Do All Entrepreneurs Have ADHD?

UPDATED: July 18, 2014
PUBLISHED: July 18, 2014

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs credit their Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for their accomplishments. Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson and JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman both speak openly about their ADHD and how they wouldn’t be anywhere without the creativity, vision and ability to take risks that seem to stem from it.

Working with entrepreneurs for more than 30 years, both as a consultant and as a psychiatrist, I’ve found that people with ADHD are natural entrepreneurs. Conversely though, do all entrepreneurs have ADHD?

Related: 5 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Do on the Weekends

In my opinion, ADHD is a terrible term. As I see it, ADHD is neither a disorder, nor is there a deficit of attention. I see ADHD as a trait, not a disability. I’ve realized that a high number of entrepreneurs share many of the same traits as the ADHD patients I’ve treated, including a lust for stimulation and a willingness to take risks.

If there is one psychological characteristic above all others that defines entrepreneurs, it is what I call pop: grit combined with imagination and optimism. Entrepreneurs have pop. They never give up, they have an edge, and they believe in the pot of gold.

People with ADHD also display similar positive aspects as those of successful entrepreneurs:

-High energy
-Ability to get along with others

The most important skill successful entrepreneurs learn—by instinct, consultation, education, experience or practice—is the skill of maximizing the benefits of their assets while minimizing the internal damage. I’ve learned that what separates successful from frustrated entrepreneurs is their ability—or inability—to capitalize on this. The great entrepreneur learns how to harness and direct mental power, while the frustrated entrepreneur spends life trying to learn how. Entrepreneurs and those with ADHD who find the pot of gold are the ones who learn how to master their minds, rather than letting their minds misdirect.

“You are very lucky,” I tell entrepreneurs. “You are blessed with an extraordinarily powerful mind. You have the equivalent of a Ferrari engine for a brain. That’s why you are a major winner in the making, a potential champion. But you must address one major problem. You have the brakes of a bicycle; you have difficulty controlling the power of your brain. Sometimes it runs away with you, so you may crash into walls or fail to slow down or stop when you should. This can cost you the race.”

The key is to slow down.

When entrepreneurs learn how to slow down, they can better control the power of their brains. To slow down, ask for help, take that advice, get organized and make a plan.

When they slow down to think the project through, then their creativity, intuition, enthusiasm and turbocharged brain will generate victory upon victory.

I have worked with many entrepreneurs and helped them develop the skills that saved them from their race car brain with bicycle brakes. Structure, coupled with the entrepreneur’s innate drive, leads to focus and eventually the magic wand of peak performance.

Related: The 5 Emotional Challenges You’ll Face as an Entrepreneurs 

Tyler Hicks is a writer based in Dallas. His work has been published in Texas Monthly, the Houston Chronicle, D Magazine and The Dallas Morning News, among other publications. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading mystery novels and watching old movies with his wife.