What Successful ADHDers Do…And How You Can Do It Too!

Justin TimberlakeJustin Timberlake came to Montreal over the weekend!  JT is a brilliant performer; he can sing, dance, has an incredible stage presence, and is funny and genuine.

If you are thinking that the photo was taken a long way away from the stage, you are right. It was! 15 months ago, tickets went on sale at 10 am and at 10:06, those were the best seats I could get. Crazy (in a good way) right?

Justin Timberlake has a huge fan base; the noise at the concert was insane, not from the music but from the appreciative crowd. Everyone was very happy to be there. Imagine having the power to make that many people happy by doing something you love to do.

Did you also know that JT has ADHD and OCD?

JT, like other famous or successful people with ADHD, uses it to his advantage (it take a lot of energy to perform 2 hours and 30 minutes). He focuses on what he is good at and what he enjoys doing.

Are you wondering what ‘focusing on what you are good at’ looks like for a regular person? Here is a real life example.

John (not his real name), is a client who is naturally very talented in all things technical. He has a wealth of knowledge about a particular software and is a successful consultant to business owners. John helps business owners use this software to make their business run smoothly and profitably. People love hiring him because not only can he problem solve, create big visions, set up complex things, he is also a gifted teacher and coach.

Every so often, John attends a networking meeting. Last week, John was asked if he could run the meeting, because the organizer was going to be away.

On the day of the meeting, John arrived on time but forgot to print out the itinerary to hand out to everyone like the organizer usually does. He did remember to bring snacks but forgot the soft drinks. He started to beat himself up about the things he didn’t do.

However, when the guest speaker didn’t show up, John stepped up in front of the crowded room and did a talk completely unprepared. The guest speaker was going to talk about the software John knows a lot about. So John talked about the software and he bought it to life with a case study. When he finished, he got a round of applause (the first in the history of the meeting)! Everyone at the meeting had been completely engaged with the presentation, and days later, people were still talking about it in the online forum.

When John and I talked, he told me about the event, but he was having a hard time enjoying the success, because he was focusing on the things he hadn’t done: the drinks and itinerary.

Because it was easy for him to talk about a software he loves, he wasn’t giving himself any credit for the fabulous presentation he had given with no preparation.

John isn’t alone in this. Many people with ADHD do this. They don’t give themselves credit for their successes. They discount its importance because it’s easy for them. Instead, they focus on the small things that they didn’t do. Things that other people have long forgotten (no one posted on the forum about the missing itinerary). However, when you do this, you drag yourself down and cloud your brilliance.

John, like Justin, has created a life and business focusing on his strengths and what he is good at. With a tiny of bit of fine tuning to his internal dialog, John is going to really enjoy his successes; which in turn, will lead to having more and more successful experiences!

This week, your action steps are:

1) Write down what you are naturally good at.
2) Identify which of those you enjoy doing.
3) Work out how to spend more time doing them.
4) Spend more time celebrating your successes than thinking about the small stuff.
5) Notice how much easier and fun life is!


What are you naturally good at? leave me a note in the comments section below!



ADHD and Caffeine

ADHD and CaffeineIs it ok to drink caffeine when you have ADHD?

Caffeine is a stimulant, but unlike other stimulants, such as nicotine, cocaine and prescribed meds (including ADHD medication) is widely used and socially accepted.

Caffeine, whether it’s in coffee, tea, chocolate, Coca-Cola or energy drinks, like Red Bull, all make you feel more alert, happy and energetic. This is because it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and you feel its effects in your body and brain.

Some people feel more comfortable treating their ADHD with caffeine than taking ADHD meds (but there are more cons than pros to this) and others drink caffeine to increase the effectiveness of their meds. However, most people enjoy caffeine and are wondering how much is too much…if this is you, keep reading!

There are some positive things about consuming moderate amount of caffeine when you have ADHD:

1) Helps focus and problem solving.

2) Gives you an emotional pick-me-up (thanks to the increase in dopamine production)

3) Gives you a boost of physical energy

4) Reduces sleepiness…which is so useful in the morning, if you struggle to wake up

All these benefits are great, but they are only short lasting, which is why it’s easy and tempting to reach for more when the caffeine benefits start to wear off.

The problem with too much caffeine when you have ADHD is that:

1) Caffeine can decrease the effectiveness of ADHD medication

2) It can cause negative health effects, such as headaches and nausea, but more importantly, anxiety (which 50 percent of people with ADHD have).

