One of the biggest misconceptions about ADHD is that it decreases an individual’s potential for success. The reality is quite the opposite; some of the brightest minds in history have been diagnosed with ADHD. It’s important to recognize the powerful role that ADHD has played to increase creativity, positive energy, and achievement.
We’ve highlighted some leaders from all different fields and disciplines who prove that ADHD doesn’t have to be a weakness – and, oftentimes, can even be a strength.
1. Albert Einstein
Largely considered to be the most intelligent theoretical physicist in the world, Albert Einstein is one of many prominent historical figures who are believed to have had ADHD. A brilliant but often disorganized and distracted man, Einstein was known throughout his time at school for being a forgetful daydreamer. His famously uncombed hair supports this idea, but Einstein was also blessed with many of the positive symptoms that come with ADHD: creativity, hyperfocus, and an out-of-the-box ingenuity that may have played a role in the many scientific theories he discovered.
People with ADHD have an incredible attention to detail and are able to intensely concentrate on things in unique and novel ways, which makes it no wonder that this legendary thinker might have had the disorder himself. Einstein’s success is proof that no success or accomplishment is too big for the ADHD mind.
2. Walt Disney
Walt Disney – American entrepreneur, animator, and film producer – was widely believed to have ADHD due to his strong creativity, imagination, and risk-taking personality. Disney, who was a poor student and dropped out of school at age 16, quickly rose to become one of the pioneers of the animation industry through his sheer creative talent and determination. Driven by his passion for drawing, art, and film, Disney succeeded in building an empire that, even now, stands as one of the pillars of modern film.
While Disney didn’t excel at school and was rejected by the army, he put intense concentration and focus into his passion for the arts. From being the cartoonist of his school newspaper to taking night classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Disney was unparalleled in his artistic ability. Being laid off from his job at a commercial art studio didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams to open his own animation company in 1920. This admirable focus on his goals is ultimately what brought us the Disney characters we all know and love today.
3. Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson is best known for being the founder of Virgin Group, a multinational corporation that controls over 400 companies including Virgin Atlantic airlines and Virgin Mobile. Described by himself as having “no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever,” Branson dropped out of school at a young age to pursue risky business ventures that attracted his naturally entrepreneurial spirit. From starting a magazine to owning a recording studio to launching his own soft drink line, Branson is irrefutable proof that people with ADHD are more than capable of achieving their dreams.
Branson frequently credits his success to his ADHD, noting that it keeps him looking for new business opportunities constantly and willing to take risks. Rather than getting stuck on his failures, Branson’s ADHD keeps him looking forward and on the move, helping him stay on top of all of his responsibilities. While he does admit to still struggling with the disorder, his positive attitude helps turn the challenges of ADHD into advantages.
4. Michael Phelps
The most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD at age 9. A hyperactive and energetic child, Phelps’ inability to sit still or focus led to poor grades throughout his elementary school years – like many young children with ADHD, he excelled at hands-on activities such as gym classes and science experiments, but struggled with getting through reading and homework assignments. However, while his ADHD was negatively affecting his academics, it was helping him grow in another important aspect of his life: swimming.
By channeling the energy, focus, and activity of his ADHD into his passion for swimming, Phelps was able to find focus in other areas of his life. He learned to sit through classes by sitting through hours of swim meets, and learned to adhere to a more rigid schedule through his frequent and demanding swim practices. With 28 Olympic medals behind him, there’s no doubt that Phelps is one of the most respected athletes today – whether despite his ADHD, or because of it.
If interested in science, film, business, athletics, or any career in between, leaders with ADHD continue to succeed and innovate. Their roles throughout history are varied and prominent, and we can’t wait to see what ADHD minds accomplish in the future. For a full list of celebrities who thrive with ADHD, visit out blog post.
Image by D23.com