013: How ADD Made TRUE Possible

In This Episode: Is ADD/ADHD a curse? No: when properly managed, it provides “superpowers” that are an absolute gift! It actually helped me in my job at NASA, and then in going solo as an entrepreneur.

013: How ADD Made TRUE Possible

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Show Notes

  • Help Support Uncommon Sense — yes, $5 helps!
  • Both of us mention Dr. Ed Hallowell, who specializes in ADD (particularly in adults), in part because he has significant ADD issues himself. His best-known book is Driven to Distraction, but we think his later Delivered from Distraction is a better introduction to the topic.
  • I also mention that I was recently at JPL before recording this. That story is also an episode here: Podcast 003: Cassini: The Bigger Picture.
  • Kit briefly brings up the theory of “hunter vs farmer” types. That’s the theory that ADD is actually both natural and advantageous: that there are people who have the predisposition to be hunters to help get protein for their tribe; their acute focus combined with easy distractibility makes them excellent hunters — which we now call ADD or ADHD. If you’re interested, there’s an entire book based on this, The Drummer and the Great Mountain (apparently not available via Amazon). The book argues simply that ADD/ADHD is a neurological type, not a disorder. Kit was later on their podcast too.
  • I mention these sites, so here are links if needed: Stella Awards, HeroicStories (which I no longer publish), Honorary Unsubscribe. And there are others that are no longer online, including Jumbo Joke. I think I forgot to mention Randy’s Random (my meme site).
  • Kit mentioned the exercise band we use: it’s the Vivofit 2*, which we like because it’s waterproof (so much you don’t have to take it off when you swim or shower), and it runs for at least a year on a set of cheap, and replaceable, batteries.
  • L-Tyrosine (or 4-hydroxyphenylalanine) is one of the 20 standard amino acids that are used by cells to synthesize proteins — and the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline, the lack of which is what is behind ADD/ADHD in the first place. (Example source: Wikipedia)
  • Kit’s web site is LiveInFocusedEnergy.com — she’s a High-Performance Coach who specializes in entrepreneurs with ADD/ADHD.
  • See below for a photo of us.


Society seems to think AD(H)D is some sort of curse. Yet when properly managed, it provides “superpowers” that are an absolute gift — and enable great things. This week I bring in a special guest — my high performance coach (who specializes in entrepreneurs with ADD/ADHD like me) — to talk about why that is, and what it takes to get away from the so-called “monsters” that are created by society dealing with our neurological types.

I’m Randy Cassingham, welcome to Uncommon Sense.

When I announced that I was taking the “first season” of the podcast down for a revamp, listeners begged that I not remove certain episodes, so I’m redoing them. This one was at the top of the list. It’s about how ADD made This is True possible. So here is that interview, recorded in early October 2017.

– – –

I’ve made allusions here and there to ADD/ADHD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, or the newer term, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I’ve known for many years that I have ADD, the term I prefer since I don’t have any hyperactivity, and that ADDers are common in emergency medicine and as entrepreneurs. In fact, Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who has ADD himself wonders, “Do all entrepreneurs have ADHD?”

I’ve invited a high-performance coach who specializes in ADD/ADHD to talk about this. She happens to be my own main business coach. Why don’t you just go ahead and introduce yourself?

Yep, that’s her all right!

Kit: OK: I am Randy’s shorter half, also known as Kit Cassingham.

Randy: Also known as my wife.

Kit: Oh yeah, that too. Did you know we’ve been married for just over 16 years now?

Randy: I actually did notice that because I sent you—

Kit: Beautiful flowers that still smell heavenly.

Randy: While I was out of town, so I didn’t even forget even though I was on the road to JPL.

Kit: I know, that’s fun isn’t it?

Randy: So yes, I knew that. Did you know that we’ve been together for more than 20 years?

Kit: Almost 20 years.

Randy: Uh-oh. I screwed that up, didn’t I?

Kit: Well, now could just make it sound like it’s been forever.

Randy: It feels like forever!

Kit: And it feels like yesterday.

Randy: It sort of does. Let’s talk about ADD and what— we can use those terms interchangeably. One of the things I don’t like about the terms is the last letter stands for disorder. I’ve had some difficulties with ADD in my life. I had the classic thing that when I was a kid in school, report cards always say I was daydreaming and stuff like that, because I was bored. But once I had some tools that I just kind of came up with myself, I actually thought that ADD was an absolute gift. It was something that really enabled my success both when I worked for JPL, and as an entrepreneur.

So I don’t like the term disorder. My understanding is that some of the researchers in the field are not liking that term but it’s cemented in stone now and they’re just going with it. You don’t see it as a disorder either, do you?

Kit: I don’t see it as a disorder, it is something different. I’ve worked with people with disabilities for several decades now and many of them don’t like to see their physical limitations as disabilities. I think this fits in to that same discussion. Some people who coach and talk about ADD, they call it a “hunter type” rather than a “farmer type,” because they don’t like the disorder aspect either. It’s not just attention deficit, sometimes it is intention deficit.

Randy: What does that mean?

Kit: That means that they don’t have enough intention with what they’re doing for the follow-through or something.

Randy: You mean like psyching themselves up?

