Drinking From the ADHD Firehose

The irony of being hyperfocused on learning about ADHD is not lost on me.

In the past few weeks I have…

All of these have been interesting and had value, but it was the last one— the meetup— that really drove home my conviction that I’m on the right track in expanding my practice to an ADHD focus.

Although this event was theoretically a regular monthly occurrence, when we arrived at the private offices where it was scheduled to take place there were only a handful of us, looking around in that usual “Are you here for the thing, too?” way, with no facilitator to be found. One of the other attendees informed us that the facilitator had also not been there the month before, and without them we had no way to get in.

Well, we were not a group to be daunted or denied. Fortunately, the public library was only a few blocks away, so we retired there en masse and, with no agenda, no plan, and no real idea what we were going to do, just created our own support group.

It was a great meeting. Each of us had different experiences, different perspectives, different levels of severity and/or coping success, and different ancillary issues. One person had difficulty with regulating their emotions, and discussed how it was impacting their relationships; another, like me, had not been diagnosed until well into adulthood and had found it reframing a lifetime of struggles in school, work, and their self-esteem. A third had severe vision impairment, which had effectively masked their ADHD for most of their life because it could be so difficult to tell where one set of issues ended and another began. But everyone there was capable, empathic, and determined to make their life work.

For a coach, it was inspiring just to be among such a strong can-do spirit. For someone who spent his whole life feeling like some kind of space alien and not being able to articulate why, it was incredible to just hear the stories of shared experience.

It also made me begin to be aware of how much of a mismatch a lot of the classical tools and techniques of coaching can be for people with ADHD. Most productivity, goal-setting, and time management techniques assume a neurotypical baseline— in which a client’s behaviors are based entirely on motivation and choice, and the key to success is examining those motivations and choices to align them with goals and desires.

ADHD… doesn’t work like that. Believe me, I am as motivated to make my coaching practice work as I have ever been to do anything, but that doesn’t mean I don’t periodically look up and discover that I’ve been watching cat videos all day instead of calling people for referrals and wonder what the heck happened. I want desperately for my writing and comics to succeed, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t literally physically painful for me to work on them when I don’t want to.

I truly believe that the world needs more ADHD coaches, especially as more adults are being educated about the topic and coming to realize it’s so much more than “third grade boys can’t sit still in class.” And while my formal education on the topic catches up, I have a lifetime of experience at living ADHD to draw from and help people. So that’s what I’m going to do!

Living Up to My Reminders

I can live up to my blue china. But my inbox…?

Exploring ADHD has been quite the eye-opener for me. It’s already changed my relationship with To-Do Lists; but as I’ve gone on, I have been looking at everything in my life through new filters.

Take for example, my inbox. Just looking at what’s come in today I see:

  • A long thread from the Accomplishment Coaching registration team, any given e-mail from which is likely to take 2-3 minutes to read and delete, not to mention the emotional/cognitive load of processing the discussion
  • A paid promotional e-mail from LinkedIn
  • A small editing project for a friend, who asked me to help them with a job application cover letter
  • An e-mail from telling me about a newly-forming ADD support group that it will probably take me at least 15-30 minutes to look into and decide if it’s worth further exploration
  • An e-mail from one of my credit cards informing me of YET ANOTHER DATA BREACH that I have to look into and decide what, if anything, there is to be done about it
  • Another e-mail from LinkedIn reminding me that I haven’t answered somebody’s request for connection and don’t you feel guilty about that?
  • Yet another e-mail from LinkedIn telling me about coaching, writing, and editing jobs that I am surely the perfect candidate for
  • Same, from Glassdoor
  • An e-mail from my wife, who wants to gush over Good Omens with me by way of a Pinterest board
  • Some feedback from my writing group about the story piece I submitted for critique at our last meeting
  • Oh, and look, one from my backup service telling me that my files haven’t been backed up in over 20 days, that just came in while I was making this list

Any one of these bullets could send me down a rabbit-hole for the better part of a day. Which ones are important? Which ones can I safely ignore? Which ones will I regret ignoring? Why do I feel so guilty about having so many ignored e-mails?

And that doesn’t even begin to take into account the goals I am already trying to achieve, things that were on my list before I looked at my e-mail. How is anyone supposed to get anything done in a world like this, much less somebody a brain that struggles to not chase shiny things?

There’s no one right answer, of course; the technique I am trying today is putting these things into categories, and then giving each category a priority and block of time.

