know why you're an expert why you know what you're talking about and why they should listen to you yeah thank you so like you i'm a serial entrepreneur i've started scaled sold bought back companies for most of my adult life and during one of the the company's journeys i realized that my staff was having some serious issues with me the way i communicated the way i operated and when we got to a certain level i just started to notice this much more acutely and it was starting to create some problems so i ended up getting an evaluation to see if i had adhd based on the advice of a business coach i had at the time and as you can imagine the psychiatrist said yeah of course you have adhd and this is you know you've had it your whole life you didn't just develop it as an adult um so i got really interested in this because i was seeing it play out in my life and in my business and as a professor so i've been an entrepreneur um exited a company took a job as a faculty member at syracuse university in their entrepreneurship department which has been just an amazing journey for me so part of that part of that responsibility or part of my role at the university you know i take part in some research here and there and one of the things i was looking at was the link between adhd and entrepreneurship because a faculty colleague of mine is a world renowned expert in this i have personal experience with it and we just launched a real quick study on uh entrepreneurs pretty successful entrepreneurs and we found that there was a pretty serious link so for example the normal population has there's about 13 percent of the people who have a diagnosis of adhd in our sample where there's about 62 percent of them had traits consistent with adhd so it was quite amazing and um there we dove into it a little bit and took a look at uh you know where uh where the different traits of adhd come into play how come in the context of entrepreneurship adhd can be an advantage and of course where it's where it's harmful as well no i think that definitely is a great introduction and makes a ton of sense how you got into into this area so now one of the probably the baseline or the place to maybe start is what is adhd or you know and my guess and i don't know is there's varying levels and varying levels of severity but kind of if you're you know if you're an entrepreneur i think that there's sometimes you just like to work on a lot of projects and you find a lot of things interesting versus you know you may have adhd or different communication and focusing so how do you define that or kind of what's that baseline of what is adhd or how do you tell if you have it or you know why you you might want to look into it yeah sure so first it's not a binary right so it's it's not the case where you either either have it or you don't and if you have it you look the same as everybody else who has it right it's it's very different so the way it's diagnosed is based on uh it's just a basically an interview and observation done by a qualified provider and they ask a bunch of questions and you have to have i think six of the criteria in this list of traits or characteristics uh if you're familiar with it's called the dsm-5 or diagnostic and statistical manual five used by doctors and healthcare providers and it's that's how it that's how it works and the tricky part is if you just go to your doctor doing a primary care visit and you know they spend the normal six to seven minutes with you it's virtually impossible to do a really deep dive into this and do it well so i usually encourage people to go to a specialist or a mental health provider you know just to really take that deep dive and do it properly because you don't end up taking medication if you don't necessarily need to the other thing that's important is there's two presentations or two expressions of adhd one is inattentive type and the other is hyperactive and impulsive and in our research we found that it's hyperactive and impulsive type that correlates highly with entrepreneurial success inattentive type this is where you look really forgetful uh you lose things a lot you're uninterested you just can't get started you don't yeah it's all that type of stuff that tends to be the downside and it's harder to manage the upside and the hyperactive and inattentive there's definitely more advantage there but there's also a serious disadvantage to this you know to a lot of those traits so yeah if you think you might have some traits and characteristics that add up to having an adhd diagnosis definitely see a provider and that's the thing it's it's a compilation of traits and characteristics right because most entrepreneurs i know tend to be a little bit uh hyperactive right but just because you're hyperactive doesn't mean you have adhd you have to have a um you know a full complement of these traits and they have to affect your life in certain ways and that sort of thing so it's a it's a much longer interview type of process to get that sort of diagnosis now one question and you started to hit on it but let's say okay i'm an entrepreneur and um you know whether it's i have a hard time focusing or communicating or you know or any number of the things that you presented you know is there an advantage but i'm not sure is there should you go get checked out is there advantage to get checked out does it say hey if you're on the line not worry about it or kind of what you know and then we'll get into a little bit of advantage of disadvantages but even if i'm saying you know i don't know if i have it i might i might not um you know is there is there a motivation or is there an aid in getting and having that checked out or diagnosed it depends right so if if it's getting in the way of your life so for you know students are great examples right students who have adhd not not just hyperactivity or impulsivity or things like that but they have several traits that when combined have negative impacts in their life getting a diagnosis is helpful because then you could get extra time on your tests and different accommodations and things like that if you're an entrepreneur and you're growing a team it may be beneficial but maybe not for me it was beneficial because i could have the conversation with everybody and say look this is me this is how i operate these are the types of things you got to look out for and these are the types of things you can check me for right so it has advantages and disadvantages the other advantage is if you feel like it's that detrimental to you and it's really getting in the way and you want to go the medication route of course you need a diagnosis and you need to try different medications and