Kit: I think they don’t psyche themselves up, they just go with the flow so their intention just kind of flows away. I have seen numerous alternative phrases for ADD. People often don’t like being pigeonholed, they don’t want to be called somebody with ADD any more than they want to be called bipolar or an alcoholic. But I think it’s important to give something a name so you have at least a solid term for discussing it and learning to manage it. A name is what takes on the energy that you give it. I have just decided to call people with ADD, ADDers. It’s letters, it is not a deficit, it is not a problem, it is just a term.

Randy: OK. You talked about tools and all of that. When I first really noticed that I was ADD was when I was at JPL. It was a very stimulating, interesting place to work, so mostly I don’t have a difficulty with it. So when I was in that environment I considered ADD kind of a superpower because it enabled me to have absolutely intense focus, so I could get things done in a quarter to a third of time of other people. And people thought I was a miracle worker, “Can you do this job for me? I really need it by Friday.” “It’s only Tuesday, I’ll have this for you tomorrow!”

Conversely, when I was looking at the clock and say, “OK, I’ve got 20 minutes to the staff meeting, I can get something done in that time.” So I would start working and I would be so focused that about 30 minutes later my boss would call me on the phone and say, “Are you coming to the staff meeting?” So I realized pretty quickly that I was going to get in trouble if I didn’t do something about this. We didn’t have smartphones back then, didn’t even have Palm Pilots I don’t think. What I did have, or what I was able to get, was this Casio Data Bank watch where I could put alarms in it up to a year in advance and say what day and time does this alarm go off, and then what scrolls across the top of the face of the watch. I mean you could literally put words in.

I just put in Monday at 10:00: “staff meeting”. And I give myself an extra five minutes so it’s actually 9:55 it would go off and I’d look at the watch and say, “Well what do you want? Oh, staff meeting time.” So I’d give me enough time to get my stuff together and be there on time. I just used technology to overcome the limitation.

Kit: That’s a really good way of handling it. I urge people to find ways that work for them to get themselves— they need reminders. Time is real fluid with ADDers, I call it a time warp. Sometimes, time stretches on forever.

Randy: If you’re bored especially.

Kit: For example, anytime I travel to and from Boulder, because that’s where I grew up, Highway 36 which I’ve always called the Turnpike, that was the longest part of the trip, even if I was driving to Boston. Because that was a time warp. I knew it well, it took forever. What you’re talking about when you were at JPL with, “Oh, I have 20 minutes, I can get this done,” time disappears, it evaporates, it shrinks. That’s the hyperfocus part of ADD which is also fun.

Randy: You said that you had a time warp problem with driving on the turnpike does that mean you’re ADD also?

Kit: I discovered about six months ago that I am. It was invisible to me because I led a very structured life …until I met you.

Randy: Heh heh heh heh!

Kit: I think this because my mom had ADD, and like you she learned early on how to keep it managed and in check, and that just flowed to us kids. It might have had something to do with having five children too, I don’t know. I kept that regimen all through grade school, high school, college, through my work career, even when I was self-employed. I would get up, I would get dressed in my professional clothes, I’d have coffee and breakfast, and read the paper, and I would go to my office and work.

I was in my office from 8:00 to 5:00; people kept saying, “You’re self-employed, you can do what you want!” No, I work 8:00 to 5:00, and I play evenings and weekends. That worked well. But you have a fairly unstructured life and I wanted to meld our lives better, and my structure dissolved, evaporated.

Randy: That’s part of what I like about being an entrepreneur, is that I can come in late if I want, I can take a two hour lunch if I want to meet somebody or do something, and then I can work late if I want. I tend to work probably 60 to 75 hours a week, so 8:00 to 5:00 doesn’t really work for me anyway. But I have my own internal structure I think, that may not serve me completely well, and that’s why you’re trying to coach me on some more high performance habits. You’ve been a consultant and then later a certified high performance coach, but you’ve added ADD in response to your own discovery that your ADD and my ADD is kind of affecting things.

Kit: It was the full menu of what your ADD provided our relationship, and it was me reading about that so I wouldn’t be surprised by things that you would do and I could understand them.

Randy: You’re already a high performance coach at that time but—

Kit: Where I was going with that, and that’s my ADD jumping in there…

Randy: Maybe mine too!

Kit: …Is that the very things that I coach high performers about are the same things that help ADDers manage their symptoms. It’s the structure, strategies, and self-care that make all the difference in the world of whether you’ve managed your ADD or it runs rampant over you. I sometimes call it taming your monster into a trained dragon.

Randy: One of my readers who’s an alcoholism expert and addiction expert thinks that most of the, shall we call them ill behaviors we see in This is True stories, can be just traced right back to substance abuse or addiction in particular. I think you probably have something to say about this, because I’ll bet that you think some of it has to do with ADD and not managing their lives with that, they’re not necessarily substance abusers.

Kit: I’ve actually spoken with this person you’re referring to on that very topic because an addictive personality is one of the characteristics of having ADD. The addictions can be more than just alcohol and drugs. It can be food, which is a type of drug. But sex, gambling, Internet….

Randy: No, not the Internet!

Kit: Oh, I know. it’s terrifying!

Randy: I think Facebook is a major addiction.

Kit: It is, but even telephones. I mean you go out to dinner and everybody at the table is checking email, playing games….

