You Have A.D.D. And You Can Succeed: A Rebuttal By “Paradigm Of Thought” – Part I

A Bit of Background: A lengthy comment on the blog post You Have A.D.D./A.D.H.D. and You Will NOT Be Rich and Famous resulted in a lengthy response on my part that became the blog post You Have ADD/ADHD and You Will STILL Not Be Rich and Famous. The author of the lengthy comment, Paradigm of Thought, wanted to provide a lengthy and detailed response to that second post. I asked Paradigm to email me his response (it was too long to post as a comment) and I assured him that I would post it on this blog. Because of the length of the response I am posting it in two parts. The second part will appear in approximately five days.


On Feb. 21, 2010 I received the email below from Paradigm. What follows is the first part of his response.

Thank you for your time and patience. Being an on the path to success sometimes leaves me with very little time. But I have finished my response to your rebuttal on your page, and as per your request, I will give it to you in the file form to post it on your blog. As you no doubt understand I expect it to be posted verbatim as if I was writing it on my blog. I hope it is to your satisfaction, it took over six hours of Hyper-Focus to finish. I look forward to your response.


You Have A.D.D. And You Can Succeed:
A Rebuttal By “Paradigm Of Thought” – Part I


“Whether You Believe You Can, Or You Believe You Can’t. Either Way You’re Right” – Henry Ford.

I am a man of learning and research. I have spent much of my adult life trying to understand and comprehend the world around me. What I have found is that there are many Myths of Modern Culture that seem to supplant their way into our minds. Since discovering these myths I have made it my personal mission to attempt to redeem and correct them.

Earlier this week I stumbled onto this blog. In Jeff’s A.D.D. Mind, Jeff very eloquently parrots a myth that I have become quite aware of over the years. That people with A.D.D. are destined to failure. This is a common myth perpetuated probably because of the performance in school that A.D.D.ers often have. We expect that the performance in high school is an indicator of how well the person will perform in the business world, and even in their personal lives.

But if one were to objectively look at school, and then turn their eye to the professional world, the differences are often night and day. For example feelings are saved in school with the inventions of the “No Child Left Behind Act.” In business a person’s personal feelings are often ignored in lieu of their work performance. In school everybody is given a fair chance, often times in business the chances much more unfair, and favoritism in the form of the “Good ol’ boy” system is far too often a factor in the decision making process.

In seeing his argument I made a lengthy post found on the fourth page of comments in the original blog (see link above). This incited a lengthy rebuttal, which in turn challenged me to a lengthy counter rebuttal. The premise of this debate goes as follows.

The Argument: Can the traits of A.D.D. be used or overcome for the purpose of success, or is the diagnosis of A.D.D. a damnation for failure?

Just The Facts

Like my opponent, I will set my argument using a few base facts.

Fact Number 1: Social Sciences, unlike physical sciences, are far more subjective because it deals with an inherently subjective premise (Considering people are subjective themselves). All social sciences are subject to subjectivity. This subjectivity can be the discipline in which the researches subscribes to, the school of thought he holds, to the awareness of the subjects in question.

Fact Number 2: People who succeed have no reason to find out what’s wrong with them, because, as far as we can tell, there isn’t anything wrong. It could very well be that there are many undiagnosed A.D.D. Entrepreneurs who never bothered to ask why they didn’t succeed, because they did succeed. This is an appeal to the incompletion of the social studies of success in A.D.D. This is not the fault of the researchers, rather a fault in the data. Many older Entrepreneurs will not see therapists, or have opportunities to be diagnosed, so many of the successful A.D.D.ers will never be diagnosed, and this will of course skew the data. This is of course another effect of the subjectivity of social sciences.

Fact Number 3: Success is almost totally contingent on how a person approaches a situation. If a person approaches a situation expecting to fail his actions will reflect this expectation. And via versa.

