Fitting tools to brains

I was somewhere in my mid to late 40s when I worked out that I had ADD. At that point I had a degree in Statistics, an MBA, a doctorate in organizational design, and was a co-founder of a successful consulting firm. I was also seriously depressed.

The simplest explanation was that I was simply the latest example of the Peter Principle; I had finally been promoted to my level of incompetence. Even it that were true, it wasn’t a conclusion I wanted to accept. I sought professional help.

I had worked with therapists before over issues of the heart and my role in failed relationships. Now we were taking a look at performance. I began to dig into the literature and to work with therapists who specialized in ADD. We experimented with the common medications None proved helpful.

ADD/ADHD is a bit of an umbrella term. My issues are not with attention deficits, they are with attention management. I tend to oscillate between boredom and hyperfocus. These states are triggered by my own interests and priorities. I am often oblivious to social cues and constraints on what I ought to be focused on and when. Put me in the right environment and hyperfocus is a superpower not a handicap. In the wrong environment the situation can reverse.

I’m not going to change how my brain is wired.

What I can potentially manage is my environment. Some of that entails choosing environments with an eye towards how they interact with my wiring. Whether I suffered or thrived was a function of how well my brain meshed with my environment. By happenstance and circumstance I had stumbled through a series of environments that played to my strengths. Could I make that something more intentional than accidental?

What can I do to make any given environment a better match to my wiring? This is the real promise hiding in the ferment of today’s technology. I say hiding because the creators of technology are pursuing as large a market for their wares as they can imagine. The notion that any one neurodivergent brain might craft its own fit between brain and environment is foreign. You have to learn to ignore 99% of the marketing pitches, which are all about fitting yourself into the norm envisioned by some product manager.

Your task is to adapt the tools to your brain, not your brain to the tools.

2 thoughts on “Fitting tools to brains”

  1. I was hoping you would offer some practical guidance or examples of how you have shaped your environment to your strengths and weaknesses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.