Airline serial entrepreneur David Neeleman has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD.) School was torture. He couldn’t focus, and he procrastinated constantly.
“I felt like I should be out doing things, moving things along, but here I was, stuck studying statistics, which I knew had no application to my life,” Neeleman once said. “I knew I had to have an education, but at the first opportunity to start a business, I just blew out of college.”
Despite his own struggles, Neeleman went on to build a stellar business career in the airline industry. He started Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue Airways, Azul Brazilian Airlines, and Breeze Airways. He’s even led the revival of TAP Air Portugal.
Through it all, Neeleman made the best of his strengths—original thinking, high energy, and the ability to draw the best out in people.
Far from lamenting his ADHD, David Neeleman celebrated it
Early on, Neeleman realized that he must manage his ADHD carefully. Throughout his career, he got help with his weaknesses.
People with ADHD tend to possess rare talents and gifts. They can be extraordinarily creative and original. They display ingenuity, and they encourage that trait in others. They can improvise well under pressure.
However, ADHD confers disadvantages too. People with ADHD are likely to be incredibly forgetful, disorganized, impulsive, and hyperactive. They drag their feet and miss deadlines. Their performance can be inconsistent. They can drift away mentally unless, oddly enough, they’re under stress or handling multiple inputs.
Sadly, modern society (including parents, schools, workplaces, and career counselors) tends to linger upon the negative symptoms and encourages people with ADHD to learn to cope with them. Strengths are more likely to go unnoticed.
Idea for Impact: Don’t let your weaknesses stop you from reaching your life goals.
In your work-life and outside, seek environments that allow you to bring more of your strengths to play. But don’t ignore your weaknesses (or the downsides of your strengths.)
Staff your weaknesses. Identify two or three key job activities that you don’t do well. Determine how you can delegate those responsibilities to others or seek help. This way, your weaknesses don’t become the Achilles heel that can hamper the strengths that make you effective.
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