Fact Number 4: Success is a learning process. And as in all learning, it must be tried with failure, before successful. Learning how to accept failure and try again is absolutely necessary for attaining ultimate success. If a person fails and gives up trying, they will never succeed. And considering that in all realms of success there is a fair risk of failure no matter who you are, this is too often what prevents us from success.

So Where Are You Going With This?

Fact Number 1 Revisited: My opponent contends that the success of an is only valid if prior to the diagnosis or recognition of the disorder. This is ignoring one of the basic principles of success: Knowing Your Limitations. Any weight trainer can tell you, if you ignore your limitations you will end up unsuccessful in any work out. This stands true in business and a person’s personal life. This also ignores the fact set in Fact Number 2.

Fact Number 2 Revisited: If a person who succeeded never bothered to become diagnosed, because they succeeded, there is no way to know whether they are A.D.D. or not. Now, admittingly this fact is based upon deduction and assuming on my part, but there is no arguing the fact that there are many A.D.D.ers who go through their life happy and healthy without any sort of diagnosis. Knowing this there is most certainly successful people who never became diagnosed, and why would they? To them there is nothing wrong.

Fact Number 3 Revisited: From my first post I made sure to point out that I do not believe that A.D.D. will automatically allow a person to succeed (This is my first statement in the original post). Success is contingent upon attitude, not some magical or divine property given by a disorder.

Fact Number 4 Revisited: My opponent sustains that one failure comes out to total failure. What this fails to recognize is that a person, regardless of a diagnosed disorder, is most certainly going to meet roadblocks, hurdles, and yes failure on the path to success. The key trait in success is not how much a person succeeds, but how well a person picks up after they fail. Success, as I mentioned is a learned traits. And like all learning it requires repeatition and failure in order to learn (In a neurological point of view, an Axon must attempt to connect with a Dendrite up to a hundred times in order to make a clear connection).

First, My Concessions.

This is the part the  most responsible debaters dread. But sometimes you have to concede arguments in order to maintain the credibility in order to continue debating. In his argument my opponent made a couple points that force me to concede the following.

The National Commission on Entrepreneurship… I may have been a little overzealous, and skimmed a little more than I should have in this statements. Upon rechecking my sources I could not find the referenced source.

Many Historical Figures… My opponent was quick to point out that I cannot read history backwards. Because I regrettably do not have a time machine I cannot give a BSM IV to these famous figures, nor can I hook them to an EEG and find out whether or not they are Attention Deficit. Though it is important to point out that these figures shared traits such as having numerous and incomplete projects, were considered callous and caustic by their peers, and often would not pay attention to certain details (All diagnostic criteria of A.D.D.

The Average I.Q.: This is the one that was totally blown out of the water. Upon double checking myself I found that there was no average intellectual difference between people with A.D.D. and people without.

I hope these concessions will be taken in the spirit that they are given. But these concessions by no means take away from argument. So let’s do what I originally (And capriciously) suggested we do, and forget these arguments.


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  • Paradigm of Thought

    Will Paradigm of Thought be able to effectively carry out his argument? Or is it damned for failure? Find out in next weeks thrilling conclusion. Same Bat Time, Same bat channel.

    • Jeff

      Ah…you only have to wait till March 1 for Part II!!

  • 18channels

    Ooooh…okay, well let me then write Feminist Response to "You Have ADD/ADHD and You Will STILL Not Be Rich and Famous":

    I believe I have remarked on this in my own blog. But it bears taking note of, and it relates a little bit to what "Rebuttal" has put forth…

    In theater training, when I was in college, we were asked to explore "status" and which behaviors people exhibit in order to be perceived as "high status", and which ones many people often unwittingly exhibit when being perceived as "low status".

    On the high status list: obsessive focus, interrupting, arriving late and leaving early
    Low status: being polite and accommodating, "playing by the rules"…you get the basic idea.

    Let's meditate on that for a moment. Okay done…

    Now then, point 1: think about the stereotypical entreprenuer…mmmhmmmm.
    Now then, point 2: think about which behaviors are more acceptable for men to exhibit and for women to exhibit.

