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November 13, 2020
by Tina Arnoldi

Having ADHD May Increase Entrepreneurial Behavior

November 13, 2020 08:27 by Tina Arnoldi  [About the Author]

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on UnsplashA new study in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice suggests that problems with sleep quality (and potentially quantity) predict forward-looking entrepreneurial intentions. Lack of sleep may result in shifting attention spans and hyperactivity - both behaviors of ADHD. The hypothesis is these behaviors are connected to an increase in entrepreneurial activity.

One example of this may be Noah Kotlove, who started his first company at age 24. He found the standard work environments in his first jobs after college didn’t suit his personality and working style. Several years later, he was diagnosed with ADHD. Kotlove said, “My sleep quality and quantity has been consistently low for most of my adult life, and I do the most impactful work on my entrepreneurial endeavors during sleepless nights or mornings.”

James Major, owner of Insurance Panda, views his ADHD as a competitive advantage because it provides hyperfocus. This is how he was able to work 14-16 hour days when starting a business. He said, “Where other people would get tired and burnout, I do not. I have an obsession with my business where I work on it every day for long stretches without rest.”

The benefits may extend beyond how much work gets done. Designer Pablo Solomon defines himself as “a poster boy for ADHD,” and sees benefits of it for creativity. He explains, “Because people with ADHD tend to sleep less and their minds race with sleepless nights, they tend to come up with a lot of ideas--some good, some not so great. They also make creative connections; their minds are not so disciplined and they think out of the box.”  

While Milosz Krasinski, MD with Chilli Fruit Web Consulting, believes it’s important to separate ADHD from insomnia, like Solomon, he sees a connection with creativity and production. Krasinski said, “This link interests me because I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and launched my successful business at a young age as I tended to constantly hit with new ideas. As somebody who also suffers from bouts of insomnia, I’ll often work long into the night - which is why my clients often receive emails from me at unholy hours. “

Psychiatrist Jared Heathman, MD notes the symptoms of ADHD include impulsivity, carelessness, and distractibility which are not ideal qualities in an employee. However, he does see benefit to these qualities for entrepreneurs. “You don't have the finances to hire someone to do everything,” said Heathman, “so being stimulated by different tasks is a positive. You can put energy in one area and then switch to another as you are juggling many roles as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs also need to adapt quickly. When you are forced to change, you need some impulsive traits.The positive characteristics of an entrepreneur are very enticing to those with ADHD. You can enjoy a multitude of stimuli, constantly change your role, and look for ways to improve.”

But not everyone believes there are benefits to limited sleep, such Chris Norris, Certified Sleep Science Coach and founder at Sleep Standards  He agrees that lack of sleep may spur entrepreneurial intentions, but it could hinder entrepreneurial success. He said, “a lack of sleep negatively affects your physical health, mental abilities, and emotional state. It impairs entrepreneurial skills such as concentration, creativity, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. As a mental health professional, I emphasize how vital enough sleep is to our physical health and mental health.”

There is still a trend for entrepreneurs to talk about how they never sleep and how successful that makes them, but Nelson Sherwin, Manager of PEO Companies, believes those are exceptions. “The human brain needs sleep to function properly,” stressed Sherwin. “Constant fatigue fueled by too much coffee gives you the illusion that you’re at peak creativity and energy, when really, you’re barely functioning and on the verge of crashing constantly. My best ideas and my best work have always come from being rested. That allows my creative juices to flow freely and help me make my best decisions. “

Hosea Chang, COO of Hayden Los Angeles, has a different perspective about the need for sleep. He explains, “Your brain is bursting with ideas and sleeping wastes time when you could work. It makes it difficult to lay down and shut down when you know how much you can do with that time. I always want to maximize productivity and stretch my time as much as possible. I have had plenty of nights where I laid down to sleep, but couldn’t, so I just gave up and went back to work. I’ve discovered that I focus even better at night, because it’s quiet and there are no distractions. I came up with some of our most successful concepts and ideas during a sleepless night like this, so I would never trade all those valuable hours for sleep. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Even those who are proponents of limited sleep and believe in the benefits of ADHD are susceptible to burnout. Ross Quade, co-owner of Prime Mutualdescribes ADHD as his superpower and occasional kryptonite. “While I'm interested in something, I will work around the clock and my focus is completely Undeterred,” said Quade. “I forgo eating, sleeping, and socializing I don’t miss a minute of my current passion. But eventually and inevitably, I burnout.” Krasinski feels the same, “Although both of these conditions contribute to my productivity, this needs balance with periods of proper downtime to avoid exhaustion and burnout.”

About the Author

Tina Arnoldi

Tina Arnoldi, MA is a business consultant and freelance writer in Charleston SC. She has reviewed books for PsychCentral and has a portfolio on Contently. You can learn more about her and connect at TinaArnoldi.com


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