3) It can deplete you mentally and physically. For example, many ADDers get into bad habits with eating, (forgetting to eat, or not organizing time to prepare food) so they use coffee and sugar to keep them going all day. This causes a quick burst of mental and physical energy, but then results in a crash. To get out of the crash, you reach for more caffeine and sugar. This leaves you jittery; mentally and emotionally and physically exhausted.

4) Caffeine interferes with sleep, which is important as a staggering 75 percent of people with ADHD have problems getting a good night sleep.

You don’t have to give up caffeine completely. However, because moderation is key, here are some painless ways to reduce your caffeine intake.

1) Track (with no judgement) how many caffeine drinks you have each day.

2) Notice what it is that prompts you to have one. For example: a pick me up in the afternoon, an excuse to go for a walk, a habit, or a need to focus on a hard mental task, etc.

3) Look at this information and see if there something you could do instead of drinking caffeine that would help. If you get an afternoon slump, perhaps replace your big lunch for a smaller meal and then have an afternoon snack. If you need to go for a walk, give yourself permission to just go for a walk rather needing a reason, such as picking up coffee.

4) Are there some times when a non-caffeinated drink would be just as good? For example, whenever I sit down to write, I have this ingrained habit of sitting down with a hot drink. However, I realized it doesn’t have to be tea; sometimes, a mug of hot water is just as good.

5) Drink more water; because caffeine is a diuretic and also, when we are fully hydrated, our bodies crave less caffeine.

If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of using caffeine to treat your ADHD, check this article out: http://www.healthcentral.com/adhd/c/1443/142837/coffee-adhd-symptoms/

Cod Liver Oil vs. Omega 3 Fish Oil, Which Is Best When You Have ADHD

Omega 3 Fish OilWhen I suggest someone with ADHD take Omega 3, a common response is, ‘That’s fish oil right? Can I take cod liver oil instead?’

My standard reply is, ‘You could, but it’s not as good’.

Here’s why.

Cod liver oil

As its name suggests, cod liver oil is taken from the livers of cod fish. The collected liver oil is high in vitamins A and D. This oil has a lower concentration of Omega 3 than in Omega 3 fish oil.

Omega 3 Fish Oil

Omega 3 is fish oil is taken from the flesh of oily fish like mackerel, herring and salmon. Because the oil comes from the flesh, not the liver, they have 3 times the amount of DHA and EPA. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are the long chain omega-3 that have the important health benefits. Vitamin A and D are not found in this oil.

You’ve probably heard horror stories from your Grandma about how she was made to take cod liver oil on a spoon when she was young. Even though that doesn’t sound pleasant cod liver oil is not really bad. In fact, if nothing else was available, it would make a good plan B. However, as an adult with ADHD, increasing the amount of EPA and DHA is a great way to help your ADHD. They improve your memory, focus, concentration and happiness levels, which is why Omega 3 fish oil should always be your first choice.

Also because cod liver oil contains vitamins A and D, and large amounts of vitamin A can be toxic, it is not safe to take large amounts of cod liver oil.

Exercise and ADHD

Exercise and ADHDTo the average adult with ADHD exercise takes a back seat to almost all other activities. Work, family and friends, errands, sleep and even housework! These activities are important, however so is exercise. Exercise not only helps the longevity of your body, but it helps reduce some of the negative effects of ADHD too. For example, exercise improves your attention, mental focus, memory, mental stamina and allows you to expend pent up energy. Dr Hallowells says  “Exercise stimulates epinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, like meds. So exercising is like taking meds for ADHD in a holistic, natural way”.

So what can you do to make sure exercise is part of your daily life? As well as choosing a form of exercise that is fun for you and one that is convenient, a powerful way is to look to those people who you admire and are inspired by. Perhaps your favourite sports personality or someone who you know personally. There is one particular example of someone we all know who I find very inspiring and that is Barack Obama.

On the 4th of November 2008, the eyes of the world were on America and its election day. Barack Obama made history by becoming the first African American president. His political views, beliefs and sincerity resonated with millions worldwide. It was a huge day for him and his young family. Over two years of hard work on the campaign trail culminated on this day. We can only imagine the intense emotions he must have felt. That evening when the results were official, he stood in front of 125,000 people in Chicago and gave a speech that brought people to tears and gave people goose bumps all around the world. I am guessing he didn’t get much sleep that night.

Do you know what Barack did around 6 am the morning of the 5th of November? After this momentous day? He went to the gym. Then he put on a suit and started his day.

Now if anyone could excuse themselves from a visit to the gym that day, it would have been Barack Obama. Some thoughts that might have popped into his mind: I am too tired, too busy, I have just been voted the next president of the United States! Even if those excuses did come to his mind, he went to the gym anyway.

What can you do to make sure you exercise regularly?

