ADHD Superpowers?

superhero 150x150 ADHD Superpowers?As an ADHD expert, and a proponent of a strength based model of ADHD, I do look for the strengths and the positive side of ADD/ADHD (as I wrote in my book: Attention Difference Disorder). I don’t know if I would say that people with ADD/ADHD have super powers.

That said, there was a great article online that just came out, which talks about how some entrepreneurs consider their ADHD to be a superpower. It was in Smart Money, was called: “Why Some Entrepreneurs Call ADHD a “Superpower”" and it talks about some successful business people with ADHD.

How can these entrepreneurs consider their ADHD a superpower?

This article shares the positive, as well as some of the possible negatives associated with the condition, as seen in this quote:

On the plus side, people with ADHD often have an immense amount of energy, and they think outside the box — because their ideas could never fit inside one box. On the minus side, they have an inability to focus on what bores them, can make sloppy errors when rushing (which is almost always) and have a stronger-than-average tendency to put a foot in their mouth.

Some of the entrepreneurs mentioned include high profile business people with ADHD, including:

  • Paul Orfalea: founder of Kinkos
  • David Neeleman: Founder of JetBlue airlines
  • Peter Shankman: angel investor and technology expert and principal of The Geek Factory

This article also discusses some smaller business owners – like Steve Ferree – who bought a franchise of Roto rooter, and found that his ADHD impacted some of his ability to manage his business.

It is important to do one task at a time – and not to multitask – especially if you have ADHD. My favorite example of this from the article is from Peter Shankman:

Shankman takes that concept to an extreme. Asked to write a book in two weeks, he reserved a business class flight to Tokyo. When he got there, he drank a few espressos in the lounge, turned around and came back. He finished the book in 30 hours. The trip cost $4,000 and was “worth every penny,” he says.

All in all, this article highlights how the ADHD brain can help people in business, and at the same time, it provides some balance… i.e. that ADHD can cause problems if the right strategies or treatments aren’t in place. I like this approach, because this is similar to the stance that I take in my book – that ADHD can have its strengths, but you do have to get the negative symptoms out of the way.

Please share your thoughts and comments below.


Dr. Kenny


  1. COOL !!!! I am now SUPERMAN !! yea, us “difference disorder” people DO KNOW we are cut from a different mold, but THIS is interesting. Ironically enough, I LOVE to “wheel-n-deal”, trade, buy items to sell at profit etc. I get a RUSH out of it ! ( But, kinda like Pretty Boy Floyd did on the movie ” O’ Brother Where Art Thou”, the “rush” is gone once I do this. Gotta find another “thrill” of some kind.) Thanks Dr. H.

  2. I’ve always known, and commented to others, that the term ‘deficit’ would eventually be morphed out of ADHD. Really, how can it be a deficit when there is a constant ‘surplus’ of things being attended to inside your head. And while it’s classified as a ‘learning disability” I’ve never experienced being a disabled learner .. what disabled me was all those other people in the class trying to learn with me (eventually I’d find ways to ‘teach’ them). I can only suppose it’s not in all persons that it manifests as a learning problem, but we do know it is a multi-faceted condition (which perhaps excludes us from multitasking well !!). But man, can I ever run down the garden path to great lengths when focused on one task.

  3. OMG, we sound exactly alike!!!! My ADHD has NEVER been a learning problem for me…in fact, it’s always made me an over-achiever and an honor roll student. I’m now 32 years old, married with 2 kids (one who is a girl with ADHD), am a LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and am returning to school this Fall for my RN, plus I have 2 art degrees! On top of that, I do freelance photography, and I am a Girl Scout Troop Leader of a troop I started!

  4. I totally relate to Shankman´s plane journey, as I have finnished work pending for years on a plane ride. A month ago I did some homework I had pending for the courseam doing on “The Work” of Byron Katie and sor a whole week just could´nt get down to it, untill I got on the plane back home, and happily and easily swished through it :) I just love this example, 4.000 dolars, a return trip to Tokyo and well worth it! Thanks for sharing these experiences :-)

  5. Dr. K,
    I’ve read many of your helpful blog-entries but have had little luck finding commentary on the following: 15 yo son whose clearly ADHD but willnot take his Rx. Tried vyvanse, concerta, focalin xr, Ritalin xr, etc. He is a melancholic child and says all the stimulants (+ strattera) leave him in an emotional depression as they wear off. He believes that his emotional struggles are exacerbated by whichever meds we’ve tried. My wife and I are concerned as he is starting highschool this year and the workload will be significantly increased. I’ve actually lost sleep lately over these concerns. What is the connection between depression and stimulant therapy? Thanks for your great blog. E Jensen, TX.

    • I see most people think of ADD/ADHD as a malfunctioning brain or problem that needs fixed in somebody. I am ADD in a BIG way. I can tell you first hand that it is not some issue needing fixed so we can blend in with society. We have a gift that sparks creativity on levels higher than most. I would sacrifice multitasking for creativity any day. When we DO find something interesting, we dominate it on every level. People, don’t ‘drug’ your kids. God made them as they are for a reason. Help them grow.

      • Stimulant medication is the worst thing you can do. Please i have stuggeled with it leading to an ice addiction and I lost the person I loved the most.

        I think it is great that people are seeing the one track mind aspect as a benifit. Unfortunitly for me I chose to be a transport logistics supervisor requiring multitasking at a high level.

        I am now unsure what job I want or should be doing but hope that there is something for me. I think I do enjoy a fast paced environmrnt as I don’t get bored. But I need to find an envirinment I can focus on one thing as a fast pace and keep busy without being overwhelmed.