E-mails from actual people come first. So in a 15-30 minute sprint, my friend’s cover letter edits, my wife’s Pinterest invite, and the writing group feedback all get acknowledgement at the very least, and resolution if possible. Luckily, the cover letter edits are small and I can bang them out quickly. I already know that Pinterest is a minefield, so all I do is click the “Accept Invite” button and immediately close the window before I can become interested. That’s a thing I can go back to any time I want— and “Browse Pinterest for 15 minutes” is one of my go-to self rewards. Finally, the writing group feedback is too big to fit into a sprint unless I make the entire sprint about that, so I send a thank-you e-mail and put “Writing group feedback revisions” as a new “Can Do” item in my Bullet Journal for later.

The rest of the e-mails can be grouped similarly. Most of the jobs/networking stuff can either be ignored safely or put into a separate “Networking Time” sprint. The data breach e-mail is something that is either junk, or a serious issue, so I’m going to have to set it as its own sprint in a block of time carved out for the worst-case scenario. If it then does turn out to be junk that gets resolved in 5 minutes of research, Score! I have a free sprint I can dedicate to something else. Backups, same.

An hour later, more or less, and the e-mails themselves are dealt with, even if the long-term things they’re connected to may not be. An important strategy for this, however, is don’t leave my e-mail app open! More e-mails are probably coming in even as I’m dealing with the ones already sitting there; so “Reading E-mail” is its own activity that I’m only allowed to do once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once at night— otherwise, I’m never not dealing with it.

The other strategy is to constantly look for things I can unsubscribe from. This is particularly important in the world of social media. Even the best social media companies want to take advantage of my Shiny Thing Chaser Brain to drive “engagement” (i.e., ad views) and will send me tons of e-mails if I let them. The worst of them will re-subscribe you to things you’ve unsubscribed from after a while, under the guise of “new terms of service” or “a new announcements feature (that you have to opt-out of)” or whatever.

So thank you for watching out for me, LinkedIn and Glassdoor, but I don’t need any more e-mails from you telling me about all the new job postings in my area. When I’m doing my next “Look for a job” sprint? I know where to find you.

“Can Do” List

Last week a friend pointed me to an article called 3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks… and my world was rocked. Because I have all three of these — and more.

So I began researching it, and talking to my counselor who agrees, that there is an extremely high probability that I have previously-undiagnosed ADHD. I don’t mind telling you… it has been a revelation. So many things that I have for my whole life regarded as anything from “just a weird quirk” to “a major personality flaw,” I have started to understand instead as merely symptoms of a genetic variation in my brain structure.

If you have a cold, you may get annoyed that you keep sneezing, but you don’t see sneezing as some kind of personal failing. Sneezing is a symptom. The shift in personal acceptance and self-forgiveness was sudden, and profound.

And it has also opened up all kinds of new avenues of thought for me. For instance, I have for a long time been in an ongoing battle with my to-do list. Those who’ve followed my personal blogs over the years may recall that I always referred to it as my “Too Much To Do List.” And every day, at the end of the day, those three things that didn’t get finished (out of the eighteen things on the list) were always what I saw.

Because the list wasn’t completed, I felt like I had failed. One of the checked off complete items could have been “Cure Cancer” and I’d still be like “But dammit, I didn’t do the dishes.”

First, I now know this is absolutely a normal thing for people with ADHD to go through. So that makes me feel a little better.

Second, looking at this through the lens of ADHD and how to cope with it, I was wondering how I could re-frame the list to be a positive instead of a negative. Finally I realized, the true power of the list is not that these are things that must be done, but instead, it’s a menu of things I can choose from when deciding what to do next.

In short, it’s not “To Do,” it’s “Can Do.” “I have an hour before my next coaching call, what can I get done? I can post to my writing group, I can work on commissions, I can write a blog entry. Think I’ll do that one!”

And the flip side of “Can Do” something? You can also “Not Do” something! Short of a hard deadline (an appointment, a bill due, that kind of thing), everything on the list is an option I can say “yes” or “no” to. Just like Sonic the Hedgehog is not supposed to collect all the rings, the goal isn’t to clear everything off the list. The goal is to use the list as a tool for staying on track and avoid analysis paralysis. In fact, if I reach the end of the day and have everything checked off, that probably means that I didn’t have enough things on the list! Inbox Zero = Playing Small.

This line of thinking is a radical departure for me… but I’m digging it.

What about you? Is this an approach that could help you? Is there another method that you like better? I’d love to hear about it!

