In Part I of this skill set conversation, Wait, What? ADHD as a Skill Set?, we discussed the traditional definition of a skill set, the hard skills and soft skills that make up a skill set, and important considerations. In this post we’ll look at ADHD symptoms, a theory for the origin of ADHD, and at specific ADHD skills.
It’s Not All Bad,
ADHD Gives Us Superpowers
<Skill Set, Part II>
Symptoms of ADHD
– —— — ——- ————Hyperactive/
Difficulty Focusing Impulsivity
Procrastination Excessive Talking
Being Disorganized Interrupting
Misplacing Things Fidgeting
Poor Listener Difficulty Waiting
Careless Mistakes Difficulty Relaxing
Tardiness Trouble Sleeping
Poor Follow-through Flash Anger
Difficulty Following Rules
When the world looks at our ADHD traits the focus is usually on the negative expressions, or symptoms, listed above. The vast majority of the psychological and social world holds onto a narrative of ADHD that rarely considers positive expressions of ADHD traits. But our ADHD traits can also gift us with exceptional qualities, ADHD skills that can supercharge our skill sets.
A Hunter In A Farmer’s World
While scientists and researchers still have not pinpointed the cause of ADHD, there is a theory as to the origin of these ADHD skills. Thom Hartmann, author of ADHD, A Hunter in a Farmer’s World, theorizes that ADDers actually a have genetic inheritance from the hunters who were the most esteemed members of hunter-gather societies through the millennia.
Hunters were responsible for obtaining meat, the primary food source, and for protecting their tribes. They developed exceptional skills of observation and action for tracking, pursuing, and slaying game; as well as split-second decision-making, massive energy, and hyperfocus for the chase.
The extraordinary skills that hunters developed were invaluable to their tribes. However, as hunter-gatherer societies gave way to farming and then manufacturing societies, hunter skills were no longer needed and farmer skills like patience, consistency, and resistance to boredom were now valued.
Since there was no longer a clear need for them, hunter skills were just a problem in a farmers world. Hunter skills became known as negative symptoms that were eventually grouped together and named Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
But those hunter skills are not lost to antiquity. They return when ADDers come to understand them and learn to employ them in ways that are desperately needed in today’s society. As the positive expressions of our ADHD symptoms, hunter skills now can become the exceptional qualities known as ADHD skills that we can leverage as our ADHD Skill Set. Hunters can now thrive in a farmer’s world.
ADHD Skills are primarily of the soft skills type described in Part I of this skill set discussion. They include qualities that when recognized, embraced, developed and leveraged make powerful additions to an ADHD skill set and represent the benefits, or superpowers, of ADHD.
Many of the ADHD skills are actually the positive consequences of negative symptoms or traits of ADHD like inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty following rules.
While these ADHD skills are inherent, ADDers can learn techniques for applying them in situations where they may not naturally appear.
- Massive Interest and Unrelenting Curiosity – These are greatly motivated our impulsivity and our poorly termed, “inattention.” When interest is lacking or a task is boring, enthusiasm is nil and we cannot lift the needle on our attention meter. But when a task or topic is interesting to us and our curiosity is piqued, our brains go into hyper-drive and we peg the needle. When a problem or concept interests us and our curiosity kicks in, we often find novel ways to get at the solution. Additionally, ADDers can learn to find the interest in a boring task to pique our curiosity. We can even learn to manufacture interest
- Extreme Vigilance – This is actually our distractibility turned on its head. Like hunters, we constantly monitor the landscape of our physical and virtual surroundings, our discipline, or our industry. We’re instantly aware of any features that seem out of place, are different, are problems, or that simply intrigue us. Our vigilant qualities increase accuracy and follow through, help us to recognize new opportunities, and discover things that need to be addressed or repaired.
- Flexibility – We are capable of changing strategy at a moment’s notice. We’re eternally vigilant, we don’t see ourselves as bound by the rules, and our interest and curiosity are never satisfied. Therefore our thinking is supple and unrestrained, often leading us to concepts others have not considered.
- Exceptional Energy – A positive consequence of our hyperactivity, flexibility, and powerful interest, we can throw incredible bursts of energy at a problem or a project at a moment’s notice.
- Hyperfocus – This is motivated by our energy, interest, curiosity, and our attention. When our interest and curiosity are piqued we can marshal our attention and totally throw ourselves into a project with great intensity and for as long as necessary. For us, time is elastic.
- Visual Thinking – Motivated by our interest, vigilance, flexibility, and curiosity, we often think visually and can often see the components of a concept or a problem as pictures on many planes, intersecting and interacting with one-another.
- Innovative, Outside The Box Thinking – Motivated by our enormous interest, curiosity, flexibility, and willingness to stretch the bounds of rules, we manipulate the pictures and concepts, seeing things from a different perspective, often finding unique solutions or developing concepts or theories.
ADDers are so often the ones who develop new methods, theories, processes, products, and services, or create wondrous works of art and entertainment through music and acting. Some of our famous brethren with ADHD have been Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, Bill Gates, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, Jim Carry, Ellen DeGeneres, John Travolta, Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Justin Timberlake.
But there is a caveat for ADDers. Our ADHD Skill Set is incomplete if we do not address the negative expressions of our ADHD symptoms along with the positives.
In Part III of this Skill Set series, we’ll discuss how ADDers can move beyond the limitations of our negative symptoms so our ADHD skills can shine, rather than just making up for the negatives.
Hartmann, Thom; ADHD, A Hunter In A Farmer’s World, Healing Arts Press, 2019.