The Power of Positive Thinking & ADHD

Note: This post, written by Bryan Hutchinson, is in response to the two-part post (links are here and here) from Paradigm of Thought (POT).

To: Paradigm Of Thought, Jeff,

I very much enjoyed reading this entire post, more so than the first one. The first part just seemed to be missing too many points and wasn’t clear in some places. As a whole (almost), this comes across very well. However, P.O.T. you did yourself one powerful injustice and to a degree put your argument and your entire post back into question: “No, the only thing stopping you from success is you, nothing more.” Unfortunately, that single statement out of all of them, may make ADDers pause and question whether you have ADHD, or if you are simply doing research and trying to debunk the ADHD myth.

This is my story in a nutshell:

Father:  “No, the only thing stopping you from success is you, nothing more.”

Teachers: “No, the only thing stopping you from success is you, nothing more.”

Anyone that gave me directions as a youth or young adult and up to, heck, not long ago: “No, the only thing stopping you from success is you, nothing more.” Why, pray tell, did I go undiagnosed for so long? Is it any wonder? I don’t mean to be sarcastic or facetious, but that statement gets me going. We’ve heard that too many times, we’ve been knocked down, kicked, ridiculed and chastised continuously with that very statement. I, for one, am tired of it.

No, actually, it was ADHD. Yes, I know I have become known for my stance on positive thinking in connection with ADHD, but sometimes folks that get upset about my positive message, skip over the parts where I discuss our everyday hardships. And not to mention, I was very lucky to go through a decade of professional therapy with a very good therapist (not too many of those out there). Once, (as with Jeff here –sorry Jeff) go back and read my entire message (books/blog/etc), I think they get a better understanding of where I am coming from.

Yes, the power of positive thinking works! I agree wholeheartedly, but you are avoiding the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ and when you list so many people of success in such a debate, you really need to include what got them there – what were their resources? Resources, time and place (circumstances) have a lot to do with their success and yes, ADD, may well play a part too, as I think it does (each part of us makes the whole). Without those listed you are selling your argument short and actually, not hammering your point home. I think I could help you with your debate, but I am trying to stay out of it – see how successful I am at that?!

Still, I am not here to agree with the doubters of positive thinking, I was pulling for you. I sincerely believe in the power of positive thinking thanks to my past, my circumstances, what I learned and overcome thanks to therapy with a very wise therapist. That’s what I try to share. Just saying: “No, the only thing stopping you from success is you, nothing more,” doesn’t cut it and calls ADHD into doubt! This whole argument now comes across as ADHD is fraud from that single statement. And you were on such a good roll.

Now, if you would have wrote something like “No, the only thing stopping you from success is lack of treatment, coping strategies, support and cultivating a healthy, positive mental attitude.” Well, I could work with that.

Sorry, struck a nerve with just one all too common, predictable statement. I sincerely do believe you meant well, though. So, in all, a very good effort, my suggestion would be to modify that line to encompass the very real challenges of ADHD, at least give them a wink or a nod.


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  • Paradigm Of Thought

    Hello, Bryan, thank for your initial support and well worded post. However, if not for your sake but mine, I believe I need to clarify.

    First, I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 10, It was then confirmed via an EEG at the age of 14, since then I have been living my life with easy distractibility, a mild temper, irritability, stubbornness, all of the fun traits (I test for ALL of them). ADHD isn't my only disorder. I also have been diagnosed with ODD, OCD, and an Unspecified Mood Disorder.

    You can imagine being a kid with a mountain of problems and trying to grow up that way. It wasn't easy, and it still isn't. There are days that I get distracted from work because a pile of metal is a little off center with the table. (Yeah, it sucks being Easily Distracted by Obsessive Compulsions (That would be a great title!)). There are days when my boss yells at me, and I want to yell at him back (ODD, USMD). The fact is that my life hasn't been quite all that easy. The simple tasks most people do day to day I can't do with out a considerable amount of effort (And my IQ is in the 140s, not to brag). So why would I, a person who has by all means a doctors note to fuck off preach that ADHD is used as a crutch.

    Because I used it.

    When I was younger, I would say "I can't" and that would be it. But I noticed after a while my life didn't progress. So I stopped taking excuses from myself: I only took results. And guess what, I progressed. I overcame the folds of my four (count them FOUR) classified and diagnosed psychological disorders, by not taking excuses. Am I saying that it is easy to overcome it? No. However there are steps (such as therapy, life style changes, medicine, or just plain discipline) one can take to change.