different dosages under the supervision of a doctor so there are reasons why you might want to okay definitely makes sense so now let's say either i you know either i've already been diagnosed or i am done i go get diagnosed or i'm saying hey it doesn't interfere i think i have it but it doesn't interfere with my life you know to the degree that i think i need to go get it checked out any or all the above then you know looking at it now saying now what are some how does that correlate with entrepreneurship what are the advantages how do i manage it what are the downsides what should i look out for kind of unwinding a bit of that ball of yarn or so to speak what are you know kind of i know i get that there's a whole bunch of questions dumped into one to help us understand a little bit about entrepreneurship how to manage it and kind of what to look out for sure well one of the first places that this manifests is in the the initiation or the ideation stage so people with adhd just tend to have more ideas they tend to pursue them a little bit more and they identify more with the idea of entrepreneurship and some of that could be their their um their lack of risk aversion or their tolerance for risk part of it also is that people with adhd just get very enthusiastic about things and they tend not to see the downsides or the risks right so somebody without adhd might be evaluating an idea and say well you know there's some downside here or here's some of the risks somebody with adhd may not even see that they might just see all the really good stuff be very optimistic about it and jump right in and that's usually the first first you know place it sort of identity it identifies itself right but then of course there's a bunch of other things we talked about propensity for risk now when that's working really well that could make you look brave and visionary right and you're taking a risk or maybe others didn't but when it's not working well and it's dysfunctional it could make you look reckless it could make you look like you're just a wild risk taker without any mitigation you know things like that another thing that we see in entrepreneurs with adhd or well people with adhd anyway at least hyperactive and impulsive they have a very high sense of urgency right everything's got to happen now now now now when that's working and it's functional that that makes you very productive you get a lot of things done you may get more done before noon than most people get done in a week right when it's not functional you could be severely impatient you could drive people around you crazy you could be the guy that sends out a really important email at 6 p.m on a friday and even though you don't expect your teammate or your employee to get back to you now you've just really freaked them out because their boss emailed them at 6 p.m on a friday and there's all this work that has to be done to answer the email but maybe you didn't even expect a response but you sent it out anyway and you put it out there right so these are the ways you can impact your team without even really knowing it um so now so and i think i like the the view of hey this has some benefits and not just all downside in the sense and a lot of times when you have any diagnosis or anything that you're having to deal with you always say oh you know there's the drawbacks and the downsides and now i'm having to deal with those but there's also i like how there's also some updates or event you know advantages or upsides to it and how you can leverage that in order to use it to your advantage so to speak so now as you go to do that you know how do you leverage the upsides and you know take advantage of those things that are beneficial as an entrepreneur and manage the downside so that you you don't you know you can have the best of both worlds or you can have the benefits and and not have as much of the detriment yeah there's a couple of ways you could do it so just in terms of managing yourself right so there's there's a consumption aspect to it and not just what you put into your body through your mouth but what you take into your eyes and ears right so there's not a lot of support for adding supplements to your diet that that help with these traits but there's some support for removing things from your diet right so sugars red dyes caffeine or strategic use of caffeine right all these central nervous system stimulants will just tend to jack somebody with adhd way up and make your lives a little bit harder likewise your media consumption is super important in terms of your distractibility right so you probably know entrepreneurs and maybe even you yourself you might have three screens going one might have your crypto wallet one might have whatsapp for web one might have a stock ticker you know maybe there's your outlook up and you know you're just doing all of it right and maybe you've got the news on also who knows right and you've got some music playing and you're texting and it's that type of thing it's that information diet that you know you've got to just really manage so when i work with people young entrepreneurs who have this the first thing we do is just turn off all notifications train them not to even open outlook or gmail until they're ready to send and read emails and you know just minimize distractions right so that's the consumption side on the activity side there's two aspects to it the first is what do you just do what are you doing professionally are you doing things that you like and you're good at if so that's great but are you also putting yourself in the position where you're forcing yourself to do things that you don't like and you're not good at but because of this guilt you have you feel like you have to do it before you can delegate it or maybe you're not a good delegator and you've got this task you're stuck on it you're mad at yourself and and you're not getting to the things you really like so delegating and understanding what you're good at and doing those things and finding somebody else who is good at the things that you're not good at which there's plenty of those types of people give that to them right then the other side of activity is just physical activity right we know exercise is helpful for people with adhd right just to get the ants in the pants out increase dopamine levels that sort of thing um so exercise is key but there's also a lot of research support for some sort of um meditation or mindfulness practice which kind of makes sense because when you meditate you're focusing on your breath and you're you're paying attention to the way you pay attention in other words right so there's there's things you can do there probably