Randy: Checking Facebook.

Kit: Checking Facebook or other social media. “They need to know what I’m having for dinner and I want to take a picture and share it!”

Randy: As if anybody cares!

Kit: But I do think that even the games people play on their various social medias, their phones are other addictions. I’ve suffered that where I didn’t want to work so I would play mahjong in my computer for hours on end. I now know what that’s all about.

Randy: What’s that all about?

Kit: That is my ADD taking over. It’s bored with what I’m doing, so rather than me inspiring it to do other things, getting hooked on to more exciting things, it does that. It numbed me out.

Randy: I’m not sure you actually answered my question about…. You read This is True every week, you see those stories. Do you think that some of these are more about people with ADD than addiction, or does one lead to another? What do you think about that?

Kit: I think addiction and ADD can be tightly interwoven. A lot of ill behavior, from boredom, or drugs, we’ll throw alcohol in there, can be very much related to ADD. There’s one conjecture I think, Ed Hallowell says this, that a lot of the people in prison and in jails are ADDers who haven’t found constructive outlets, and that could be true of drug addiction as well: they haven’t found a constructive outlet. So rather than manage their ADD, they go for the drugs to stimulate their brain, and that they have to keep doing that over and over again until it becomes a problem.

Randy: Which actually reminds me that we didn’t really talk about what ADD is. Why is it they need the stimulation of their brain?

Kit: ADD is a neurological situation. ADDers, and I’m simplifying this, they don’t have enough dopamine receptors, so ADDers need more dopamine to do what others do naturally and easily.

Randy: Back up a little bit, what is dopamine?

Kit: Dopamine is a chemical produced in the brain, it’s a neurotransmitter. It affects the part of the brain that is reward-centered, motivation-centered, so ADDers do things without knowing it to boost that dopamine for the reward. That’s where the drug problem comes in.

Randy: And drugs aren’t necessarily cocaine or stuff like that, I mean caffeine, Red Bull.

Kit: And sugar.

Randy: Ginseng. Oh sugar, yeah.

Kit: I have quit eating sugar, I’m on day 93 of no sugar and it’s a lifelong style for me.

Randy: As you know, I used to use tremendous doses of sugar to focus myself. When I reduced my sugar intake, that’s when I started having problems.

Kit: And you have gone to a little bit of stevia; I can’t even do that because I have such a sugar addiction that a little of that sweetness just triggers my sugar craving. So I’m finding I should do dates and figs because of the same reaction.

Randy: Because those are sweet tasting too.

Kit: They’re sweet tasting. Thrill-seeking, you see skydivers, that’s where the EMTs and first responders — they’ve got that rush of adrenaline which boosts dopamine—

Randy: And focus.

Kit: Sure.

Randy: That’s one of the things that I think that attracts people like me to EMS is that really hairy situation actually, instead of freaks us out, you notice that I become very calm because I’m getting really focused.

Kit: Your voice gets deeper too.

Randy: Only when I’m on duty.

Kit: Exactly, that’s part of it. So another aspect of this is that the exercise increases that dopamine, so a lot of athletes have ADD, and it’s that physical activity that satisfies that reward and the adrenaline. It’s a management tool and a reward tool.

Randy: You actually brought with you a list of people that have ADD or had ADD.

Kit: Yeah, if they’re dead they don’t have it anymore.

Randy: Probably not, they’re probably pretty focused now. People like, speaking of dead people, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Stevie Wonder — who is not dead — Cher, Harry Belafonte. So that’s some of the singers.

Kit: And a lot of actors. You’ve mentioned some of the musician performer types, but other performers would include Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen. Oh and your favorite, Emma Watson.

Randy: I do like Emma.

Kit: Jack Nicholson. I didn’t know who this person is, but I love the quote. Can I share that one?

Randy: Sure.

Kit: Alexis Hernandez, a TV chef, said that “When adults with ADD realize they are blessed and gifted, they’re going to be unstoppable.”

Randy: I think that just goes right in to the entrepreneurs. So part of my point in bringing up these names — Jim Carey is another one, Sly Stallone, Woody Harrelson. The reason I want to bring them up is that’s why I don’t like the term disorder for this. I think if you talk to most of these people, and a lot of them actually brag about having ADD or they consider it the key to their success, is that they’re not held back by this, they’re enabled by it.

Kit: My point is when you manage ADD, it is a gift. It’s wonderful! You are unstoppable, you have superpowers other people, mere humans, don’t have, and that’s what I love.

Randy: But still, I’ve heard you talk about this, that sometimes when you talk to people about ADD, they really resist the idea that they can’t possibly have it. “Oh my mom had that, but I don’t.” Talk about that a little bit.

Kit: First of all it’s genetic, so if your mom or dad, or worse yet, both, had ADD, you’ve got a really high chance of having it. I was in a work—

Randy: It doesn’t mean you’re broken.

Kit: No, it doesn’t. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I was at a workshop this weekend and the group… they all agreed that I should quit using the term ADD because “people don’t like to relate to that, they don’t want to associate with that, they don’t…. Just talk about the symptoms and let them self-reflect.”