  1. Make exercise part of your daily routine so that it would be just as hard not to exercise as not brush your teeth at night.
  2. Think of who inspires you to exercise and use them as a motivation to get you moving.
  3. Give yourself a healthy reward after you exercise.
  4. Next time an excuse pops into your head about not exercising, think of Barack.
  5. Notice and enjoy the benefits that exercise has on your ADHD.

ADHD and Dopamine

ADHD and DopamineDid you know that the brain of a person with ADHD doesn’t produce as much dopamine as someone without ADHD? This shortage affects the anterior frontal cortex part of the brain and impacts attention and focus and impulsivity, mood, and motivation…core symptoms of ADHD.

The way ADHD medications work is by positively affecting dopamine levels. For example, Ritalin and Adderall work by blocking dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake so the dopamine that is produced stays in the synapse for longer. Adderall causes more neurotransmitters to be produced.

When your brain doesn’t have enough dopamine, it craves it. You might find yourself driven to do activities that aren’t particularly healthy, like overeat on carbs, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, drive fast, have extramarital affairs, over spend or take street drugs.

However, there are things you can do to increase the levels of dopamine in your brain in a healthy and natural way.

1) Exercise

When you exercise your brain produces more dopamine. Find an exercise you love and do it every day.

2) Take Omega 3

Omega 3 increases your levels of dopamine. Take a supplement as well as including more Omega 3 rich foods in your diet.

3) Meditate

When you meditate you also increase your dopamine levels.

4) Vitamin C

Include lots of Vitamin C in your diet. Vitamin C is very helpful in ensuring the dopamine synapses is working well.

5) Eat foods that raise dopamine levels contain the amino acid phenylalanine, once eaten the body converts it to tyrosine and then tyrosine manufactures dopamine. Include beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, nuts and seeds in your diet as these are all good sources of phenylalanine.

6) Your body needs iron and vitamin B6 to convert food from phenylalanine to dopamine. So get your iron levels tested by your doctor, if they are low ask about taking a supplement. In one study researchers found that 84% of the children with ADHD had an iron deficiency, so it’s worth finding out.

7) Sleep

When you sleep you don’t use much dopamine, which means your dopamine levels increase overnight ready for the new day.

8) Reduce stress… stress depletes dopamine.

ADHD Productivity Tip: How To Stop Waiting For The 11th Hour To Get Things Done

How To Stop Waiting For The 11th Hour To Get Things DoneAs an adult with ADHD you probably wait till the 11th hour to start working on a project. Then with the deadline so close, you have no choice, but to sit down, focus and work on it. There is no time to procrastinate, get distracted, or wait till  you feel inspired, you just have to get it done. There’s a sense of urgency, you are racing against the clock, and you are doing what needs to be done. Even though you are pleased with your progress it is stressful. You aren’t totally sure you will  make the deadline; (even though you do) you work through the night, cancel social arrangements, and barely have time to eat. When you hand in the project, you breathe a sigh of relief, feel victorious and vow never to let that happen  again. You really mean it! However, when the next project is assigned to you, you feel it hanging over you, but just can’t bring yourself work on it…until the 11th hour.

This is very common when you have ADHD, and it happens whatever age you are, from students to 60 year old CEO’s.

One strategy (that rarely works) is to break the project down and give yourself little deadlines along the way. In theory, this is great; you definitely work well when you have a deadline. In practice, it doesn’t work; you know those deadlines  you made for yourself are not ‘real’ and don’t count.

However, there is a help, and it comes from Jerry Seinfeld.

Jerry realized he came up with his best jokes when he spent time writing every day. However, forcing himself to write every day wasn’t easy. So he created a simple system that would motivate him to spend 1 hour a day writing. On days he  wrote, he put red cross on a wall calendar. After a few crosses he became motivated to see the calendar fill with red. He didn’t want to break the chain of crosses so he kept writing. This strategy now has a life of its own its called ‘Don’t break the chain’.

‘Don’t break the chain’ is very effective for ADHD adults because takes emphasis off deadlines, that you might forget or procrastinate over. Instead it focuses on consistent daily effort. This might feel strange at first, but it really helps in   11th hour panic. It also gives self confidence because you know will be able to get the important things done.

Below are some tips to get started:

1) What one action a day would make a huge difference in your life? Jerry’s was writing, what is yours?

2) Print out your calendar http://budurl.com/8lpk.

3) Post it on your wall and put a red pen nearby.

4) You can use this method for more than one area of your life. However, for the best success rate start with one and you can add another after a month.

5) Good luck…and remember don’t break the chain!