    Okay…now picture me, in a meeting with a bunch of "bigwigs". My ADHD meds haven't kicked in yet. My mind is bouncing everywhere. I was feeling self-conscious because I was late. I kept interrupting people and then apologizing for it. Why? Because my whole life I have known that you're supposed to be polite, not interrupt…not be late because it's "rude"…even as a child I spent energy on not doing these things. And often, I have discovered, when you are "the smart girl" in the room and you speak up…people just stare. I'll take gender out of it too and just cop to being someone who is often thinking just ahead of the curve of the conversation and that'll get you some good stares too.

    In walks stereotypical ADHD executive guy and he clearly doesn't care about "the stare"…I'm sure he doesn't "know" that he has ADHD, but I'm telling you it's as plain as day. He is successful…he is smart, some say brilliant. He is later than me…and he is checking his Crackberry in the middle of the meeting with no apology, interrupting when it suits him because clearly what he has to say is important…and when he's not doing those things, like me, his gaze wonders all over the room and entertains itself with its own clearly brilliant thoughts. Everyone else is listening intently and the two of us keep accidentally meeting at the eyes because our eyes are everywhere!

    Interestingly, although we don't know one another well, he requested my presence on another community board, because…he sees that I get the job done…that I'm a good operationalizer. Call it impatience, call it operationalizing, but he's right.

    However, my point…I think there ARE sometimes other issues to be considered…and I don't doubt that there are lots of successful ADHDers out there who aren't counted, because quite simply, they don't think there's anything wrong with them and neither does anyone else…oh I know they have exhausted secretaries…but that's not the opinion that matters, is it? ;)

    ADHDers of any gender who have had the luck, by birth, or by insight to find themselves in a position where life calls them successful…good for them.

    I do think that it is more common for men, than women, however, to be "approved" of when behaving in these kinds of ways…I think about that a lot…and about how much anxiety I have experienced in my life, from spending all that energy trying to rein it in…when sometimes, I really probably don't need to…

    Even in my own community, where I feel valued, I do not feel valued as a business person per se…I feel valued as…well, quite frankly as a bit of a novelty. People see what they want to see, and gender can affect that..which is why I've started showing up in business suits and taken to checking my calendar during meetings…haha…I'm eliminating the obvious differences as much as possible…and throwing terms like "diversifying revenue streams" around…

    • Jeff

      Of course…not only should you diversify revenue streams but keep in mind that diversification might entail capital investment. If that is the case then you may need to measure ROI and determine the projected break even point…is it six months out? 12 months out? You might want to consider – even as a thought experiment – the counter-factual, namely, NOT diversifying your revenue streams. What's the downside of non-diversification? Sometimes…diversification can result in other problems, namely, stretching resources too thin. But what if you added a little "schmaltz" to the whole thing? Will that help revenue to, how shall I say, slide in more easily? ;)

    • Jeff

      On a serious note…you raise a very important point. What could be seem as marks of "genius" when exhibited by a man could be seen as signs of impertinence when exhibited by a woman. This is worth further investigation and explication.

      I am troubled by this assertion: "I don't doubt that there are lots of successful ADHDers out there who aren't counted." The problem is you can use this to assert the validity of most anything. It's an appeal to the invisible: we don't see it but I'm sure it's there. This starts to sound like an argument for the existence of God.

      However…this line below is SHEER BRILLIANCE!!!
      "Let's meditate on that for a moment. Okay done… "

      • Katy B.

        But…but…you aren't buying the argument that we should take everything on faith? Ohhh…alright. To clarify, at least in THIS context: it's unfortunately the case that the "body of research" on ADHD has some serious gaps…such as on the issue of women and ADHD for example. So in a body of research that is incomplete, it IS possible that there are subgroups that have not been extensively explored. And for a subgroup such as the mythical ADHD executive…if they've already had their high status mistaken for genius and gotten themselves up the ladder far enough, it's easy for their secretaries, wives and other enablers to disguise what would be called "impairment" in a mental health office. They indeed may not "appear" on the curve even though they can't function without the structures lent by their support "staff".