Randy: I think that reflects the disorder word instead of the gift word. Like you said, this is a superpower, I readily and clearly say, this enabled This is True to happen, that incredible focus where I was writing sometimes 30 and 40 hours a week doing This is True, Stella Awards, HeroicStories. While also writing Honorary Unsubscribe and running Jumbo Joke. And all of this stuff— there’s only one way I could do all of that and keep it up week after week, year after year, was because I had that superpower where I could just intensely focus because ADD made me interested in that, I got a big dopamine rush doing all of this stuff.

Kit: Because you’re doing something you loved.

Randy: Exactly. I say I designed my job, that’s what I designed: I designed it so I would do something I’d love.

Kit: People ask me what are the symptoms.

Randy: What are they symptoms?

Kit: Many ways, they’re asking me what are the challenges of ADD. The three primary symptoms or challenges are: being restless or hyperactive…

Randy: Which I don’t have.

Kit: No, you don’t.

Randy: You don’t necessarily have to have that.

Kit: People can be restless without being hyperactive which is an interesting—

Randy: Because I am restless. If I’m ready to do something, I want to get going and do it.

Kit: Or if you’re bored you check out, and that’s restless. But being impulsive, that is another symptom or challenge, and being distractible. You hear people say, “Sparkly!” or “squirrel, butterfly.” That’s something in one of my masterminds we say.

Randy: It’s a joke, but it’s based in reality.

Kit: Yes, it is. The reason you’ve got one of your superpowers, there’s a wonderful list of strengths that ADDers can have. They’re really creative, imaginative, innovative people. You innovated and you are imaginative. Creative doesn’t mean an artist, sculptor, painter or musician. I think—

Randy: Inventors.

Kit: I think electrical engineers are very creative, figuring out new ways of using electricity, or all of the people who came up with quantum mechanics — that is creative. To take a really elusive concept and create something that then people have to go out and prove.

Randy: Like I was talking about a couple of episodes ago, the gravity assist of how to send Cassini out when the spacecraft was too heavy to get there on any rocket we had, so they used gravity assist, looping it around planets for several years…

Kit: The slingshot effect.

Randy: … before it got there. That’s creative!

Kit: Yes, it is. When my clients say to me, “Oh, I’m not creative.” I said, “Oh realy? Well what about this?” “Well that didn’t count.” By the time I’m finished with the list of creative things they’ve done, they’re going, “Well maybe I am creative.”

Randy: Sometimes do they say, “Well maybe I am ADD”?

Kit: Yeah, I had one client say… She sat down and said, “I don’t have ADD,” but within an hour she was going, “Well maybe I do.” Our coaching helped propel her to a more satisfying, energizing day of creativity. Because that’s part of how you stay creative and focused: you’ve got to take breaks. I keep telling you this: you need to take an hourly break, you need to get outside and move. The outside is important because the sunshine does things for your body and your brain that you can’t get just inside. And you need to hydrate, you need to move, you need to change the scenery so that you can be energized, so that you get through the day of creativity without slumping into your chair going, “Ugh, I’m exhausted.” I have a lot of friends and clients who do that, I’ve seen you do that sometimes.

Randy: Sometimes.

Kit: I don’t do that very often at all, and it’s because I take the frequent breaks. I know that is my secret weapon.

Randy: Driving home from California, that’s quite a haul, it’s been 1,100 miles. Early on in that trip, I did that all in 26 hours, it was about 1,150 miles from California to home. And fairly early in the trip I found I was just dragging. So I stopped for fuel for both the car and for me, and one of the things I did is I went for a walk. Yeah, I really want to be on the road, but I don’t want to fall asleep and crash either, so I went walking for about 20 minutes, a pretty brisk walk. I found that when I got back on the road, I was a lot less tired.

Kit: Yeah. I’ve discovered that numerous times. I remember summer a year ago that I had a 17-hour car trip. And it was my habit to stop every hour. I had to get my steps in so that my Vivofit wouldn’t squawk at me. So I got my over 10,000 steps in every day. But I also realized, and I kept telling you about this, that I arrived home after 17 hours of driving, and I was actually refreshed and ready to go. I didn’t need to collapse, I wasn’t exhausted. You’ve just confirmed what I learned last year, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Randy: And this is something you tell your clients anyway, whether they’re ADD or not. You’ve been a business consultant for longer than we’ve known each other.

Kit: 25 years.

Randy: At least 25 years.

Kit: And when I was coaching innkeepers I especially said to them, “You’re giving all the time, you have to take care of yourself. You have to refuel, otherwise you have nothing to give.”

Randy: Right. My point is that this isn’t really necessarily anything to do with ADD, so what helps people with ADD also helps pretty much anybody.

Kit: Mere humans. So many of the other — I think they’re fun strengths — is people with ADD tend to be a little more intuitive and empathetic.

Randy: That fits me.

Kit: I think that supports being an entrepreneur. They’re wonderful self-learners, so they say, “I need to learn to do that,” and they can sit down and do if they so choose.

Randy: When I first started, This is True I had— You couldn’t buy the tools like for sending emails to 100,000 people. There was a couple of packages that broke down after 10,000, and I grew past 10,000 in like six weeks, it was crazy. I actually had to learn some Unix stuff so I could batch up my email list of subsets of 10,000 people, and send them out 10,000 at a time. I had to learn command line stuff to do that, and it wasn’t a big deal, I just sat down and learned it. That’s the nice thing about working at a really techie place, JPL, that I had all sorts of geeks around. But you know what, I never actually consulted with the geeks because I had books there, so I just did it.