    I know, we don't like to hear that it's our fault we don't move forward. But what's the alternative? It's the disease? It's my place? It's my opportunity? Forgive me, but I'm staying off that bandwagon this time. Because when we blame the disease, we negate that we are in control.

    Not the goddamn disease.

    - Paradigm of Thought

    • Jeff


      Now…I'm going to use this as a lesson. You should be cautious about extrapolating the experience of one (your experience) to that of "the many" (all other ADHDers). However, from this "subjective" stance you can use it as the basis to form an hypothesis and, using data gathered through qualitative interviews, surveys, meta-analysis of earlier studies, you can determine if your subjective experience is really a reflection of an objective and measurable "universal" experience. (You would, of course, use statistics.)

      Bryan's point (which I think you got but…heck…I'm old enough that I can reiterate the obvious) is that it is NOT a clear-cut, black-white issue. There are way too many shades of gray. Yet I can understand how, through sheer mental effort, you have been able to overcome so much in your life. Keep in mind, though, that your ADHD has not gone away and, I'm sorry to say, it will bite you in the rear end at some time. Yet, BECAUSE of all that you HAVE accomplished IN SPITE OF IT, when it DOES bite you, you will know how to contain it, control it and bite back.

      • Paradigm of Though

        I will agree there are many things to overcome with ADHD, as well as many other disorders. To say it took a lot of work to become the person I am today would be an understatement. I can't stress this enough. Really, you are right, there are many shades of gray. Certainly some of my success is in spite of my ADHD, but I believe (this is not an argument, simply a belief) that there is a margin of my success that is BECAUSE my ADHD.

        Understand my position for a second. I have heard so many stories in which I could point out the characteristics in the person in which prevented them from success. In my own personal experience many times we stand in our own way, because in order to succeed we have to take a risk that may lead us to homelessness, loss of all credentials, ridicule, and quite possibly the inability to succeed again. If we never take these risks we forfeit success. This is what happens in most people (regarldless of ADHD or not), fear of risk is the simple fear of losing everything, or some cases, gain everything and finding out it's not what you wanted.

        I pointed out this is all subjective, that does not mean it is not valid. Subjectivity is the mechanism in which we interpret information. My appeal to subjectivity was not to dismiss credentials, rather to make awareness of the fact that the knowledge of one's abilities is crucial in overcoming their disabilities. I believe the fact we are arguing proves that this is a subjective matter.

        I have no doubt that what I must surpass will bite me in the end, after all It is rather more like taming a pit bull, than walking with your collie. You're going to get bit. And depending on your attitude toward the situation is the answer to what you will do when the situation comes. If you become emotional you may burn a bridge to success, if you are dismissive you ignore the problem and allow it to get worse, if you are discouraged you will not attempt further. However if you are rational and pragmatic you may see this problem through, and if you didn't, you can at the very least say you did the best you could.

        - Paradigm of Thought

        • Jeff


          I just want to raise two points. First, our entire discussion began with the thesis: is ADHD an asset or a liability in life? That is, will it make you successful (play an important role in doing so) or will it not. I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 46. Up till that time I was a restaurant busboy, route delivery salesman, door-to-door salesman, shoe salesman, movie theater projectionist, adjunct lecturer (sociology), assistant director of research for a large academic organization, PhD candidate in sociology (I dropped out before doing my dissertation), software developer, website developer and probably a few other careers in there. I was successful at all of these things BUT my UNdiagnosed ADHD always caused me to switch careers. So I did not have any crutch to lean on except the fact that I must have been lazy, crazy AND stupid. (But not TOO stupid…my IQ is not far below yours.) So I'm not sure if my life story would have been more like yours if I was diagnosed as a child. I was always told I was very bright but I never lived up to my potential (common refrain with ADHDers). The point is that ADHD was DEFINITELY a liability. (Don't comment yet…see next paragraph.)

          Second, what you've accomplished is beyond admirable. It is to be commended and can be an example of what can be accomplished in life DESPITE ones handicaps. However, it is wrong to assume that your case is the "universal" case. The science just does not back it up. In fact, the science – as depressing as this is to admit – points to MY CASE as being the more universal case. (I left out some of the other "universals" like drug use, truancy, cigarette smoking.)