        As for revenue streams, I'm so successfully traumatized by the comment about "sliding in a little more easily" that I think I'm going to pass on extending the dirty business talk…haha…

        • Jeff

          It's one thing to state that there might be gaps in our understanding about X. However, possible gaps in our knowledge does not give us the liberty to assume that Y must exist. We can state, very tentatively that Y might exist but it would be wrong to state anything stronger. One might even say that it would be wrong to say anything…tentative or otherwise. Here's an example.

          I believe that God exists. However, there are gaps in our knowledge concerning the proof of God's existence. But, intuitively, I know that God must exist. After all, how can we explain X unless God exists. Therefore we can conclude that God exists despite our gaps in knowledge.

          So, we believe the mythical ADHD executive exists. We know there are gaps in our knowledge concerning the proof of this ADHDer's existence. But, intuitively, we know that this ADHDer must exist. After all, how can we explain X unless this ADHDer exists. Therefore we can conclude that the ADHD executive exists despite our gaps in knowledge.

          Seems to me we haven't proved anything using this type of reasoning.

          But let's assume that the ADHD executive does, indeed, exist. Wouldn't this imply that other ADHDers – who share certain characteristics with the mythical executive – would be much more successful than they currently are *if* ADHD were a factor for success? OR…are they successful *despite* their ADHD because of their enablers (secretaries, etc.)? If the latter is the case then ADHD adds nothing to their success and they could not have been successful without the enablers.

  • Katy B.

    We need to eliminate the enablers. We can't control the enablers. Exterminate the uncontrollable variables! Gaaaaaah!

    • Jeff

      Well…if we got rid of the enablers…then we would know, once and for all, if those "ADHD" executives can really cut it.

  • Bryan

    Ah Jeff, don’t make me jump into this… you know how I don’t like getting into these circles of what I believe vs. what you believe, it just seems so, well… no, I am not going to say it. However, only one thing in all this fencing made me, forced me to make a comment (although I did try to comment the other day and it got lost):

    “Well…if we got rid of the enablers…then we would know, once and for all, if those “ADHD” executives can really cut it.”

    Enablers make the world go around, they are the links in the chains – successful people take advantage of them as best they can, as often as they can. Is that wrong? No, that’s why they are enablers! Gotta have ‘em. However, they do not get paid as well, but they can learn and become the leaders eventually, if they take advantage of what they are learning and jump on the band wagon. If we didn’t have enablers, 80 – 90% of the people currently employed would suddenly be unemployed. Suddenly, nearly no one would be cutting it anymore. Smart successful people take care of their enablers and hire the best they can find… Katy says her boss is brilliant, well, that explains why he hired her! Brilliant people hire the best enablers, whether they have ADHD or not.

    One final thought: POJ you are not going to win this debate. Jeff, you’re not going to win it either. But, that’s not really the point… is it?


    • Jeff

      Bryan, I don't disagree with you where the "enablers" are concerned though your point, while well taken, kind of dodges the question of whether ADHD is the "secret sauce" to success or not. We'll reexamine this in greater detail when part 2 of POJ's rebuttal is posted.

      As to your last point as to who is/is not going to win…well…yes…to some degree it's not a matter of winning/losing but more the fun of the intellectual sparring. It keeps the brain cells going and helps everyone who participates (even passively) to think through their own arguments.

      • Scott Hutson

        Oh yes! And the exitement (stimulation) of arguing. How boring would life be, if we all agreed? Play from a deck of 52 with or without wild cards? Turn one card up at a time…..Ace in the pocket…………maybe? Just have to wait and see I guess..

  • Bryan


    Not really interested in this particular debate, it's just more of the same rephrased. Most people aren't even aware of this debate and when I have mentioned it I get messages asking what it's all about and why it matters… I think there are very few seriously interested, but those that are interested they seem to relish it one way or the other. It's something to do. Any who, you guys are having fun and that matters!

