We often think of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a condition that prevents people from performing at their best. But what if ADHD – when managed properly – could actually give you a competitive advantage?

Increasingly, studies show that symptoms of ADHD are valuable in entrepreneurship. Want proof? Take a look at billionaire Sir Richard Branson who speaks openly about how ADHD positively benefitted his success. In fact, researchers say entrepreneurs with ADHD show strengthsin creativity, grit and perseverance to name a few.

To better understand the emerging science of ADHD and entrepreneurship, I spoke with Dr. Perpetua Neo, a psychologist who helps high-performers go big without burning out. In this interview, she shares her personal story navigating a career with ADHD and discusses ways to handle the challenges that come along with the condition.

Dr. Perpetua Neo

Photo credit: Dr. Perpetua Neo


Melody Wilding: What inspired you to want to help entrepreneurs with ADHD? 

Dr. Neo: Society demonizes differences. Consider for instance, how an introvert is told by their managers to speak up more and urged to shoehorn themselves into the behavioral profile of an extrovert. Then extrapolate that to other differences in our wiring like ADHD. As a psychologist and coach, I champion the concept of neuro-diversity, which means celebrating how we are different and being able to leverage these differences as our superpowers.

My story is also personal. I've never been diagnosed [with ADHD] because of the era I was raised in, but have always known I have ADHD: short attention spans juxtaposed with obsessive hyperfocus, the need to keep moving and a brain moving faster than it probably should. Much as it gave me many shortcuts to my learning and performance, it also made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Teachers and my elders would point that out, and then I'd feel like a mean and difficult person for not being able to focus in group settings or when something didn't spark my attention.

Thankfully, I escaped relatively unscathed, sorted out the internal blocks from the stigma, and designed a lifestyle around my ADHD and where I leverage it. When I watch others struggle because their lifestyles and mindsets are fraught with ideas that their ADHD traits handicap them, are crippled via the effects of pharmaceutical medications, or when I see them blame themselves relentlessly, it is painful to watch. It reminds me of where I could have ended up. Championing neuro-diversity is my social responsibility.