          Finally, to quote Albert Einstein…see image below.
          <img src=""&gt;

  • Bryan

    Hi P:

    I commend you on your efforts to improve and leading a no excuses life. I agree that one’s attitude and efforts to seek treatment affect their overall condition in life. However, you’ve unfortunately missed my point.

    ADHD is a collection of symptoms that cause certain behaviors. If they were controllable by one’s mental effort alone, then ADHD would not exist – this is where the fraud myth comes in. The diagnosis exists because the symptoms are for the most part a problem and not always fully controllable. This is not to say we cannot gain some control or use certain symptoms to our advantage. We can become positive and successful in our own right – This part I will not debate; to debate it is to doubt it, in my opinion. “Doth Protest too Much!” WS.

    I maintain that your one statement I highlighted in my reply is out of place and context, in short, it was in bad taste and showed a lack of understand of the full spectrum of ADHD amongst the population, regardless of your personal experience, improvements, IQ or knowledge. Eventually, you will come to figure that out. I’ve goofed a time or two myself, we all do.


    • Jeff

      Bryan, Bravo!! Well stated! I may quibble with a minor point or two but, overall, you hit the nail on the head.

  • Paradigm Of Thought

    This entire argument has been about mostly beliefs on my side, and I'm more than willing to admit that. I understood upon undertaking this argument that I would be the statistical outlier, and that my job would be about dismissing data rather than presenting it. I guess this fact is what attracted me, I am known to hold an affinity of the "under dog."

    First, I must state, the idea that ADHD an ultimate liability is an Either/Or logical fallacy, this assumes that the traits of ADHD cannot be used for success and on the other end that they all CAN. Unfortunately neither is true 100% of cases, nor is it completely true in most cases. The fact is I sustain that it is neither and it is both.

    As a final summation, maybe I should point out my perspective. I am an example of an ADHDer who has overcome his ADHD. I have used techniques and devises in order to do so. The very process I use did not come from within, rather from without. If I had maintained my initial assumption that my ADHD stood in the way, I would not be in the position to argue, but the fact is I didn't maintain that assumption. Instead I changed my beliefs, my feelings toward the subject, and in a lot of ways changed my self. In my perspective, if I have evidence to believe that I can do it, I must either assume that most people chose not to, or that I am generally superior to most people. As much as I would like to assume the latter, all humility forces me to assume the former. You can assume the latter if you wish, but I'm quite uncomfortable doing it myself.

    My no excuses argument hinges on the idea if it is possible, than there is no excuse not to try. You point out that it is in bad taste, I couldn't disagree more. While it is more upfront, and less tempered than most arguments, it maintains the very ideal that allowed me to come this far. "No excuses, only results." You question my knowledge on this subject, while I cannot say my knowledge is on par with Jeff's, I have studies ADHD for quite a long time, and I've had over a decade to learn and understand this subject. I understand the full spectrum of ADHD, however, what I cannot understand is the idea that IT is in control. If at ever a person says they didn't succeed because of their ADHD, they are making an excuse based on a condition that is not conscious. That's like blaming my chair because it bent under my weight.

    In the end I am of the philosophy that if there is an actionable task that will make a difference, no man or woman, regardless of intelligence, has the right to make an excuse to why they can't do it.

    I'm going to leave this argument with a final statement. I am an example of a person who through a no excuses philosophy has walked through his ADHD, and used it to my advantage. You can choose to believe that I am better than you for doing so, and you can't possibly do it yourself. Or maybe, just maybe, it's possible you can do it too.

    - Paradigm of Thought

    • Jeff

      Hmmmm…I suspect we are going to keep talking past each other on this one. Shall we call a truce for now?

      You know…if you met me when I was 25 or 30 years old…I would have agreed wholeheartedly that I was the one in control. However, I'm a lot older so take this as a warning. You better eat your Wheaties every day because you will need every ounce of energy to maintain control for the next 25 (or more) years of your life. And don't ever let your guard down because if you do…that ADHD ogre will show you who is really in control. :D

      P.S. I have to admit that I'm most disappointed that you didn't comment on my Einstein quote. ;) Oh well…it must have been only funny in mind.

  • Paradigm Of Thought

    You know, when I returned to work, I was thinking "I should have told him how funny that photo was, and tell him to stop stealing my ideas out of my head." I thought your Einstien photo was quite amusing, to say the least.

