Is a character flaw an enabler or disabler

I have my fair share of flaws and all of you reading this do to.  The greatest professional gift that I was ever given was from my previous job where I was under the microscope each and every day and was “reviewed” by my peers and direct managers multiple times a month.  It gave me a distinct understanding of my own shortcomings, helped me improve, and ultimately gave me a thick skin.  Most of my biggest issues flow directly from a condition known as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) that I’ve had since I was a young child.  As I’ve learned about myself, I’ve also learned to control many of the negative effects and have come to view my condition as an enabler of my success and not a disabler as most people do.  If you follow a strategy that plays to your strengths and pair with people that have the exact opposite strengths it produces a powerful combination.  Let me explain.

Since I was a young child I was the kid with too much energy and too little patience and focus.  Unlike many of you, my thoughts are not linear.  My mind jumps extremely quickly from one thing to another which makes doing things that require attention to detail very difficult.  The jumping is not illogical, its just takes a different path than most people think along.  For instance, if we are talking about a business concept I’ll likely be thinking about your company and a few others that have related underlying concepts.  Clearly I miss some of the details and thats a distinct weakness.  On the flip side, it makes me really good at brainstorming, comparative analysis and creative problem solving.  I don’t need a lot of explanation to get the point, in fact I usually get it far before its made and so I’ll sometimes be an interrupter.  Waiting around for a point I already understand doesn’t work for me.  Is that presumptuous to assume I understand what people are talking about? Probably, but after 27 years of experience I’d say I usually have the point correctly.

The hyperactivity part of the disorder gives me a distinct preference for trying things versus thinking them through.  I do things twice as fast as most people but also screw up twice as often. At the end of the day its usually the exact same outcome and time as someone using a more step-by-step approach.  Most people say that my approach is wrong, that I should correct it.  My old managers always brought up mistakes I made with details.  What I’ve found is that when I pair my impulsive doing tendencies with someone like Chad who is a deliberate thinker we tend to get things done super quickly and without major mistakes.  A great example of this is when Chad and I put together a ceiling fan.  He immediately started reading the directions while I had already started putting in the screws.  As I made mistakes he would point them out and we’d move on.  It worked pretty damn well, and that fan went up super quickly.  So is this flaw a disabler? I’d argue no if you understand it and correct by pairing with someone who is a thinker.

Its obvious that in many environments my flaws would be crippling and probably inhibit professional and personal advancement. In my previous job, I was acutely hiding certain character traits and not acting myself in order to advance.  One of the unspoken reasons of moving to Boulder and getting into the startup world was my belief that this environment and profession plays to (and values) my specific strengths.  At the end of the day, everyone has different issues to to contend with and how we choose to face them and leverage them has a direct impact on our happiness and success.  Do any of you have “flaws” you consider to be enablers in some sense?

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Is a character flaw an enabler or disabler

5 thoughts on “Is a character flaw an enabler or disabler

  1. Great post Joel. Self awareness is an incredible gift and strength. We should all get to know ourselves better so we can adapt to situations where we are inherently designed to succeed or fail. Turning the situations where you might fail into successful situations is key.

  2. I totally agree. Like you, I’m not a logical thinker. Lots of people I know ask (only half joking) if I’ve been checked for ADD. But I like my personality. It fits my role in my company. My business partner Kevin is very logical. When you put two very different minds together a lot of quality ideas form that would be impossible without the two halves (along with a few arguements). Great post Joel!

  3. Linda says:

    Hey, Joel,
    Loved your post. I so see so much of myself in your words. I see my sons also. =)

    My gift is an enabler. I decided to go into teaching which works out great because I have more energy than my students and I am able to use my creativity. Switching between tasks is very difficult for me though and I find myself racing to get to or finish things. But, I make it a point to chant with my kids “no one’s perfect, not even me.” I may not be a video game, but I have no problem getting and holding my students’ attention… Even those with ADHD like me.

    The best thing is that I usually have 98% success with my students’ performances. I’m too doubtful to say 100%, but 100% of my students scored proficient on their last major standardized test… Even the ones who struggled.

  4. Kara says:

    Great column. I 100% identify. Also it took me a long time to realize the brain random thoughts concept. In a discussion, I tend to have so many multiple thoughts that one is halfway formed then another presents itself and takes over.

    my thoughts are strewn in a random way that is very interconnected to me. I always seem to be able to come back full circle to the first topic of the conversation–but that gets confusing for logical, linear thinkers that haven’t quite caught up.

    I’m in a science-related field so I find that my college courses and training have helped me improve my logic skill set.
    When you mentioned that the ADHD can make you an “interrupter”, I can also identify with that. during internships I’ve had conflicts with my managers and bosses due to the fact that when I have an idea it just tends to pop out rather than waiting until they have finished.
    thanks for writing this and making me feel a little better about what I deal with every day 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Kara! I’m so glad that you can relate to the post, it makes me feel great that I’ve been able to sum up how we feel in such an outlet.

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