How to use ADHD to your advantage and improve your life

Last year, I had two weeks left on deadline for a book I was writing. My publisher was getting antsy, as I hadn’t sent her anything yet. I’d done all the research, the problem was sitting down and getting the writing done. But I wasn’t worried. I’d been here before.

With 12 days left until my deadline, I went to the United Airlines website, and bought a round trip business class ticket to Tokyo, leaving the next day.

I got on the plane, armed with nothing but my laptop, a power cord, and my phone.

When the plane took off, I took out my laptop, and in the 14 hours it took us to get from Newark to Tokyo, I wrote chapters 1-5. We landed in Tokyo, I went through immigration, walked outside, took a deep breath of fresh air, turned right around, went back through security, back to the gate, and boarded the same plane back from Tokyo to Newark. I even sat in the same seat. On the 12-hour flight home, I wrote chapters 6-10. I landed 31 hours after I took off, with a completed book, and my second best-seller.

When I tell this story to “normal” people, they look at me like I’m insane. Why? Because what normal person would spend upwards of $5,000 to not really go anywhere, and write a book in 31 hours?

Not one normal person.

But then, if you’ve ever met me, you know: I’m not normal. I’m faster than normal. Like, waaaay faster than normal. And what does that mean?

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It means I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. But instead of medicating myself with amphetamines, or acting out, I’ve learned to use my ADHD to my advantage, and as a key to improving my life.

I understand that my brain works differently than normal people. It moves quick, darting in and out of ideas at light speed. I do things to encourage that, and “drive” my brain differently than people without ADHD.

What’s normal for regular people could be deadly for me, so I’m hyper-aware of that. I don’t drink. I workout every single day. I know what triggers I have and how they affect me, and I go out of my way to avoid them as much as possible.

Having a “faster than normal” brain is responsible for a lot of my success, if not all of it. Thinking differently helps, as does realizing that what other people think of me doesn’t matter, as long as I’m happy with myself. I focus my time on doing things that improve my life. I’m a constant reinvention of myself, always striving for the next great thing. In the end, the goal is to create, build, and keep myself occupied with things that work for me, so I’m focused on doing positive things, as opposed to that which could negatively affect me.

I fall out of airplanes, for example. It drives my family crazy, but I’m a licensed skydiver. Why? Because it keeps me grounded, ironically enough. It keeps me focused, keeps my dopamine and serotonin levels at good, normal doses. It allows me to drive my faster-than-normal brain all the way to success.

For years, we’ve been looking at attention deficit disorder (ADD) and ADHD as a disability, because it makes us not normal. Well, it does make us not normal. But that’s a gift, not a curse. It makes us Faster Than Normal! In the end, who doesn’t want to be faster?

Peter Shankman is the founder of ShankMinds Business Masterminds, a day-long business mastermind series in multiple locations around the world. He’s perhaps best known for founding Help a Reporter Out, the world’s largest source repository in the world, which fundamentally changed how journalists source their stories. Peter is the author of four books, including his most recent best seller, "Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans."  Peter recently launched the Faster Than Normal Podcast, helping people understand that ADD and ADHD is a gift, not a curse.