the most powerful thing you can do is enlist a an accountability partner or a third party it could be your chief operating officer or a really strong number two could be your spouse could be a coach but just lay it out with them and say look these are these are the traits i have i'm i have a high propensity for risk i'm highly proactive i don't think things through very much and i have high sensation seeking this is what it looks like when it's working for me this is what it looks like when it's not i need you to throw the flag when you notice it's not working hit the pause button and let me just think about it because it's that self-awareness with that help from somebody else that could make the biggest impact no definitely makes sense and i think i like the kind of the idea of you know self-awareness and sometimes that you know kind of even if you don't have adhd or any anything else or you're not you know you know you don't have to manage that having that self-awareness having that accountability partner i find you know a lot of times is worthwhile in both cases in the sense that a lot of times you're going to see things differently they're going to see things differently having some of the mountains ideas off with make sure that you're staying in line you're you're cor coordinating communicating everything else is beneficial it sounds like definitely even more so and that's in that side now one of the other shifting gears just a bit one of the other thing we mentioned before we chatted before the podcast was there's also kind of that startup life cycle and that kind of sometimes adhd can correspond well with that and it can be helpful and you know kind of what you mentioned and i had to laugh because i end up having four screens in my office one's a 65 inch tv i got another about 40 inch tv i got another screen that's a little screen so i've got a whole bunch of screens and so i like to have you know everything else up everything up at the same time so i can see it but it's had to kind of smile and self-reflect but going back to my question was is with that startup lifecycle i can see you know maybe if it's getting things going and getting excited and because i think a little bit the risk meter has got to be broken if you want to be an entrepreneur because if you thought about all the ways it could fail and all the ways that it was against the seed and every all the risks and everything else you'd never get started so tell us or help us understand a little bit about if you if you were managing that or looking at adhd and some of those uh or you know those drawbacks and benefits where you should be a particularly cognizant of it within a startup life cycle yeah that's a good question and um so if you think of that you know the life cycle of a company or an entrepreneur right there's certain times where and and each each stop or each point of the life cycle there's going to be things that hurt and things that help right or things you're good at and help you out and things you're not so good at or get in the way so early on it's the initiation right if you've got hyperactive and impulsive adhd you're going to be really good at that almost sometimes even too good because you initiate so many projects that maybe you just don't finish right but it's that initiation which you know in entrepreneurship ideas are a time it does and you got to take action on the idea and do something with it right and that's what we tend to be pretty good at now the follow-through and the completion that's a different story but the initiation that early stage of the entrepreneurial life cycle we tend to be really good at now if you kind of go through the life cycle and you think of okay early on you're just in resource acquisition mode right you're either trying to find capital you're trying to find you know co-founders you're trying to find employees you're trying to find product market fit you're doing all this stuff you're acquiring resources and you're hustling and you're working as the company matures a little bit you go from you know resource acquisition to resource coordination right so now you've got the resources you need now you need policies you need procedures and there's this push and pull between improvisation which is what we tend to be really comfortable with and coherent orchestration of all the resources right so do you plan things through do you stick to the plan do you execute well or are you just way more comfortable improvising right so in in one of my companies as we were scaling they came to me and said look you know we we need procedures and processes for this and i said absolutely we do i get it we're never going to scale unless we have that so we'd spend time put the processes in place and guess who the first one was who violated every one of those processes yeah i was just way more comfortable improvising right so if something came at me i didn't want to go through the process i just wanted to solve it quickly even though going through the process probably would have been ultimately the cleanest most quick way to solve it it just you know i had to do deal with it right there you know um yeah so there's there's those types of things no i think that makes it but you know and it's interesting as much as a lot of what we're covering is even i think good advice for all businesses and i think particularly being cognizant of it is even more so but if you're to look at you know it's interesting uh one of the books i love and enjoy is um that will never work and it's a it's by mark randolph he's one of the original founder of netflix and you know oftentimes you hear steve hastings but mark randolph was the original ceo and founder and he was talking about a lot of times how and there's different cycles in the startup right and you originally you need a generalist and somebody can do a lot of things and then you also have a ceo that's kind of the visionary and you can do it but as a as a company matures and as you do it you may need to bring on different towership talents different leadership and everything else and i think that that's a little bit what you're touching on is even just magnified with doing it if you did have adhd that a lot of those talents early on of getting things done and and figuring things out and pivoting and adjusting and you know you move all that is beneficial and kind of as the business progresses to get those systems in place that you can just wing it you can't just do it you have to have help other people understand your vision and how you're approaching everything else is beneficial but it's one where you have you have to be even more cognizant because you're you need to have those