ADD, or its variant ADHD, actually has nothing to do with the concept that we only have one life to live. This acronym represents an epidemic, an oversaturated notion in our conception of Generation-Y, a weighty contributing factor in the hyperbolic downfall of society. ADD has garnered and attracted a negative stigma, owing to its apparent influence on our frenetic generation. Yes, ADD has since been viewed as a thing to be cured, rather than the answer and solution we’ve been searching for.
The funny thing about ADD is that there’s no science behind it. There’s no single fact or datum behind it that can actually prove what it really is and why we as humans are beginning to develop it more and more. The brain is the most complex piece of biological machinery that has ever existed and no matter how much money we pump into its research, we will never be able to fathom its infinite complexities.
Doing some research on ADD and the science behind it, the data I came across were rather scarce; yet, the statistics on the diagnoses were pretty straightforward. And it’s honestly astonishing how many millions of people suffer from the condition -- and that, since 2003, there has been a 20% increase of people with ADD. Further research shows that the swell in the population with ADD coincides with ADD drugs hitting the market. I mean, why not diagnose people with it, so that the medical world can cash out on our ‘deficiencies’?
Even the most rudimentary search on the disorder yields its inconsistencies. There’s a huge amount of talk about symptoms, but a distinct lack of factors or substantial evidence to suggest why an individual should specifically, chemically suffer from the condition. But what is it that these individuals are suffering from really? A different, frenetic way of thinking?
So I took my search one step further, to find any correlation with successful people and the disorder – and to no surprise, I found many. ADD has long been considered a debilitation, something to be treated and to be cured. And that’s why I began my initial search, to understand my own ADD, because something about this entirely negative stigma doesn’t ring true.
Looking back to what David Neeleman, the founder and former CEO of JetBlue, told us about ADD, it started to make a little bit more sense. The college dropout told us that even though ADD comes with its negative attributes, like being unorganized and scatterbrained, it did help him become the successful person he is today. Neeleman accredits much of his success to having ADHD, saying that with the disorder comes creativity, along with the ability to think outside the box.
Then it started to make a little bit more sense. What jumped out at me was the creativity part. Did it ever occur to those really smart doctors and scientists that the reason why so many people have ADD might be that society has managed to hinder our creativity and prevent it from blossoming? I think back to my early days when I was just a kid at the age of 6 in my first grade classroom. I despised school, probably hated it more than having to eat my oatmeal for breakfast. I didn't pay attention, I didn't try to do well and I barely ever raised my hand to answer a question.
I just didn’t have much interest in learning basic addition or how to pronounce the alphabet at that time. My first grade teacher told my mother that I wouldn't be able to make it in the school and that they would probably have to make me repeat a year because of my trouble paying attention and actually getting school work done. Back then they didn't tell you that you had ADD, they just left you back a year and made you look like an idiot in front of all your friends, saying that you had learning difficulties – oh how times have changed.
In order to advance and not to get left back, I had to get my grades up and there was only one way to do so – cheat. So I did, because it was a lot more fun and creative than actually studying and being bored. I struggled with the condition all throughout school; I have ADD, just like David Neeleman, Richard Branson and Michael Jordan. This wasn’t my own problem, this was a problem that many people my age growing up had.
Fast forward a few years and it was an art class in high school. We had a project to do, a simple painting, but we were allowed to make it whatever we wanted it to be -- with no rules our boundaries. This is the first time I learned how to combat my ADD. This painting, which meant nothing to my GPA (as art was listed as a pass/fail and it literally could have just been a few lines on a canvas), took my mind for one whole day. I thought about it endlessly because I was excited about the project, out of all my more serious assignments and projects, the only one I could focus on was a silly art piece. I thought about it the whole time walking home and even more, later that night. Then it hit me, why was I so into this? Why was this something that my mind couldn't stop wrapping around and why couldn’t I stop thinking about how great I could make it?
Then, of course, it all started making sense, it’s not for the fact that I love to paint, it was for the fact that I had nothing hindering me for the first time in my life. I had no rules, no limits, no outline, no ‘do this’ nor ‘do that.’ It was more than just a painting, it was the first time I was ever allowed to think outside of the box and that is why I was infatuated by it. Looking back at it now, it all makes sense. ADD is not a disorder; it’s a red light that our minds hit when we have no interest in something.
You look at kids across this country now and you see most of them being prescribed Adderall or Ritalin, being told that this will help their disorders and it will get them on the right track to focus, as if these pills will be our saviors, when instead they are just short-term extreme band-aids that force our minds into thinking into structured patterns that our brains fight against, leaving us with terrible side effects, like depression, because our brains are so tired of simulating a fake focus on something we don't really care about.