Kit: That touches on one of the challenges ADDers can have, and that is having so many interests and enjoying so many things, that they pick up a lot of projects and they may not finish them all, and they get distracted from their main thing. So keeping the main thing the main thing can be a big challenge for an ADDer.

Randy: And that’s why I gave up Stella Awards, Jumbo Joke and several other of my side projects. I spun HeroicStories off to a different publisher, et cetera, et cetera, just to make sure I kept the main thing the main thing, as you put it.

I want to explore a few myths about ADD. One is, you don’t outgrow it: if you had ADD as a kid, you still have it.

Kit: You’re right, you don’t outgrow it. If you were clever and lucky, you’ve come up with coping mechanisms.

Randy: If you have a good coach maybe.

Kit: Good coach, great parents, having good teachers can all help you create the structure. Or your own ADD cleverness will help you come up with coping mechanisms.

Randy: Which leads me to the second myth: you don’t just develop ADD, I mean some people don’t know that they’re— You realized at a late age you had ADD but you didn’t know it since your mother, who had even more challenges with that than you ever did, figured it out how to overcome it with structure.

Kit: Right. Now, from first grade on, comments from teachers were, “Kit has a very short attention span.” I did not know it until very recently. You don’t just develop ADD: you’ve got it now, you had it then. However, I will say that with our constant contact society, the high tech, that people are developing ADD-like symptoms which can confuse diagnoses. Only about 5% of the population actually has ADD, maybe up to 8%. But I think numbers are indicating we’ve got in the teens and 20% of the population with ADD — that I don’t buy.

Randy: That leads me right to my next which is I think ADD is both overdiagnosed and underdiagnosed. I think it’s kind of a fad, that it’s like, “Oh, this kid is high energy so we need to put him on drugs.” Kids are high energy, period.

Kit: Well, that’s another problem though, they’re taking recess and breaks away from kids. All humans need breaks! They need to run that energy off, so we’re creating monsters with our children, giving them ADD-like symptoms. You’re right, the kids are energetic.

Randy: But at the same time, they’re underdiagnosed that when they really do have a problem, it’s like, “Yeah, that’s not anything … I mean that’s just a fad, it’s not really a real syndrome that we need to actually take them to the doctor for it.” I think that’s even more sad.

Kit: I’m an example of an underdiagnosed case. Meds are definitely overprescribed these days, but there are natural ways of managing ADD: you don’t have to have meds. Some ADD symptoms are much more intense and do need medications, and then do you need the proper diet, the exercise, enough sleep, all of that to help manage it.

Randy: You can’t just use meds.

Kit: Can’t use just meds. And if you’ve gotten really old before you got the diagnosis, you’re going to need to learn some coping mechanisms, social skills.

Randy: New habits.

Kit: New habits, yeah.

Randy: You’re not taking meds even though you now realize you’re ADD. You’ve used, basically you’ve coached yourself.

Kit: I coached myself back into productivity, I’ve been working on a clean diet for quite a few years now anyway. Dropping the sugar is the last big thing I’ll do, though I did add L-tyrosine which is a….

Randy: An amino acid.

Kit: An amino acid to help boost my focus, because some days I would try so hard, it’s kind of like squinting. After a while your eyes and your brain get tired of squinting. My brain was tired of focusing and I was treading water not going anywhere. The tyrosine is helping. It’s not a med, but it’s a boost.

Randy: Squinting reminds me that we don’t think that people are weak because they need glasses. I mean if you can’t see to drive, you’re going to wear glasses!

Kit: Or to read.

Randy: So if you can’t think clearly, why not take meds? I do have a prescription for meds, but I don’t have to take them every day.

Kit: When don’t you take them?

Randy: I know when I need them and when I don’t, and if I don’t need the stimulation. Why people take stimulants if they’re hyperactive? It’s sounds counterintuitive, but what the meds do is they boost the dopamine that we talked about earlier, and the norepinephrine which is another one of those neurotransmitters that’s involved with this. I think if you’re noticing that you feel a zombie — that’s one thing I hear a lot of people say, “I don’t wanna take the meds because I feel like a zombie.” If that’s how you feel or your child feels, they’re not on the right medication.

Kit: Or they’re on too much.

Randy: Could be, but there are several different medications to try, it’s not a one-dosage-fits-all situation. You have to have a patient doctor that will try different meds; if the first one doesn’t work for you, there’s lots of different ones to try. I had to go through a couple of meds myself, the first one didn’t work for me.

Kit: There are side-effects to these meds so you have to pay attention to. It may be improving your ADD symptoms but causing other side effects that you don’t want.

Randy: That’s part of the problem with the first one I was on, it’s definitely not a one-drug-fits-all or one-dosage-fits-all. I don’t say what drug I’m on because it’s immaterial, because what works for me probably wouldn’t work for you. So I think the last thing is that even people that know me really well don’t have any idea that I’m taking meds. Because it’s not knocking me out, it’s not making me hyper, it’s just making me more focused.

Kit: So you’re aware because you can be productive easily.