    You're probably right, we should call a truce, and I will take your warning to heart, I'm not one to ignore the advice of a person who has survived longer than I am. In retrospect, I think I should take this as a lesson, I shouldn't argue in something I have too much dependance on, I wasn't at my best in this particular argument, for the reason that I had an unrelenting bias toward the subject no doubt forced me to lose my objectivity, and allowed me to rely on arguments that I would in different circumstances not use. But this argument has as well forced me to question my position, and I walk away more confident of it. While I had to leave some dangerous thought behind, I learned more about what I'm battling.

    There is an old self quote that I have used in my life. "Only Through Doubt Does Truth Prevail." I think it has relevance here.

    - Paradigm of Thought

    • Jeff

      You're not the first person to accuse me of stealing ideas out of their head. That's probably the ADHD karma working across time and space. ;)

      You may not need me to tell you this but, I'll say it anyway. Never, ever lose your passion, that drive that kept you coming back and offering counter-rebuttals and counter-counter-counter-rebuttals.

      This website is dotted with many quotes that I live by (and also quotes that make me laugh). If I had to boil it down to one single quote it would be: know thyself. When you get a chance, you may find this post to be of interest.

  • Paradigm Of Thought

    You're right, you don't need to tell me. Trust and believe that I will believe until the day I die that I am in control… It's the only thing I believe I'm capable in believing in (That belief withstanding). I was simply critiquing my own work. My idea toward doubt is not necessarily in myself. I believe doubt as a good thing when taken with a grain of salt. (A little confusing, I know but bear with me).

    I've noticed the quotes on your website, and I was going to ask you how you made them. I thought It was a nice touch. You left me with a short, though quite profound quote, that believe me I am quite familiar with. I will leave you with my favorite success quote, well my favorite quote in general.

    To laugh often and much;
    To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
    To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
    To leave the world a bit better,
    whether by a healthy child,
    a garden patch,
    or a redeemed social condition;
    To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
    This is to have succeeded.

    - Paradigm of Thought

    • Jeff

      That's a GREAT quote! On my desk is a business card holder and on it is the following: "What you believe you can achieve."

  • Bryan

    P: Jeff's right (did I really just say that) in that, if we are going to talk past each other, then this is pointless – although, to most people reading this, it will seem your ADHD is blinding you to what I was writing about and my entire point. Remember, I never said you were entirely wrong, or that you were wrong at all – I didn't enter that debate, because, if you know me… well, anyway, until you are able to understand what I am saying about that very specific statement, which you have yet to demonstrate in your comments, then I don't know what else to say; however, I will say you are demonstrating a common ADHD trait :-) lol – I am not against you! Ah well…


  • Mike Doyle

    Hey Jeff, my favorite fellow-ADHD blogger. Being a fearless (former) New Yorker, I’ll jump in here.

    POT: You’re categorically mistaken. There is no “cure” for ADHD, there are only management strategies. These include medications, OTC supplements, CBT, behavioral strategies, and external memory and scheduling aids. If you are succeeding well as an ADHDer, that’s wonderful. I commend you.

    However, you have “overcome” nothing. Chronic conditions cannot be beaten, overcome, cured, or otherwise permanently put in their place. They can be “controlled” only to the point they allow themselves to be controlled. And in fact, this is management, not control.

    A successful ADHDer–I assume you included–can be said to be managing their ADHD symptoms well. That is what you are doing–managing your symptoms. I envy whatever strategies you’re using, and it might be more helpful for you to detail them here rather than claim you have done something that by definition is an impossibility.

    You have permanently overcome nothing. What you are doing–and all you are doing–is managing your ADHD symptoms. Kudos to be able to do so on consistent and long-term basis. Though if I were you, I’d ask around among your friends, family, and colleagues to see if those around you share the same high degree of confidence in your ability to manage those symptoms. You might end up very surprised.

    • Jeff

      Beautifully stated. You zoomed in on the main issue: a category error. I owe you a pizza and pitcher of beer for this great comment!

      • Mike Doyle

        Thanks, Jeff. If I'm in NYC anytime soon (and I might be), I'll be sure to collect!

        • Jeff

          That's a deal!

    • Paradigm Of Thought


      I'm glad that you could join in on the discussion, I enjoy the input of several people who have studies this subject, it makes the discussion much more interesting. First, I would like to state I at no time have I ever professed to believing in a cure for ADHD. Because of common links in the genetics (B2 variant on the A1 dopamine receptor gene) and neurology (Where to start? Reduced size in the basal ganglia, Abnormalities in the Reticular Activating System, minor frontal love dysfunction) ADHD is permanent, and there is really no getting around that.