Look at it this way: have you ever been depressed after you worked really hard on something that you were into and enjoyed doing? Of course not, maybe a bit tired and fatigued, but I wouldn't say depression. ADD is not a problem among us, it is not a disorder; it is something bigger than it, something above it. It is a sign telling us that we need to start thinking differently or else we are going to be a human race that lacks focus and depends on pills to help us get by any obstacle we encounter.
Many people look at ADD as a weakness, a hindrance and something that will hold them back. In fact, I have even seen a pill of Adderall go for $80 dollars in college (yes, I went to college in New York City, and that was seen as an affordable rate). People look at it as a weakness because it inhibits focus. What if I were to tell you that ADD isn’t a weakness, in fact it’s a cry for help from millions of people in the world, saying that you cannot simply standardize the way we learn and grow across all of humanity and society. Then think to yourself, why is it that Generation-Y has the most ADD? Why are we the generation of instant gratification? Then it all really starts to make sense, we were the ones that grew up to be standardized, the ones cultivated to be significantly average and to do everything by the book. It was as if we were all raised to be robots. Why else do you think we all took those damn standardized tests? The SATS? Had to go through those tiresome Kaplan review books? Given a syllabus and were told how to study a major rather than to find our own way to do so?
ADD by no means is a weakness; the way we look at it is weak and pathetic. Instead of trying to figure out a solution for it, we are just putting band-aids on it with prescription pads and massive amounts of Adderall and Ritalin. Our ADD is actually is gift, it is our creativity wanting to jump out, it is our true selves saying we don't want to focus on what we are told to and that we would much rather find what it is we want to focus on ourselves. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘if you do something you love it doesn’t feel like work’? Well that is because your ADD isn’t kicking in because you are able to think outside of the box and to be creative – essentially, you want to be there instead of being forced to be there.
The reason why we have become so scatterbrained and we are all over the place and feel overwhelmed is that we don't want to be doing what we are doing and would much rather do something else. ADD is not a disorder in the brain, it is a sociological issue that our society has manifested by stripping away what makes us so special -- and that is our ability to actually think.
So instead of focusing on ADD as a debilitation, we should understand that there are advantages if channeled correctly. You have the ability to hyper-focus if you find a subject interesting. Once you find what interests you, your ADD can lock you in on it and you can be sharper than anyone else. You can also process things a lot faster and from a more logical standpoint than others because of the intensity of your focus.
You can multitask and handle a variety of things at one time. You can also create your own fuel source and not have to rely on caffeine or pills. Most entrepreneurs who have ADD are some of the most creative in their fields and can work 16-hour days without it even getting to them. The push of interest and creativity fuels the adrenaline to knock out the ADD and bring the true focus from your mind.
The beauty of ADD is creativity. ‘Sufferers’ naturally have it. You can take in more information than most people and you are easily distracted, which means you can see things from different angles and can view problems differently than others would. It’s all about finding ideas and solutions and that is why most pioneers of the world have the power of ADD.
You’re also a quick learner, as long as you are interested in what it is that you’re studying. Do you know why so many people hate their jobs? Because they’re boring and repetitive. This week is just like last week and on and on, which is why they become miserable. People who love their jobs are the ones who are invested in them and have no trouble paying attention, just like I couldn't stop thinking about that painting in art class.
The last three traits of ADD may be the most important. We’re observation-driven; we’re constantly watching what is going on in our environment. Where many people are tunnel-visioned, a person with ADD has the ability to observe and intuit situations from multiple perspectives and can see problems before they arise and spot things that others miss. The second is crisis management, whereas most would run away from crises and be scared, someone with ADD lives on handling them because it keeps them entertained and focused for longer periods of time. And last, but not least, impulsivity means you’re more willing to take risks and action.
If you really start dissecting what ADD is and perceiving it as something that is a positive rather than a negative, you start seeing that society is really the one to blame for ADD – a blessing and a curse. It comes with the qualities that many successful people share because most of them have ADD and the reason they have become so successful is because they have found a way to turn what society calls a "disorder" into a positive. Our ADD can harm us if we don't do anything about it and if we accept it as a disorder and think that we can't get anywhere because it is a burden.
In actuality, that’s what our society wants you to think. It’s not that it’s hurting you, stopping you or even blocking you, it’s that you and your mind want to get out of the trap, to do something actually interesting while the world tries to impede you. We are not the ADD-generation, we are the generation that would much rather be doing something that we want to be doing than being told what to do.