Why Happiness = Success When You Have ADHD

ADDers are very hard on themselves. They are always feeling ‘less than’. Rather than acknowledge what they did today and feel good about it, they focus on the long list of what they haven’t done yet. However, if you think like that, not only does it affect your self-esteem and confidence, it also lowers your energy and makes you miserable and sad.

Instead, if you allow yourself to feel pride in what you HAVE done, today, this week, month, year, this lifetime, then you will feel energized happy and can get more ‘done’ (Of course there is lots more to life than what you accomplish, but that’s another article!)

While I knew this to be true, I only had anecdotal evidence, based on myself and clients. That all changed when a client sent me this video, because it reminded her of the work we had been doing together.


Shawn Anchor says we need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. The current formula is that most people live by is ‘the harder I work the more successful I will be and the more successful I am the happier I will be.’

BUT, this model is flawed, because every time we have a success we change the goal post.

You have good grades, but now you have to get better grades. You have a good job, now you have to get a better job. “If happiness is on the opposite side of success your brain will never get there. We have pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon and that is because we have to be successful and then we will be happy’.

In the video, Shawn explains that our brains work in the opposite order of society’s success formula.

For example, if you are feeling happy and positive in the present, then the performance of your brain improves, your intelligence, energy and creativity are all increased.

AND it gets better… when your brain is in a positive gear, it is 31% more productive, 37% better in sales and doctors are 19% faster at making an accurate and quick diagnoses.

So, make yourself a cup of tea, and relax because you are in for a treat. As well as being informative and wise, Shawn Anchor is a very funny presenter.

ADHD and Fun

Life must be lived as play” ~Plato

It’s well known that play and having fun is a vital part of a child’s development. A little less known is that having fun is very beneficial both mentally and physically for adults. For example, in relieving stress (with the release of endorphins)  and boosting the immune system. Yet having fun as an adult is sort of frowned on and viewed as lazy and ‘slacking off’ the important business of being an adult. This resistance is amplified among ADHD adult population. As they feel there is  so much they ‘should’ being doing, like decluttering, paying the bills or any task on their long to do list that they don’t deserve to have fun. You can’t postpone having fun until the ‘hard stuff’ is out of the way because hard stuff will always be  there.

Making fun a top priority in your life is vital when you have ADHD. This is why it’s the 10th step in my book, Untapped Brilliance. After spending time enjoying yourself, you are energized, motivated and inspired to do the ‘important’ things.  You can cross things off your to do list much faster when your batteries are recharged.  When you work hard and play hard you will notice benefits such as feeling happier, energetic, more focused, increased confidence, and increased productivity.

Do you enjoy having fun? It's surprising how many people don't, or don't know how. Yet fun, is vital to happy healthy life. THere are 5 suggestions to include more fun into your life:

1) First think of what you like to do for fun. If you honestly don’t know, think back to what you enjoyed when you were younger. That will be a good starting place.

2) Be open to trying new things. Look in your local paper for ideas and listen to what activities your friends are doing. If you aren’t sure if you will like it, try it once and then decide.

3) Have a range of activities that can be done with people and alone, that vary in time, from a few minutes to a whole day. That are passive (watching a movie), active (hiking) creative (crafts, decorating).

4) Remember everyone has different ideas of what is fun for them. Don’t be swayed by what other people think is fun. It has to be fun for you.

5) If have fun is a scary concept, gradually build ‘fun’ into your life. However start this process today!

Can you have ADD and ADHD?

ADHD ADDCan you have ADD and ADHD? Great question! The short answer is no; it isn’t possible to have ADD and ADHD as both terms describe the same condition.

However you can have ADHD-Combined Type: Where characteristics of both inattentive and hyperactive / impulsivity are present.

There is a lot of confusion around this topic, so let’s explore it a little deeper.

Because there has been a lot research in the last few decades about ADHD, its official name has changed over time to reflect this new knowledge. However, it’s these name changes that are the reason for the confusion.

Here is the historical timeline of those changes:


ADD: described a person who had Attention Deficit Disorder.

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder described someone who also experienced hyperactivity.1987

ADHD is used for anyone who was diagnosed with what was previously ADD and ADHD.


ADHD is divided into 3 subtypes:

ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive Type: characterized by mainly inattention; people who have problems focusing, completing tasks, are easily distracted and seem forgetful, disorganized, and careless.

ADHD-Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: characterized mainly by hyperactivity and impulsivity. Paying attention is not a major problem; however, you might seem to act and speak before thinking; have lots of energy and always on the go.

