Harnessing the power of ADHD

Harnessing the power of ADHD

In the early 1980s, in 2nd grade, I was diagnosed with a learning disability called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Now its called Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). School work was a problem for me. I loved learning but struggled academically, except in art and music. Throughout my years in school, the refrain from my instructors, tutors, coaches and professors was always the same, “Lance would make a great student (or athlete), if he just applied himself.” The not-so-nice adults labeled me lazy, uncaring, or indifferent.

Weird Little Kids
In elementary school, I remember having to leave lunch with my friends to go to the nurse’s office to take my medication. I’d wait in line with a handful of other ‘weird’ little kids for a little yellow pill. By the time I would get back to the classroom, lunch was over. To make things worse, while my class was at recess, I was sent a tutor. From inside her tiny shoebox office with no windows, I could hear my classmates on the playground just outside the door. (This is just wrong in so many ways). After school, I was usually shuttled to more tutors.

I remember someone mentioning I may have a mild case of dyslexia as well. Knowing my struggles with reading and writing, I have a sneaking suspicion that I still struggle with it. I am a very slow reader and I write even slower.

Ms. Wizard’s plan to fix me
Here’s one that will bake your noodle. I have always been left-handed. My 2nd grade teacher (I’ll call her Ms. Wizard) had a plan to ‘fix’ me. So, Ms. Wizard forced me to write with my right hand. She would say things like, “Lance is really struggling to keep up with writing assignments.” I’m sorry Ms. Wizard, you are an idiot. What did you expect? You are making me write with the wrong hand!  Luckily, I survived 2nd grade with my left hand intact. (I have forgiven her ignorance-based ‘help’). Thank you for letting me vent… I feel better.

The Power of ADHD

What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. The power of ADHD can be harnessed. Over the years, I knew I loved to learn but rarely accomplished tasks on time or reached my goals. My biggest struggle has not been starting a task. I love starting new things, I have ADHD, duh. I struggle with completing tasks, particularly projects that require long periods of focused attention and detail.

This is what I’ve learned and if you have ADHD you must know. We have a special ability or super-power (for helping children understand). The intense focus within our limited attention span is extremely powerful. The key is learning to harness these bursts of super-human focus.

BTW, If you have ADHD and are still reading this, congrats because I’ve already taken two breaks.

How can you harness the power of ADHD?

  • Recognize and admit that you are different (that is a good thing)
  • Understand that outliers like you and me learn differently
  • You have a gift. I have come to absolutely believe that ADD/ADHD and Dyslexia are gifts NOT disabilities
  • Your approach to problem solving will be unique and effective
  • Don’t listen to fools (experts) tell you that you need ‘fixing’
  • Set bite-sized goals (measurable, time limit, specific, personalized and in writing)
  • Keep a to-do list with the most important task on top (knock it out first)
  • Buy a stop-watch with a timer

15 minute intervals can save you 15 hours per week

I work in 15 minute recurring intervals. When I begin a task, I set my watch timer for 15 minutes and get going. My watch beeps at the end of 15 minutes. If I’m not working on the same task I began 15 minutes ago, I get back on track. This keeps me from drifting into something else like debating people on Facebook, chasing squirrels, etc.

After two intervals (30 minutes), I try to get up and do something completely unrelated to the task. I may stretch, read, get some water, go outside to get some air or play with my children. My little break may take 5 to 10 minutes. But, never more than 15 minutes because my timer goes off telling my that it’s time to get back to the task.

I’ve learned that my attention span is about 15 minutes but my focus is extremely intense during that time. I just need some walls to bounce off of to keep things moving forward.

Experiment and have fun
All I can say is that this works for me. It may not work for you. But, its worth trying, right? Anything is better than that sinking feeling that you wasted time, failed at accomplishing something important or let someone down. Either way, trying this for a few days will teach you something about yourself and the value of time.

One size doesn’t fill all
If your child had been diagnosed with a ‘learning disability’ it simply means they do not learn the same as others in our massive institutionalized, one-size-fits-all education system. Outliers are the world-changers.  Average people striving to be average in a below-average system never change anything.  The greatest artists, scientists and entrepreneurs in history probably had ADD/ADHD or something else.  When you learn differently, you see the world differently!  Your solutions to problems will be different.  Please see it as a gift.  Harness it and encourage others to do the same.

God blessed me with ADHD. He allowed me to wrestle with it until I accepted it and learned to harness it.

Wait, there goes a squirrel…….!

Decision Paralysis: What’s the worst that could happen?

Decision Paralysis: What’s the worst that could happen?

Decision Paralysis
Why we can’t make up our minds?

Have you ever found yourself ‘channel-surfing’ for something to watch on TV? You’ve had a long day and you sit down to watch a program but don’t know what you want to watch. So, you begin the search through the hundreds of options. You are bombarded with an array of choices. What should have been a two minute decision has morphed into a full-on half-hour mind-bender. Finally, you give up and go to bed frustrated.

The ‘channel-surfing’ example is a very low-level decision. However, it provides insight into how our minds analyze information in order to make a decision. When we’re presented with more than three choices or options, we sometimes experience decision paralysis (analysis paralysis).  It’s death by over-thinking.  Remember this next time you go to the store for headache medicine or a packet of chewing gum.  Our modern culture is overrun with options to our own detriment. (more…)

New Years Non-Resolution

New Years Non-Resolution

Is this what each new year boils down to?