      What there is getting around is the stipulation that a person with ADHD cannot function or succeed. Or that ADHD is really ALL bad. The way I perceive it, and admittingly that makes this statement opinionatory, black and white like that doesn't really exist. Far too many times has my hyper-focus allowed me to finish a job in twice the time as my coworkers, or allowed me to write an article or a paper in a night for me to honestly believe that there is no good in it. But to say there is no bad is… foolish.

      There are many things one must work through when it comes to ADHD, and I am under no delusion when it comes to that. The work one must do is quite challenging, and I hope have not come off to say something different. You pointed out it would be more helpful is I gave techniques. Once I am finished with my current work, I may take up that challenge of helping with my own techniques. Thank you for pointing this out.

      I agree with Jeff, this was a nice and well thought out post, while I can't offer pizza I think BBQ and a pitcher of Bud will do just fine.

  • 18channels

    I don't know what the f*** is wrong with you people. I have ADHD and my life is f*cking perfect.

    1) I am totally in control.
    2) I went to camp to make myself not ADHD and it totally worked! It's just like going to gay deprogramming camp and just as effective!
    3) The only bad side-effect of deprogramming was increased severity of intense sarcasm. Still not sure what to do about that.

    • Scott Hutson

      Hmmmmm, Being Sarcastic. That is something I have never ever done in my life!!! I can’t do it. I am just so darn intelligent !! Everybody runs away when they see me coming, because they hate the way I am always being so serious!! I think they are just jealous because I am so smart perfect!! I’m even jealous of me.

    • Jeff

      That's the problem. My parents couldn't afford those deprogramming/reprogramming camps. So I'm still ADHD and my brother is still gay. Oh well. ;)

  • Scott Hutson

    It seams to me that we are all “Positive Thinkers” here. Not in the same way though, but it just comes naturally>”Animal Instinct”. Back me into a corner and hold a knife to my throat…I have no time to “Think” but I do something about it and…. live or die. If I live because of something I did by an involuntary reflex, then I will know what I did to survive. We all have our own ways of dealing with the enemy…..

    • Jeff

      I wonder if we are better off dropping the term "positive thinking" and instead use "optimistic" or "hopeful"…something that acknowledges that being an optimist helps but it is not the essential ingredient for success…it is just part of the overall formula.

      • Scott Hutson

        Yes Jeff! That’s what I think also….I will say “Optimism-vs-Pessimism” is the way I look at things when I am trying to save time and money for my own small construction business, as an example. I have to point out to my “helpers” that we don’t assume we need to set up all the tools to fix damaged frames(king studs,header jambs,etc….) until we see they are damaged. And the way your Boss had you do things on his job, is probably why He lost money and had to lay you off. ……………I have to try to fix things that are broken, when I see em in my life. I can’t assume that I need to buy a special tool to fix it. ….”The road go’s on forever, and the journey never ends”…..Robert Earl King Jr.


  • Hoe Chie Minh

    “The way I perceive it, and admittingly that makes this statement opinionatory, black and white like that doesn’t really exist. Far too many times has my hyper-focus allowed me to finish a job in twice the time as my coworkers, or allowed me to write an article or a paper in a night for me to honestly believe that there is no good in it. But to say there is no bad is… foolish.”

    Your IQ is what?
    Your ability to hyper-focus enabled you to finish a job in twice the amount of time as co-workers and to write a paper in a night? You are twice as slow, and that is a plus from your A.D.H.D.?

    I’m Dwight D. Eisenhower and Charles Darwin

  • Hoe Chie Minh

    “First, I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 10, It was then confirmed via an EEG at the age of 14, since then I have been living my life with easy distractibility, a mild temper, irritability, stubbornness, all of the fun traits (I test for ALL of them)”

    This is President Eisenhower again. I can’t help myself. (I have “ICHMD” a.k.a. I Can’t Help Myself Disorder.) What exactly did your EEG show about your brain that supported the A.D.H.D. diagnosis? Are “easy distractibility, a mild temper, irritability, stubbornness” characteristics of the person with this disorder?

    Hell, maybe I should be on more medication for my A.D.D.

    The Pres

    • Jeff

      “ICHMD” a.k.a. I Can’t Help Myself Disorder: I think this should be the new name for ADHD. ;)
      And I think most of us are in agreement with you…it’s not all black and white.

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