    My only concern was about enablers, don't want anyone to think that having assistance takes anything away from any success someone may have. I don't think you meant it that way.

    Have fun!

    PS: I think your ADHD is starting to make you successful :) Enjoy :)

    • Scott Hutson

      I’ll still bet a dime to a dollar. That there are no “Gifts” to use, anyway. But I didn’t check the mail today.

      • Scott Hutson

        Bryan Hello! As you already know I respect you and have even devoted an entire post on my blog to you, and how quick I was to judge you, before I realized we are All fighting the same enemy…..In different ways perhaps, but the goal is still the same. I think this debate will help everyone as it unfolds. Maybe in different ways. But for me, the key word is…..HELP.( I need it for sure huh? (Chuckle)…).

    • Jeff

      Bryan, I can understand how this argument could seem like arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It is, to a degree, a purely academic argument and is of interest only to those who get a thrill in coming up with the perfect argument. So, yes, I can see why some may say to themselves: "What's the big deal? I still need to figure out how to survive from day to day and this debate does nothing to help me." And, quite honestly, your comment made me pause and think…why am I engaging in this argument and why do I consider it worthy of my time? Well…here's why I think it is a worthwhile discussion even if only a few us still engage in this discussion.

      At bottom, it is really a discussion about reality. All of us have a conception of reality and our daily actions are based on that conception. Is life good? Is ADHD a help or a hindrance? Our answer to these questions guides our actions. But the argument goes a step further. It's one thing to think reality is "X" or "Y" but is that what reality is really like OR do we tell ourselves a fairy tale about reality because it makes us feel better? That's the other part of the debate. (Oh…and I'm also having a lot of fun with the intellectual sparring.)

      One last thing and this is in response to your remark "I think your ADHD is starting to make you successful." Well…no…not really. My ADHD nearly destroyed my life. There aren't enough years left to undo all the damage that has been done. It's a curse and, I believe, that's what you've documented in your writings. But you have learned to wrestle this beast and it's taken me six years of medication and meditation and therapy to get to a point where I feel that, sometimes, I can be in control of it. But is it my key to success? Not at all. The key to my success is learning to do the things that ADHD, by its very nature, makes it nearly impossible to learn: how to manage time; how to delay gratification; how to work with "enablers" (I've hired a bookkeeper for my business), and so on. Everyone with ADHD struggles to learn these fundamental tasks of life which non-ADHDers seem to learn as if by osmosis.

  • Bryan

    Hi Jeff,

    The last remark I left was more specifically towards you and your blog. You know I don’t agree with everything you write (you don’t agree with everything I write either – fair is fair), but I do know where you are coming from. However, those life experiences have given you something to write about and I have noticed a more positive tone in your writing over the last 6 months or so. Unfortunately, we can’t change the past – there’s a lot I would love to change about my past too, or I wish had been different.


    • Jeff


      Your observation is 400% correct. There's an anger and bitterness that has dissipated. I noticed that change too. I attributed it, in part, to the years of medication and so forth, but also to this blog. It has been an outlet for me and has allowed me to work through and think through so many issues. (There are many other changes, on a very personal and private level, that have also contributed to the change.)

      Further, the redesign of this blog is a reflection of that change and, as you'll see, more and more non-ADHD related things will be appearing on this blog. In addition, I feel that so much has been bottled up inside (positive, creative stuff) that it is pouring out of me. If I didn't stop myself…I'd have a new blog post twice a day…that's how much is pouring out…that's how much I have changed.

      It will be interesting to see what changes we both go through a year or two from now.

      Thank you for being so observant and for making the observation…and despite my sometimes acerbic attacks…thank you for remaining a friend.


  • Bryan

    I didn't think I would get such warm fussies over here on your blog, but I will be dog-gone! Seriously, though, you're right it will be interesting to see where we are in the next couple years. Having ADD it always seems we are starting over… doesn't it?! About 'attacks' – I think you've read my first book 'One Boy's Struggle', if you have, then you might remember that I became lifelong friends with Phil – when we first met we had a rough fight on the 3rd grade playground and the rest is history. Best friend I have ever had. That's the way of ADD sometimes!