A string of big dreams, followed by exhaustive exuberance, promising promises and exciting launches that all fizzle into discontent, failure or frustration?

Stop making New Years Resolutions!  I stopped making ‘New Years Resolutions’ several years ago.  I’ve found resolutions are a great way to become completely frustrated and discontent by mid-February.

Do you remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Who wins?

Big goals are not achieved overnight. We reach our destination by placing one foot in front of the other, one day at a time in the right direction. It is the determined march every day through the pain and resistance. It is a marathon, not a 5k.

Don’t get distracted

The key is not to get distracted by the mob of over-excited yay-hoos running around in circles. Let them buy gym memberships, vitamins, crash diets, and self-help books as they begin on their frantic run down the road to Fail-ville.

Think Strategically: A successful strategist wins the war in his mind before setting foot on the battlefield.

This means he plans his steps, counts the cost and defines victory.

Don’t Give in to hysteria: Instant gratification plays a huge role in the New Years Resolution mania. We want to get started and get done as quickly as possible. We get a lot of pleasure from beginning new things. Don’t give in to starting something for the sake of starting. A lot of people start a marathon with great intentions. But, they never finish.

Set your Mind: Start thinking and praying about a big goal for yourself and what it will be like when you achieve it. One of the biggest problems with New Years Resolutions is the we unconsciously allow the mob to influence what our real goal should be. We may end up pursuing a goal we don’t own because we got caught up in the hype. Let the hype pass. Remember, you are being intentional and strategic.

Life Has a Time Limit: Whatever your goal, make sure it is significant.  Please don’t set a goal like getting the best score on a video game or watching every episode of Downton Abby.  You only have so much time in this life.  You are a heart-beat away from eternity.  Make it count!  If you can set a goal that impacts others, go for it.  Maybe you want to volunteer once a month for a year.  Perhaps you want to run a marathon and thought it would be impossible?

Set a Date: Pick a time in mid-February, go to a quiet place with a pen, paper and calendar. Forget resolutions, its time to settle on the GOAL or building a habit.  FYI – I set my goals for the year in the beginning days of March.

  • What is the one thing you would do if you couldn’t fail?
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Goals Must: be specific, be measurable, be in writing, have a deadline, and you must OWN them (relevant to your life).

While everyone around you is exhausted and on the verge of giving up, you will be focused and strategically pursuing your goal one step at a time every day.

Enjoy the journey!

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Prov 16:9)

Edited and Updated: 12-31-2015

Lost in Transition

*Above photo from DC Rainmaker’s blog. Excellent piece covering his Galveston 70.3 Ironman experience.

Have you ever walked out of a large shopping center in the middle of the summer and forgotten where you parked? It’s blazing hot and feels like its 150 degrees. You’ve already had a long day. Forgetting where you parked your car among a sea of vehicles is just the cherry on top, right? This happens to me more time than I’d like to admit.

Several years ago, I raced in my first triathlon. A triathlon consists of a swim, bike and run (in that order). The area where athletes transition from one sport to the next is called, you guessed it the ‘Transition Area’. The transition area contains racks with hundreds, sometimes thousands of bikes and it is swarming with overworked athletes trying to move from one sport to the next as quickly as possible. Each athlete gets less than two square feet of space for all his/her race gear. Each space is marked by the athlete’s race number. It can get a little tense in transition. (more…)

20 Mile March Everyday

20 Mile March Everyday

In October 1911, two teams of adventurers made their final preparations in their quest to be the first people in modern history to reach the South Pole. For one team, it would be a race to victory and a safe return home. For the second team, it would be a devastating defeat, reaching the Pole only to find the wind-whipped flags of their rivals planted 34 days earlier, followed by a race for their lives — a race that they lost in the end, as the advancing winter swallowed them up.” (Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen – Great by Choice)
20 Mile March - Lance Cashion
The teams that raced to the South Pole were essentially identical dealing with identical environmental challenges. However, one succeeded and the other failed. The winner showed ‘self-control in an out-of-control world’. Dispelling the illusion of control and practicing self-discipline are keys to getting to where you want to go.

Jim Collins describes the steady disciplined commitment toward the goal as the ‘20 Mile March‘. No matter the weather conditions, you get up and march 20 miles. No more and no less. Regardless of talent, favorable or unfavorable conditions, or luck, the 20 Mile March yields success.

A Monster Under my Bed or In my Head?

Recently, I had a discussion with my wife about WORRY. Worry is a uniquely human experience. Sometimes worry can paralyze us. I remember when I was a small child, I though there was a monster under my bed. As I got older, I realized that it was all in my head. I was worried over nothing. Let’s discuss it!
Worry is NOT:

  • It is not caution like looking both ways before crossing the street.
  • It is not legitimate fear like fleeing a burning building.
  • It is not healthy anxiety that you may feel before a surgery or a presentation at work.

What is Worry, really?
Verb: to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret.
Noun: a worried condition or feeling; uneasiness or anxiety. (more…)