Randy: More easily. As you say, you can’t do everything with meds, but I do notice that I am more focused and I can get more done.

Kit: Well I think that right there is part of the key of managing ADD. The high performers out there, Richard Branson for example, they have learned to manage things so that once they started managing with exercise and nutrition, we’re able to do things more easily, and it’s the easier aspect that we are after with managing ADD.

Randy: How can people get a hold of you if they’re interested in talking to you about their own needs for coaching or whatever?

Kit: They can go to my web site, LiveInFocusedEnergy.com.

Randy: And I link to that on the show page.

So we need to wrap up, but before we go the one group of ADDers we didn’t really talk about is entrepreneurs. We said it’s entrepreneurial, and it promotes entrepreneurism, so who are some of the big names in…?

Kit: Richard Branson.

Randy: That right, he’s Virgin Airlines.

Kit: Virgin Airlines along a lot of other Virgin things.

Randy: Virgin everything else!

Kit: He’s a Virgin. Tony Robbins.

Randy: Who’s a big coach.

Kit: Empowerment coach. Bill Gates.

Randy: That’s probably the ultimate entrepreneur.

Kit: He and Steve Jobs both. Steve of course they can’t confirm, but the experts are pretty sure Steve has — had — ADD. Stephen Hawking.

Randy: Not sure I’d list him as an entrepreneur, but he sure is an independent thinker.

Kit: Yeah. I know you said you didn’t really want me to talk about the really ancient ADDers, but some of them I think are pretty fun and cool.

Randy: All right, so who do you want to add?

Kit: I’m going to add Leonardo da Vinci.

Randy: How would we know that?

Kit: The experts, the researchers say that the amount of creativity he demonstrated, the diversity of creations he had, all of that leads to indicating ADD. Walt Disney, and both of them are really creative men.

Randy: That’s for sure. And Disney had a lot of different interests, not just cartoons but live action movies, the theme parks.

Kit: Amusement park.

Randy: Yeah, on and on.

Kit: Some of our big politicians: Winston Churchill, JFK. Alfred Hitchcock.

Randy: I guess you could call him an entrepreneur, he was kind of an independent film producer, director.

Kit: Those are some, I could go on and on, but I won’t out of respect for your request.

Randy: I’m Randy Cassingham.

Kit: And I’m Kit Cassingham.

Randy: And we’ll talk at you later.

So there you go: you can tell that my wife keeps me on my toes — and I definitely keep her on her toes too. The bottom line here: ADD isn’t a “disorder” if it actually helps your life and your profession. It has absolutely made it possible for me to do This is True: finding 10 or more articles each week that fit the points I want the publication to make, and to keep readers both entertained and thinking. And as often as possible, getting insight into how to strive toward Uncommon Sense. I couldn’t have done it for nearly 25 years now, and counting, without the amazing focus and creativity I get from ADD. So if you, or your kids, have it, embrace it. Get help if you need it, but it can open the world for you or them.

The Show Page has links and a place to comment, at thisistrue.com/podcast13

I’m Randy Cassingham … and I’ll talk at you later.

Comments Note

Since this is a redo, comments start with those made on the original post — the dates are correct.

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19 Comments on “013: How ADD Made TRUE Possible

  1. Ok – this is freaking me out. You guys are talking about me. I always thought that actual ADD was something that, for the most part, only boys had and they grew out of it. Back and forth between ultra focus and too many things going on at once. Always having to be learning something, creating something, making something, even if it’s a tool that I’ll only use once to make something else. Always finding myself going off on a tangent and getting immersed in that. Thinking it’s twenty minutes later and seeing that it’s really been two hours or the other direction, thinking it had to have been at least an hour and seeing it’s only been fifteen minutes.

    Wow! I’m going to have to think on this.

    The only thing you didn’t say is that you’re a medic or entrepreneur! -rc

    • Entrepreneur since grade school. Designed an “earring” that looked like it was pierced, although all it did was hook over the top of the ear and then curved around with a loop on the bottom and the end of the wire poked into the lobe. Of course I’d wind up an engineer and jeweler 🙂

  2. This has been the most interesting, informative podcast. I have ADHD and have read many articles on Medscape and any other information I could find. It is complicated by my having Major Depressive Disorder. I am going to visit your wife’s web site and could you please tell her the information she presented was excellent.

    I’m glad you found it interesting and informative. Yeah, the complication does make it harder! I don’t know for sure whether Kit can help you, but you just took the first step to find out! And I’m sure she’ll read these comments once she catches up a little. -rc

    • Jack, I’m glad our information pleased you. I can see that your MDD complicates the ADD issues. Feel free to contact me directly to talk about what you think you need. Maybe I can help. 🙂

  3. Excellent podcast! Very informative. Hopefully, society will start seeing ADD as a positive energy and more accepting. I love the rapport between Randy and Kit in this instance.

  4. I was diagnosed ADD as a second grader, learned to manage it by fifth, and now am almost 60. Using diff meds for anger issues, but everything was “me”. And I like the idea of being an “ADDer”, rather than broken!

  5. Count me among those who proudly have ADD! 😀

    I get so much accomplished – my friends can’t keep up! (Of course my desk is a disaster! Lol!)