  6. I, like Dr. Barkley, think it is bad to say that ADHD is not a disorder.
    However I disagree with him that there is “nothing positive” about ADHD. The danger I see with that attitude is it could be used to force or coerce people to take ADHD medication. The patient should be free to decide if they find some positive aspects to the disorder.

  7. i have always believed and still do that ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome are different types of human species or at least with different genes from different species. The problems are not primarily with ADHD etc but with the way we look at these conditions in the first place. why are any of their characteristics determined as negative? because they don’t fit in with the status quo of today and that is the primary reason. Obviously if those conditions are dangerous etc, which they can be then clearly we need to address those asap using positive stategies. But in the main, it is the type of person they are and just like me they have strentghs and weaknesses, ways they approach things, different outlooks etc but I am not ADHD why does that make me more ‘normal’ than my son who does have this? I am white, living in a predominantly white society, and blacks can still be treated negatively even here, and I guess it maybe similar in a black nation with few whites. I guess I am saying that there are more non ADHD’ers thand ADHD’ers and because we dont really understand the condition it is treated negatively. I also believe that medication interventions come first before trying anything else so how then can this condition be understood? My son was on medication for 12 years, (age 5 to 17) and I weaned him onto the Feingold diet and now he is med free. Coping with the hyperactivity first and the dangerous behaviours through diet, then showed me exactly who my son was underneath. He is still ADHD but does not need high meds. to survive and this way I can look at how else i can meet his charactistical needs. and positive approaches are the ONLY way to help ADHD people.

  8. I believe there are some super strength in people with ADHD. My age 13 grandson is like that. He is super in academics. 8th grade taking high school credit algebra 1. He makes straight A’s but the bad side of it, is he gets his mind in a box he likes and he gets slack in doing his work. Yet he can verbally tell answers to you correctly. Social is a bum for him. He wants to be leader, winner, bossy with others in games. Yet he has those very strong strengths in his school work. So good at what he does, even in building things. Yet, has a one track mind. And it is hard to get him to respond when his one track mind is on something.

  9. Eric, I see that Dr. Kenny hasn’t answered so I just wanted to mention a few things. I’m a certified ADHD coach and all 4 people in my family have ADHD, so I can at least give you some facts. Dr. Kenny, I hope you’ll forgive me writing this, but with school time coming up I am thinking he wants to do something quickly.
    2/3 of people with ADHD have a co-existing condition as well, and depression is a common one with ADHD. The next step would be to have your son seen by a psychiatrist or your ADHD doctor (if he’s qualified to diagnose depression) to see whether he might also have depression.
    As an aside, I was on depression meds for years and then had to add ADHD meds when those symptoms interfered with my life too much. I actually tried to go off the depression meds because I thought the Ritalin was handling it all, but I found I needed meds for both depression and ADHD.
    Good luck, and I would suggest you read Dr. Kenny’s new book because it covers absolutely everything you’ll need to know about ADHD.

  10. I am thankful that increasingly the focus to treating individuals with ADHD is not limited to the “deficit” of attention. Too many times I was accused of not paying attention – when I had been – I just hadn’t paid attention to what others thought I was supposed to.

    I now have the increased challenge of raising ADHD children and the message I constantly get is “you need to be consistent” but nobody tells me how I’m supposed to do that when being consistent is my greatest weakness. I’m doing better now that I’ve started listing my parenting strengths – such as empathy, cuddling, positive reinforcement, fun, interactive attention, explaining things, accepting interruptions to embrace a learning moment, etc. Mentioning these to teachers, doctors and other support team members has dramatically improved how they interact with me!

  11. Hi Dr. Kenny,

    I really found this to be an interesting and very helpful article. It provides a nice balance of bring able to view some aspects of ADD in a positive light, while still encouraging people to stay in touch with the complete reality. The reality that there are cons to ADD, but those can be managed.

    I just found your blog and really like it! I will read more often and comment as I see fit.



  12. I have Adult ADHD, and I have have something unusual to admit…becuase of the hyperfocus that comes with adhd, it pairs well with being able to think of a hundred things in a couple seconds…anyways…I have stumbled across weather augmentation.

    it started strong like hurricanes and gail force wind storms when I was grounded…figured it was just a coincidence…

    now I’m 29 and am able to cut storms in half (sheet lightening often jumps between the 2); direct heavy storms; stall small storms to mature them; raise and direct wind…about the only 2 things I can’t do is direct lightening and create tornados.

    anything like this happening to anyone else…I did some research and found our brains have the same frequencies as the layers of the earth and it’s atmosphere…could be related…ADHD could be increasing the voltage within our brains while causing constructive interferance to our surroundings…

    Any positive thoughts?

    please hold off on the negetive ones, I know what this sounds like…fact is…this is my life everyday…and so far I have been able to keep the temperature in Canada well above “normal” temperatures by stimulating the very farthest layer within our atmosphere…nothing “normal” about -40 degrees…I figured this would be better…I can’t skate and don’t ski so I don’t really care much for the snow…sorry to everyone who does…

    anyways…wouldn’t mind talking to someone who is going through something similar…

  13. Ive been suffering from depression for years and only have been treating it for about 5 years now. Ive been on some many meds for it & nothing seems to help it its fusterating cause u have to wait to c if the meds work for u & if not my doc either increased my dose or switched me. If i felt something was working it never lasted long. But i was wondering if its depression or ADHD? ive been reading online about ADHD & when I look back at my childhood it fits into all the catagories as having ADHD. My mom just thought I was a bad/lazing child & I would of thought the same. My mom never took me to the doc 4 it cause what would they do for a bad/lazy child. But now that I read about ADHD n ask my doc now about it she just keeps treating me for depression & not even trying to look into me having ADHD. She never asked me anything about my past

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