Seth Godin is a successful entrepreneur, public speaker, and best-selling author whose fourteen best-selling books have been translated into more than thirty languages. He is a perfect example of a well-known out-of-the-box creative thinker who has managed to overcome the challenges of his ADHD and has harnessed it to become a part of his success, rather than hampering it.
“I clearly have ADHD,” he says. “Lucky for me the world kind of organized around me rather than the other way around. It’s such an asset.”
“The way you make something happen is to do something that a fool could screw up. These things aren’t foolproof. They are risky, scary. They require vulnerability and a willingness to be in the world.”
Today, the name Seth Godin is synonymous with lateral-thinking and creative genius. Seth’s blog is perhaps the most popular in the world written by a single individual. People find inspiration in his unique marketing wisdom and the story of his success. His latest book, We Are All Weird, calls for those in positions of authority to afford people more choices, more interests and to give them more autonomy to operate in ways that reflect their own unique values. After all, it was his determination to pursue his interests and do things his own way that eventually enabled him to succeed.
Always one to question the meaning behind any such phrase, Seth clarifies this for us by defining “success” as the ability for him to make a living doing what he does, making him living proof of the adage, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
To what extent has Seth’s ADHD contributed towards his ultimate success? In some ways, the boundless energy and hyperactivity symptomatic of some kinds of ADHD may well have been a contributing factor, “I’m in a hurry to make mistakes and get feedback and get that next idea out there. I’m not in a hurry, at all, to finish the ‘bigger’ project, to get to the finish line.”
It’s a similar story with other well-known entrepreneurs, such as the billionaire CEO of JetBlue Airways, David Neeleman, who calls ADHD one of his biggest assets. He credits the disorder with giving him the creativity that helped him achieve his success in a highly competitive business.
Edward M. Hallowell, a well-known child and adult psychiatrist specializing in ADHD, observes that people with ADHD tend to be creative, intuitive, tenacious and high-energy. Many other successful artists and CEOs are know to have ADHD. People with ADHD can think outside of the box and are willing to take risks, which can be a vital element in successful entrepreneurism.
Although they are highly creative and often have loads of energy, many adults with ADHD struggle with prioritization, overwhelm and sustaining motivation. Dr Hallowell says that, “It’s how you manage the ADHD that determines whether it’s a gift or a curse,” and with much perseverance Seth has discovered this silver lining and has succeeded in creating for himself a unique position that allows him to turn the many challenges associated with ADHD into genuine strengths.
Creative Strategies for Success
“I’ve tried to pare down my day so that the stuff I actually do is pretty well leveraged. That, and I show up,” Seth observes; “Showing up is underrated.” Whether you have ADHD or not, if you want to achieve success, you have to show up; the world is not going to serve you success on a silver platter. The only way to travel the road of success is to harness your strengths, take the initiative, and take every failure as an opportunity to learn and try again. Seth epitomizes the effectiveness of this philosophy in his attitude towards the people with whom he deals in the business world, “I don’t think my audience owes me anything. It’s always their turn.” His refreshingly honest and direct approach to business may be seen as a weakness by some, but for him this lack of ulterior motives means he can focus on the many exciting ideas that form in his ADHD mind. “I rarely do A as a calculated tactic to get B. I do A because I believe in A, or it excites me or it’s the right thing to do. That’s it. No secret agendas.”
The impulsivity that’s symptomatic of ADHD can often result in unstable social lives for both children and adults with the disorder; however many entrepreneurs who have found success through repeated failure may never have reached where they are without this leap before you look mentality. Seth believes that we all have the potential to change the status quo and reinvent our respective fields, whether or not we have ADHD. “How many people get to go to work every day and say, ‘This might not work,’ and then go [do it]? The answer is: not enough.”
Seth is trying to sell people the joy of being able to say, ‘This might not work.’” He tells us that the ubiquitous checklist of “foolproof” steps to solve problems is “an easy sell; but it isn’t true.” More important, “it isn’t going to put a dent in the universe. The way you make something happen is to do something that a fool could screw up. These things aren’t foolproof. They are risky, scary. They require vulnerability and a willingness to be in the world.”
Success, has never offered more rewards. “We are paying people more money and giving them more freedom than ever before to make art,” he says, and of course it isn’t just artists. Entrepreneurs, marketers, crazy people who dance on street corners and anyone else who isn’t afraid to express themselves has the opportunity to find an audience, and “the sooner you deal with this and embrace it, the more likely it is that you [find] good fortune. I’m pretty sure I’m right. What I’m not sure of is how long it will take.”
In spite of his early struggles with ADHD and his numerous failures, Seth Godin never gave up, and has carved out a place for himself in the world. He is now celebrated as a creative genius with a unique perspective on life.
We can all live life by Seth’s philosophy, and this is his message to us: Face your fears. Risk failure. Struggle. Persevere.
Change the world.
Updated: 26 January 2016 by Jeremy Varnham