    Heh! Yep, mine too. -rc

  6. I’ve come to the conclusion that for every negative there is a positive. For example: It was thought having dark skin is a negative. Yes a woman who has dark skin does not show age like caucasian skin. I can not tell how old a black woman is nor a Japanese woman yet I wear my age on my face as a 72 year old white woman. I get basal cell cancer (the most frequently occurring cancer) & have had it cut off 7 times but a dark skinned person does not. Now I’m wondering if for every positive there is a negative but not too hard.

    Don’t know if there’s a 1:1 correlation, but indeed (Americans especially) tend to overlook the positives and concentrate on the negatives …so they can dismiss others that aren’t Just Like Them. Sadly, they even do it to themselves. And wow, do they miss out on some fantastic things, people included. -rc

  7. Brevity is the soul of wit. And of podcasts. Please try to bring these back down to 20 minutes or less.

    Otherwise, thoroughly enjoying them.

    So noted, but I don’t pad episodes: they take the time needed to get their points across. -rc

  8. Totally eye-opening AND encouraging. I love that you call ADD your superpower! From this discussion, I can tell that both my entrepreneurial husband and I are ADDers and have two high-performing, inventive ADDer children/now adults in their 30s with children of their own. Because I tend to be labeled OCD by those who know and love me, I have always had systems and structure in place in my life. I can’t wait to share this podcast with my kiddos. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Clearly, you all have taken a very positive approach and developed what what you need to succeed. Congrats to you all! -rc

  9. First I just want to say thank you. Excellent treatment of what is being considered a “disorder”.

    At one point, you touch on the “problem” of kids being “hyperactive” in school (and elsewhere). Reminded me of first hearing years ago about schools giving kids drugs to counter their “hyperactivity”, and I was appalled. Look at the offspring of any mammal (and probably some non-mammals) and what do you see? As soon as they wake it’s go go go until they drop in their tracks and nap; exploring, chasing, wrestling, or just running around for no reason. That’s what kids do, for crying out loud! But the powers that be said they have a “disorder” so they have to take drugs and be crammed into a box that doesn’t fit.

    Then, not that long ago, I started hearing about ADD/ADHD. Once again, doctors are consulted and, without any real understanding, they rule it a “disorder” because they don’t fit into the prescribed box that “normal” people occupy. The more I read, the more I said, “Yep. That’s me.” Being an introvert, I never talked with anyone about this except my cousin, who was “ADD”, and my girlfriend who isn’t, but understands the mindset.

    As far as I’m concerned, both sets of letters are a lie. I decided long ago that I don’t have a “disorder”, and I don’t have an attention “deficit”. And I like the inside of my head.

    I’m immensely pleased that you’ve had an expanded discussion within this platform and hope that others of your readers/listeners will talk it around and hopefully increase understanding.

    As an aside, and touching on the “fitting in a box” idea, I mentioned once to a person that I liked to be alone. This person actually said I was sick. So I asked, as I have at occasionally since then, if that person, when alone, felt that he was not in good company. You’d be amazed at how often the answer is “yes”. It saddens me that so many “normals” are uncomfortable with their own thoughts.

    Thanks again. Well done!

  10. I’ve been a long time subscriber of the free edition of This is True, and now listen to your podcast too. On Friday, I was catching up on your podcast and listened to Episode 13 while I was doing some boring housework. I was listening in a half-interested kinda way, thinking about all the stuff I had to organise for a weekend with three young, active boys. I started to realise that some of the symptoms you were listing with your ADD related to my youngest son. Wait, there’s another one… and another. All of a sudden you had my full attention. I finished the podcast and then went off googling. Oh. My. God. It was like I’d been struck by lightning. All that vague, airheadedness that other people find adorable in my six year old, but that his teacher, my husband and I find incredibly frustrating, now made sense!

    We’ve received a referral to a paediatrician and I’m fairly confident that we’ll receive an ADD (or ADHD without the ‘H’) diagnosis. I’m keen to try some non-chemical treatments and workarounds as he’s still doing amazingly well in school, but we want to get on top of things before he starts to slip back and behind due to his distractability. I know that a lot of kids probably show these inattentive behaviours, but his are next level and I am so grateful that I listened to your podcast when I did. Because of the lack of the Hyper in his behaviour, I would never have thought that he could have ADD. I also love that you call it your super power. 🙂 He often gets so involved in a project (colouring/drawing/math problems etc.) that the rest of the world just doesn’t exist. I’ll be using this language with him if/when we receive the diagnosis.

    Thanks again for helping me have this epiphany!

    That’s wonderful that the podcast helped you have the realization — not just that your son is ADD, but that it’s not a “disability” and can certainly be a good thing, like his hyperfocus when doing something that interests him. Rather than a malady, I believe it’s simply a different neurological type, and coming up with “workarounds” — strategies — is a great way to start reaping the benefits he has: medication should be a last resort, not the first. As for school, I’m guessing he has a good teacher who is keeping him interested; that could change as he gets new teachers later, so you’re getting a head start on ensuring his success. Kudos! -rc

  11. I’m delighted with the success of the TV series, “The Good Doctor,” starring Freddie Highmore as a brilliant young doctor on the autism spectrum working in a progressive hospital. That series may well be a wakeup call for anyone who sees autism only as a disability. Success comes in many forms, and I congratulate you and Kit on so positively clearing the air on the subject. Thanks!