    • Jeff

      Surprised ya, eh? My former business partner, who I refer to in a number of posts, is also ADD and, let me tell you…when the partnership ended there was a heck of a fight. Of course…we now speak to each other once or twice a week.

      I had written a post about ADD being a series of perpetual "do overs" but, what I have noticed happening to myself, is I've been staying on the same path for some time now (at least in certain aspects of my life). There are still some things I'd like to start over and that just may happen.

      • Scott Hutson

        History does have a way of repeating itself. Most, if not all, of my “Best Friends”, while growing up, started out with a fight, some phsyical, some not. But the learning from mistakes has been a way of life for me. ADD? I don’t know. I’m learning……hopefully the easy way…Heh Heh..Yeah right…not.

  • Robin

    Fact Number 1: – This may be true, but much of the data collected against/researched on ADHD is not within the realm of the social sciences, but the scientific field of medicine.
    Fact Number 2 – This appears to take an all/nothing view of success. Yet you give no definition of success from which to make a point of reference. Social? Educational? Economic? Vocational? And standards of success are assumed. A 'successful' entrepreneur who never finished high school may have a string of failed marriages and be completely unable to relate to his kids, or his employees. A 'successful' family man may have a string of failed jobs, a checkered academic record and no money in the bank. You take 'success' to be an all-win situation. Life is seldom this all or nothing. Also, the stigma associated with getting help for conditions such as ADHD have kept many out of helpful treatment. Are you proposing that because people who seek help acknowledge they need treatment, the people who don't seek treatment have nothing to acknowledge?
    'Fact 3"' – This is presented as though self-evident. It is not fact, and cannot be proven. "Defensive pessimists" succeed all the time.
    Fact 4 – You made sense until mentioning "ultimate success". What is that? What is "ultimate success'? How can "ultimate success" be reached as a parent? As a spouse? As a co-worker or a supervisor? Do all your arguments center on the entrepreneurial field? And if so, how do you define success in that field? Biggest profits? Best products made? Greatest expansion in a year? I'm very curious as to how you define success. I still remember the elderly gentleman who owned a factory many years ago here in the States, through he could have easily off-shored his business. The factory had a fire and burned to the ground, and despite the extreme personal cost the gentleman owner decided to continue full pay and benefits to his workers for another 90 days. It was close to Christmas, you see. Would you define that businessman as successful?
    I am also curious of your introduction. I would like to know how your formulated the "myth" of ADHD. Most statistics compiled on ADHD adults focus on rates of incarceration, under/unemployment, divorce, drug addiction, school completion, wage earnings, and the like. These types of statistics consistently show a negative outlook with ADHD. Are you drawing the conclusion that because there are successful individuals with ADHD, the science must be wrong? Please explain.

    • Jeff

      Robin, you hit EVERY important point and did it wonderfully…asking all the right question. I have nothing to add to this comment except, perhaps, BRAVO!! By the time you read this comment…Part II will appear.

  • Pingback: You Have ADD/ADHD & You CAN Succeed! (Part II) | Jeff's A.D.D. Mind

  • Robin

    I do have a somewhat-unrelated question, Tom. Concerning the old Hartman "Farmer/Hunter" hypothesis: if ADHD'ers are carryovers from the 'hyperactive hunters' in the prehistoric days, then why are so many ADHD'ers women like me? I'm pretty sure there weren't any female hunters running around with a lil' kiddie on each hip as a mastodon was taken down. Granted, this was all before the invention of Lycra, sports bras, or semi-accessible childcare. I'm sure any modern woman worth her salt can handle wrestling certain.death.for.dinner as well as any guy. But 'back in the day' I doubt the hunter's gene would've been useful, or even helpful to our female ancestors. So why do women have ADHD then? I mean, if only men have facial hair and Adam's Apples, why don't just guys have ADHD? Just a question for the masses…

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