What a revelation. After all these years – no – decades; I had thought: maybe I’m stupid. At school, they told me I was lazy, so I compensated by working like a demon. That didn’t help enough, so maybe I really wasn’t all that bright; maybe that’s why I battled to succeed.
To confuse me further, all these business ‘experts’ are yelling that its normal, indeed necessary, for entrepreneurs to fail. If you haven’t failed, you’re not trying hard enough, chides Jennifer Crusie.
As evidence of just how obsessed we’ve become with failure, Forbes lists 30 Powerful Quotes on Failure. It’s become a mantra, almost a religion, among entrepreneurs: Fail Forward, Fail Fast.
We celebrate people who are serial failures, as if they have accomplished something admirable. I agree that you can’t fail if you don’t try and we should admire those who’ve had the courage to make the leap, against daunting odds.
But let’s be realistic about this: Who in their right minds sets out to court disaster, who wants to boast that they have lost everything: business, family, home, self-esteem. Seriously, what sane person actively desires devastation?
So, all this glamourising of failure has been bothering me for some time. Recently, I wrote the article No! You Don’t Have to Fail, explaining how you can avoid failure by applying some smart business practices. But this doesn’t adequately explain why so many people who follow the lean business process still don’t succeed.
I was suddenly enlightened when I changed my psychiatrist. It turns out that Dr Shabeer Jeeva is an internationally renowned expert on the challenges that I and entrepreneurs in general, face. He asked me to pick out from a list, characteristics that I recognised in myself. You may be so accustomed to many of these traits that they are a normal part of you.
That’s how you’ve always been since you were a kid: ants in your pants, never could sit still. They said you were a day-dreamer or lazy ‘cause you regularly forgot to do your homework. What’s wrong with that? that’s how kids are, isn’t it. Yes, maybe, but not adults. What are you like now?
You may work on many tasks at the same time, but sometimes you jump from one to another and get distracted by other priorities that suddenly need your attention. Perhaps you get flashes of genius – at the most inappropriate times. Maybe it annoys you that you frequently forget important things, or you rarely get a good night’s sleep.
Do you get bored easily, especially with inane stuff like income tax and paperwork? Keeping focused on routine tasks is a drag. Because you are smart, you work around obstacles like remembering appointments by keeping a digital calendar and a task list.
You do, however, have a particular penchant for embracing challenges and tackling new situations. That’s just being a typical entrepreneur, isn’t it?
Dr Jeeva confirmed something that I had suspected: many, many entrepreneurs and creatives are ADHD (I had written about this in Confessions of an ADHD Entrepreneur) Colleagues and business associates may find it frustrating working with entrepreneurs and creatives because they’re ‘all over the place’: they miss appointments, misplace important things, forget important decisions and commitments. They don’t respond to important emails, they don’t remember to do important stuff because their mind was elsewhere.
So, if you are prone to ‘failure’, you’re probably normal; you’re just ADD, or ADHD. And you are not alone; you already know other famous people who are ADD, you just didn’t know that they face the same challenges that you do: Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Phelps, Justin Timberlake, Jim Carrey, Jamie Oliver, Richard Branson, Solange Knowles and of course, you.
Do you see yourself having any of the characteristic described above? You may agree with Forbes when they describe ADHD as The Entrepreneur’s Superpower. But Dr Jeeva also tells of a lady whose staff went on strike: you’re irritable, unreliable, inconsistent; we can’t work with you. Having these characteristics can be very counter-productive for your company. They can even result in business failure.
If you suspect that you may have ADD or ADHD and it’s getting in the way of your success, have a word with a mental health specialist. Focus! Do it Now!
Mentor to small business owners and entrepreneurs
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