When I’m Not Actually Awesome

“My job is to live a great life.”

One of my mentor coaches said that during my training, and it really stuck with me. As a coach, my job is to help people make their lives better, and to do that, I have to know what a great life looks like, and feels like.

But, I am also a human being, and most human beings just can’t be great every day of every year of their life. And the past few weeks have been rough for me. I’ll spare you the details, but I have faced challenges on multiple fronts— personal, professional, and creative— and by the end of last week I was in complete meltdown mode.

And layered on top of all of that, was a new thing I have just started to recognize: the idea that people would regard me as a failure of a coach if my life wasn’t always awesome. Does Jen Sincero talk about NOT being a badass? Does Mike Dooley send Messages From the Universe In a Pissy Mood?

But here’s the truth of it: many (perhaps most) of us are drawn to coaching precisely because we do struggle, the same way many people become nutritionists or weight loss experts because they’ve had their own health problems to cope with, or people with anxiety become mental health professionals.

Myself? I have a history of chronic depression, and I suspect I may also have undiagnosed ADHD issues. (When I was in school, “hyperactivity” was just becoming a buzzword. I suspect that a few years later I would have been on Ritalin.) Growing up with extremely critical parents leaves me prone to fear of failure and rejection sensitivity. And here I am, trying to launch a coaching practice while also submitting novels to agents and keep a comic running?

I have extremely high standards for myself, apparently. The dark side of bringing the awesome, is the pressure of wanting to Be Awesome all the time, when sometimes Just Being is enough.

I just need to remind myself of that from time to time.

Coaching for Creatives Workshop

Every week I host a 90-minute videocall workshop for creative projects. Bring “a project, and a problem,” and we will randomly select two participants. Each person selected will get 45 minutes of intensive coaching and group brainstorming to help you power through whatever your block is.

The workshop will be a video call hosted on Zoom. Attendance is free, but space is limited to the first fifteen people who register each week.

Registration is done via this link!

See you Thursday!

What Is Your Essence?

Who is the Real You when all the distractions, fears, and “shoulda/coulda/woulda” factors of life are stripped away?

Do you know?

Would you like to find out?

The “essence conversation” is one of my favorite coaching tools. It’s a roughly hour-and-a-half conversation that distills your true core, your essence, to five guiding concepts. Sometimes I find that people are afraid of what they might find out… but in practice I have never once had a client discover that they were anything but amazing.

By the end of the process, we come up with five words that describe your real self. (Why five? No magic secret, just that people are generally too complex for fewer than that, and more than that creates mental clutter.) Everyone’s words are different. My essence words, as distilled by my own coach using this same tool, are:

  • exuberance
  • play
  • trust
  • connection
  • heart

When I’m stuck trying to make a decision, or working on a difficult problem, or even just feel like something is “off,” I return to my essence to help me choose what to do. I also find, when things are not working, that I’ve probably been choosing from ego or survival mechanism instead of essence — but that’s a topic for another post.

I’ve done dozens of essence conversations, and it’s always amazing. It’s where I like to start the coaching process, to create a powerful foundation for success. I also don’t charge for essence conversations, so if you’d like a taste of coaching and learn the power it can bring to your life, it’s a great way to get your feet wet. E-mail me today to schedule a call!

The New! Improved! Bringing the Awesome Website

Welcome to the new digs! I recently completed working with Braid Creative to bring together twenty years of writing, comics, and coaching under one banner, and I am very pleased with the results.

Which makes all the more ridiculous the drama I had to push myself through to get to it. >.>

Because Braid is a professional agency, they charge Professional Agency Prices — prices that set off my survival mechanism big time when they were first quoted to me. I had seen their work and I knew that they were who I wanted but… y’know… money scary. First I put off contacting them at all. Then I contacted them and backed out in a panic two weeks later when I had a slow clients month.

And then I noticed: backing out of getting the branding overhaul that I knew I wanted, made getting clients harder instead of easier. I had effectively told myself and the Universe that I wasn’t worth the investment, and if I didn’t believe I was, why should a potential client? From there, it was just a nudge away from going into a tailspin of suck, resignation, and beating myself up.

I am pleased to report, dear reader, that I didn’t go into that tailspin… but it was a near thing. Basically it took the support of my own coach, my other coachy friends, and a certain amount of mule-headed stubbornness to decide that no, I wanted to invest in myself, and especially that I was worth investing in. So after what felt like a year but was more like three or four days and angst about it, I found the money, put it in my business account so I wouldn’t use it for anything else, and called the agency to say “Let’s do this thing.”