ADHD-Combined Type: Characteristics of both inattentive and hyperactive / impulsivity are present. It is the most common type of ADHD. Between two thirds and three quarters of people diagnosed with ADHD,have the characteristics of inattentive and hyperactive / impulsivity ADHD.

I think most of the confusion stems from the memory of the 1980 definition of ADHD. For example, if someone was diagnosed today with ADHD-Combined Type, but used the 1980’s description of ADHD,then it would seem you have both ADHD and ADD.

Even though ADHD is now the official title and ADD / ADHD are the same thing, confusion is made worse because many people, professionals and medical journals use the terms ADD and ADHD interchangeably. This reinforces the idea that they are separate conditions. In addition, people who were diagnosed in the early 1980′s with ADD, identify strongly with that term not ADHD, since in their mind, it would mean they had hyperactivity.

It‘s good to have facts so things are clear in your mind. However, to quote Juliet from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”



How do I maintain focus in a high stress work environment?

How do I maintain focus in a high stress work environment?First it’s important to take care of yourself with the first 5 steps of Untapped Brilliance.
This means, taking Omega 3 supplements, exercise regularly, eat a healthy ADHD diet, daily meditation and get enough sleep.

People find this a boring answer, as it is information they have heard before and they were hoping for something new and sexy. However, the reason you have heard about these things before is because they work!

These actions provide you with strong and solid foundations. A building with strong foundations can survive adverse weather conditions. In contrast, a building whose foundation is weak or non-existent will crumble with a slightest puff of wind. When you take care of yourself with those 5 steps you will find you are able to focus, concentrate and emotionally able to handle your high stress work environment.

There are other things you can do too when you are actually at work:

1) Take breaks. If you are busy and stressed you think that working through your breaks will help. It doesn’t. Breaks help you to be   focused and on top of your game when you return.

2) Be in the moment. I know this sounds hard, but when you are mindful and focus on the task you are doing at that given moment, you will feel grounded and centered. You will get a  sense of job satisfaction and if at a later point you question if you did it or to a good standard, you will know you did.

3) Positive Affirmation. Have a positive affirmation that you repeat to yourself in times of stress. It doesn’t matter what that is, so long as it makes you feel good. A few examples would be…’I am doing really well’ ‘I work well in a busy environment’ ‘I am focused and grounded’

When you talk to yourself calming, kindly and positively you will notice a big difference on your physical performance.

Celebrate Your Talents

As an adult with ADHD, it is very easy to focus on your weaknesses and areas “to be worked on.” So much thought can be given to these areas that it’s easy to forget about your talents. Many adults with ADHD are humble to a fault and dismiss their talents because they come so easily. Naturally, they don’t feel they can be proud of these traits, or that they aren’t valuable. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you notice what you are good at, you can spend more time utilizing your strengths and less time worrying about your weaknesses.

Just like adults without ADHD, there are many strengths you might have. Here are just five examples of things that might resonate with you.

  1. High EnergyIf you have the hyperactivity component of ADHD, it might have diminished a little compared to when you were a child, but it’s way more than most people! When channeled on one project, you can work for hours and in a way that leaves people without ADHD both exhausted and in awe of you.
  2. HyperfocusWhen something captures your attention, you can focus on it for hours. The ability to mentally tune out distractions and become so focused means you can get a lot done, as well as have a huge sense of satisfaction afterwards. This is similar to what Czech psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “Flow.” Time disappears and your actions flow from you.
  3. CreativityYou think outside the box and aren’t constricted by the “norm” and what has traditionally been done. This can be great in any situation, from an office brainstorming session to decorating your house to creating a new invention that can positively change the world.
  4. Sense of HumorAs an adult with ADHD, there is a high chance that you have a good sense of humor. Humor comes in many packages: loud, boisterous Jim Carey types or quieter, witty types. Finding humor in everyday situations makes the world a happier place. People with ADHD often have a ready smile and can be funny as well as appreciative of other people’s humor.
  5. SensitivityAdults with ADHD tend to be a sensitive bunch. Sensitivity is not a trait that is glorified in our culture, but it is a wonderful quality. It means you can easily relate to other people, have a natural empathy to how they are feeling and are able to act accordingly. It also means that you are a good judge of character, which in turn has many benefits too.

This Weeks Actions

  1. What talents come easily to you? Remember, they might be so effortless to you that you don’t value them. If you aren’t sure, ask close friends and family to help you identify them.
  2. For each of the five points above, ask yourself:
    • Is this a trait I have?
    • When have I noticed/experienced it recently?
    • How could I maximize this trait and use it more to my advantage?
  3. Notice how your life becomes more enjoyable and effortless when you work with your strengths.