systems in place as a as the company progresses yeah yeah right down so now if you're to do that in your you know you're so let's we've kind of walked through and talked a little bit about what is adhd how it correlates entrepreneurship you know does you know what are the harms and the the positives how you manage the downside and kind of you know and the life cycles of a business anything else that they should be cognizant of aware of or as you're looking especially in our audience as entrepreneurs startups small businesses anything else they should be aware of cognizant of or looking to manage or otherwise if they're dealing with that or maybe dealing with it that they should be thinking of yeah so especially in a startup scenario it's um you know that the founder ceo may have adhd and if they don't have adhd to a clinical level they probably have some some compilation of traits that that helps them anyway right but it could also drive people crazy it's important to remember that in a startup scenario you you're going to tend to attract people like that in a lot of cases so on a team so what what the research shows is that diversity of startup teams is super important startup teams with a single member with hyperactive impulsive adhd outperform startup teams with two members with hyperactive impulsive adhd tend to suffer and they don't perform so well and you could you've probably got examples in your own experience where you see that dynamic play out so if you're on a team like that it's really important to realize that yes even though as the founder ceo you are very influential and super important if you're working with teammates who also have adhd you're going to need to address that and come to some sort of place where you could navigate it and manage it effectively because it could it could cause serious problems or it could you know prevent you from reaching all your goals no i think that that that is a good i and that's an interesting and insightful but hey you know kind of the old attitude of those cliche of you know they're you can't you can't you although you can't have too much of a good thing in reality you can't have too much a good thing in the sense if all you have is a whole bunch of people that are like you that have adhd or go gung-ho and don't have the systems in place and don't manage it then it can be detriment it can be detrimental if you have too many but one you know having that right balance and that right mixture can also be beneficial because you can have everybody that's um that's going to be playing different skill sets so that definitely makes sense well as we start to wrap up the podcast and you know always more things i'd love to dive in than time to dive into them but if somebody were to be in this circumstance so they're a startup they're a small business and they're getting going and they think okay either i'm diagnosed or i'm not diagnosed but i think i have adhd are managing with it and they're saying okay i should probably start to take some steps to use it utilize it leverage it to my benefit and also manage the downside they could with all of that as a setup if they can only get going on one thing today if they can only get just take that initial first step what would be the best thing to get going on it ah so one of the most effective things that i found for for the people i work with i coach a few young entrepreneurs with adhd it's uh it's getting into a practice where you plan your next day right so just before you go to bed dealing with your calendar and saying these are the important things i got to do tomorrow so that way when you wake up in the morning you're not just kind of grasping at straws or being slow to get out of bed because you're not exactly sure what you're going to do it's that coherent planning and knowing what you need to do so that way the first thing you do when you wake up isn't start improvising right the other thing is to keep your phone off at night and don't even turn it on for 30 minutes in the morning that gives you all that time to do your meditation your gratitude look at your day and then you can attack your day strategically versus reacting to whatever it is that came into your phone overnight no i like that and i think that again it's funny because i listen this and i'm like a lot of this is good practice for everybody even in that you know waking up and if all you do is the first thing you do and and i'm i'm guilty of it so i i need to repent and be better but i always will pick up my phone and the first thing i do when i wake up in the morning is go through all the emails and see which ones i if there's anything that came over the night before and what if i need to do that and then you know if i have good emails it gets to get day going well and i don't get overwhelmed and if not then sometimes i have so much to do that i'm you know get frustrated or already started the day off bad so i like that but having that that structure and that plan definitely makes sense so well people have more questions if people want to reach out to they want to find out more whether it's you know learn more about your research they want to reach out to you with questions they want to be a take your class if they're your university whatever it is or they just want to be your next best friend what's the best way to reach out contact you or find out more yeah they can find me on linkedin john m torrens they can go i did a tedx talk on this topic they can google my name and adhd and i just published a book actually it's on amazon now it's called lightning in a bottle how entrepreneurs can harness their adhd to win so you can check that out if they like it awesome well i definitely encourage everybody to check that out and i'm an avid reader so i'll have to pick up the book because it sounds like a great read so appreciate coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure um appreciate you sharing your expertise now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own expertise to share or you just have your own journey to share feel free to go apply to be on the podcast just go to we'd love to have you on and share two more things as listeners one make sure to click subscribe in your podcast players so you know what all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so new people can find out about all of our awesome episodes last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else with their business just go to and we're always here to help thank you again john and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last all right thanks devin it's great being [Music] here you

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