Now the good news? I’m actually glad the delay happened, because in the intervening time I also had some major breakthroughs around figuring out what I actually wanted from my brand. Where I had originally just planned to create a look and feel for, I realized that this was a great opportunity to create an integrated new me — which is in fact Braid’s specialty. If I hadn’t had my little freakout, I would have been wasting their integration expertise by just telling part of the story.

So be grateful for your breakdowns! They may just be leading you to better things in the end!

Regeneration Season

If you’ve known me for a while, you probably know that I’ve spent the past year training with Accomplishment Coaching with an eye towards ICF certification, and that it has indeed been a long, strange trip. My finals were this past weekend, and as of this writing I don’t have my results yet, but I put in a strong effort and I’m hoping for great things.

But something I’ve become keenly aware of over the past month or so is, regardless of what grades I may or may not get, and regardless of how long it takes me to reach the criteria for certification, is the value I can bring to people as a coach, today. Something that really drove that home for me was something a client wrote for me:

“I’ll admit, I was skeptical on the concept of a life coach. I wasn’t really sure if something like that would be for me. But I gave [John] a chance and, my goodness, was I blown away. After our discussions, I realized how helpful an outside perspective was. John helped me figure out a way to get things flowing in my life in a way that actually worked. His advice, guidance, and honesty was a treasure I needed and I look forward to where I’m going to go from here.”

It took me several minutes to just sit with a thing like that. I’m still kinda verklempt about it.

So now, as my year of training nears its completion, and my clients and I take stock of where we are and where we want to go, I am present to being in the process of regeneration. Later today I am meeting with someone to help me hone in on the whole Bringing The Awesome “brand” (they’ve already helped me focus my process and distinguish my services). Later this week I’m going to starting an inventory/audit/review of my 2018 projects to see where they’ve succeeded and where they still need work, with an eye towards laying the foundations for 2019.

You can bet, I’ll be working with my own coach on these things as well! All those great things my client said about me? They’re true of my coach in spades.

Building, growing, always creating. That’s how we move forward. I am excited for the next stage of the journey!

Where are you in your journey? Creating something new? Lost in the weeds? I’d love to hear from you and talk about it!

In Which I Have No Idea What I’m Doing (But Do It Anyway)

Networking events! How do they work?

I have no idea. But I’m not gonna let that stop me.

I’m a coach. A big part of my job is getting people to take that uncomfortable step and do the thing they have no idea how to do– but if I’m gonna talk that talk, I’ve gotta walk that walk. And for me that means trading out my usual tropical shirt for a nicely pressed biz-cajh button down, wrap a tie around my neck, and head to PassionFish in Reston for a networking lunch. There I’ll meet with business owners, accountants, executives, and other high-rolling grownup types to talk up the power of coaching and invite anyone and everyone to come observe and go through our Power Tools for Living workshop.

Anyone who’s seen me up on stage or at a convention dealer table might be surprised by the idea that I’m faintly terrified by this prospect. I love talking to groups! I love to put on a show! Right?

Well, yes. But… business is, y’know, serious business. I draw silly cartoons, I make dorky faces. In a room full of high-rolling grownup types, I feel like the Alien From Planet Goof, and that’s a scary thing.

But here’s the thing: what you’re most terrified of about yourself, is also your superpower. Yes, I am the Alien from Planet Goof. But that also means I am not a corporate catchphrase clone, there to help people conceptualize their paradigms and monetize their assets. I am a real person who will tell you straight what I think. I am creative and engaging and I bring play and fun to the heavy business of making a living.

So yeah, today I’m stepping out of my comfort zone– but I’m also doing it in full ownership of my power and potential. Let’s bring the awesome!

What Are YOU Doing?

Now let’s hear from you! How are you bringing your own awesome today? How are you going to step out of your own comfort zone?

Crossing the Streams– Coaching and My Patreon

Most people who come to me looking for coaching have heard of me through my art and comics, and so like chocolate and peanut butter, I’ve decided to combine two great things that go great together! ;D By offering my coaching services on a limited basis as Patreon subscription tiers for people who may be more comfortable working that way.

Specifically, there are three Creativity Klatch seats, as well as three full coaching service openings. Both of these include a Patreon subscriber discount, as well as access to all of the lower tier benefits for people interested in my art and merchandise.

For members of the Creativity Klatch especially, this is a great deal on the “whole package.” C’mon over and let’s get started!