    I’ve only recently become aware of that series and its premise (I watch very little TV), but haven’t seen it yet. It is likely to be a wake-up call for many. -rc

    • Thanks, John, for your comment. I just saw a preview for The Good Doctor. I think it’s time to take a look. Being different — left-handed, high IQ, autistic, or ADDer — doesn’t make one wrong/bad/disabled. It makes you different. Thank goodness! Who would want a world filled with one kind of person?! I like variety and options.

      • Kit, I predict you will appreciate “The Good Doctor” very much. And, if you have any comments on how the problem is handled, I’d be very interested!

  12. Thanks for the podcast subject. I have ADD/ADHD and have known about it for only about 30yrs. ADD/ADHD was first directly applied to the DSM-III in 1980, so anybody that claims to having been diagnosed as ADD/ADHD before that is mistaken. One of the most important things for anyone that believes that they may be ADD/ADHD is to get a real diagnoses by a professional in ADD/ADHD. This will usually be a team of professionals headed by a psychiatrist. You should never trust a doctor that isn’t trained in ADD/ADHD. One of the biggest problems in society in regards to this is both the over & under diagnoses of the disorder; many doctors will just make a diagnosis based on what the parents tell them and then prescribe drugs just to satisfy the parents — that’s a bad diagnoses. Others will ignore everything because they don’t believe in ADD/ADHD and think it’s all made up, doing nothing only exacerbates the problem.

    Then there’s the problem of so-called professionals with a degree they hang on their wall and provide all kinds of negative connotations to the disorder that makes people want to hide from it. They would say that a lot of people with ADD/ADHD are less intelligent and anti-social, both of which are just the opposite.

    About 30 years ago, two of my children were in Special Ed for behavior disorders. I always thought there was something wrong with that. Then one day a school counselor gave me a pamphlet that he wasn’t supposed to share with me. The schools aren’t allowed to give a diagnoses for anything, for obvious reasons and some won’t even share what they think for fear or stigmatizing a child. Anyway, after reading the pamphlet he gave me I just sat there and almost cried, because I was reading about myself. Everything I had gone through as a child and as an adult was now clear to me. You are right Randy it is a superpower, and knowing what it really is and how to deal with it only makes it better. Personally, I have been self medicating with caffeine mostly, being in my 60’s now, I still haven’t slowed down much, but my disabilities from other things keeps me from going too far (I’m on VA disability for multiple things). However, my creativity seems to be never ending, now only if I can hit the lottery big I’d be in heaven building lots of my ideas.

    Oh yeah, the two children both had either ADD or ADHD, now in their late 30’s and early 40’s have their own children to contend with.

  13. It’s obvious to me the dirty little secret in the tech world is nerds are on the ADD spectrum. Attention to detail, ability to focus on large and small things for hours, generally “undeveloped” social skills, easily distracted (when not focusing on the current obsession), etc. If I am enthused about something, I can spend many hours oblivious to the world, then come out of it thinking it was only an hour or two. Pretty typical for my nerd peer group.

    I see this in my son. He is about to graduate from University, and he has already done amazing things, including (proud papa) two DEFCON talks, getting published by CERT for a major security hole, and a successful Google Summer of Code. He is going to change the world — as any nerd will do in his/her career. We recognized early on he was “gifted” and worked to help him explore and channel his skills. We were forced to home-school out of sheer desperation, because the school system could not handle him. Fortunately, we also had friends who were professional advocates for kids like him, and they were able to force the school system, under No Child Left Behind, to provide him with a proper high-school education, while “accommodating” his “gifts”.

    If you are a parent, and your child seems to be ADD, you can *force* the school to do proper testing. They will fight tooth-and-nail because of the cost (and pigheadedness) but the law is on your side. Find an advocate group (we had Parents Reaching Out) who will fight tooth-and-nail FOR your child. (Personally, I think this testing should be *mandatory for all kids* in the school system, but that is a separate rant.) And stop the practice of drugging the kids into a stupor.

    The second is: I happen to have one hand. Randy has been kind enough to allow me to tell my story. However, my point is that having one hand for me is a hobby, not a “disability”. I am not “disabled”. This is a matter of *attitude*. If you think having “ADD” is a “disorder”, it will be. If you consider it a “superpower” and create a structure that works for you, you can do amazing things, channeling the positive aspects to enrich your life. In my case, I am forced to be creative in my daily life, creating techniques and tools (the hobby part) to do things that assume two hands. These are really extensions of my nerdness.

    Kit and Randy: Thanks for the podcast! Y’all obviously were meant for one another. Great insights — Thanks!

    And I am not surprised medical folks are on the spectrum. The medical field is just as technical as the computer field. Just a different expression of nerd-dom — the required skill set is the same.

    Keep banging the rocks together….

  14. Two years before I was diagnosed with Aspergers I was diagnosed with ADD. The psychiatrist who diagnosed the ADD disliked calling it a disorder and called it Attention Difference. Unfortunately, the previous 20 years of Major Depression and misdiagnoses of my autism has left me bereft of my coping mechanisms and seemingly my ability to use what ‘superpowers’ I once controlled.

    I hope you can get it all sorted out and get them back. -rc


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