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Kevin Lawrence on the Gifts of ADD-Triangles In A World of Circles

Kevin Lawrence here, and today I want to share with you a fascinating conversation I had with a young teenager around ADD and dyslexia. In the world that I work, with entrepreneurs, and leaders, ADD is one of these things that’s extremely common but often not really talked about. It’s one of these things that people aren’t advertising the fact that they might have ADD or dyslexia. Yet, it turns out some of the most high-performing leaders I work with have ADD, regularly. And dyslexia is quite common, particularly in entrepreneurs.


So I was having a conversation with Devon. He was 17 at the time. He was the son of one of my clients who had really struggled with ADD and dyslexia in school. We’re sitting in a cafe having a conversation, and we’re talking about it. I wanted to understand, from his perspective, what it was like at school.


As we were talking, we came up with this brilliant metaphor that kind of described his experience. It was interesting, because it related a lot to conversations I have with executives and what they need to do to create high performance in their world.


Really, what Devon was saying is that his teachers tried to help him in school, but because his teachers didn’t understand him, it’s almost like they would yell at him, or raise their voice. It sounded like they were yelling at him. Every time they tried to help, it actually hurt, and made the problem worse.


The conversation was his teachers weren’t bad people. They just didn’t understand because they came from a context more like a circle — a regular, well rounded person, which many teachers would be, and lots of people in the world are.


The problem is Devon is more like a triangle. He’s a different kind of person. But a circle person doesn’t understand a triangle, and therefore it’s hard for them, no matter how good their intent, for them to help.


It was interesting. We were in a Starbucks Cafe, and we got this metaphor because the table we were sitting at was a round table, and it had a triangle cut into the table. That’s where the metaphor came from.


The conversation I had with Devon, as I was kind of helping him with this, is really that the truth is, in society, our tendency is to take triangles and try to make them into circles. And that’s what really messes up people who are different: high performers or people that have ADD or dyslexia.


The conversation with him was his teachers have a great intent. But they don’t understand him and how to leverage his abilities. Really what Devon needs to focus on is to be a better triangle, same with lots of leaders; just focus on your strengths and be a better version of that.


Then with these areas that are missing to make you a well rounded person, that’s where you delegate. You work on a team. You hire people or get other people to help you with it, and that’s how people can be high performing.


If you look at real high performers that have ADD or dyslexia, they are amazing triangles. They’ve learned to embrace it, and they stop trying to fix these things that are different about them. Instead, they outsource, hire, or delegate those parts of their life or work, and they usually become higher performing individuals than your regular, well rounded circle.

Kevin Lawrence and Devon Bennett Discuss the Gifts of ADD

Devon: I’m Devon.
Kevin: And I’m Kevin Lawrence. And today we’re going to be here talking about the gifts of ADD and dyslexia. And I’m going to share a little model with you and Devon that I find really fascinating. It helps to understand where the gifts are in this thing that other people tend to look at as being problems or issues.


If you look in life, the whole dea in life is that we are intended — or society and people kind of want us to be really well rounded people. For people that have a brain that works in a “normal” way, it makes sense to be well rounded. You can be good at math, and science, and football, and soccer, and spelling, and doing your chores, and remembering things.


But some of us have slightly different brains. If we try to be perfectly well rounded people, it ends up being really messy and painful. The way that I look at it is that people that have things like ADD, dyslexia, and different types of brains, they’re actually more like triangles.


As a triangle, they’re really, really, good at these things, but over here, not so good. Sometimes you might say really bad, or other words. The idea is that for people that have that kind of a brain, this thing called reading, or numbers, or being neat like me, these things aren’t that great. Or even being forgetful.


There’s certain areas we’re not good at, and the way our brain is wired, we actually may not be good at those things. The challenge is that in the classroom and in society, what do your teachers tell you?


Devon: They want you to be good at everything.
Kevin: They want you to be good. And they’re doing the right thing, they’re trying to make you to be a better student, to be able to get a good job, go to university. Their intent is great.


Devon: Yes.
Kevin: The problem is it doesn’t matter how hard you try. If you’re a 3 out of 10 at reading, you might get to a 5 or a 6 out of 10. But if it’s not your thing — for me, it’s spelling and being neat. I still have a heck of a time, in my 40s, heck of a time with it. No matter how hard I try, my brain is wired differently.


The idea is if we put most of our energy into this triangle, and energy into the things that we are already really, really good at, then we can thrive. Remember when teachers and other people in society are saying yeah, but you have to be really good in here (numbers), I just would like to finish the sentence for them in my mind:  you have to be really good at this, if you want to be a perfectly well rounded person.


Instead, what we want to aspire to is to be a better triangle. Don’t bother trying to be a circle. If I look in my own world, there’s lots of executives and leaders that I work with, this is called delegating. If you’re not very good at being neat, then you have someone on your team or a person that’s neat. If you’re not great with numbers, you have a person around you who’s great with numbers. That’s why doing work in projects is great. Does this make sense?


Devon: Yeah, surround yourself with people who are good at those things. You’re good at these other things, and you do the things you’re good at.


Kevin: Exactly, and the biggest thing in all this is it’s permission for yourself not to have to be spectacular here. Invest at least 80% of your energy into being a better triangle. Do put some energy in — I used to try to be neater. I just focus on being a better triangle. I focus on being a better problem solver and better communicator. Then the neatness is okay as it is. Does that make sense?


Devon: Yeah.
Kevin: Cool.

Kevin Lawrence Introduces GiftADD

Hi, I’m Kevin Lawrence. I’m a coach for CEOs and executives. I want to talk a bit about ADD and dyslexia with you today.
In my work with really high-performing executives and leaders, particularly with entrepreneurs, I see a lot of people with challenges with ADD and dyslexia — a lot. Interestingly, with a lot of people that I work with, I find that even executives in their 30s, 40s, and 50s may actually have ADD, and have not realized it. And many have dyslexia and have hidden it.


I’ve kind of learned, through my work, to actually ask questions upfront to assess whether those things may be there. They’re usually very shy or hesitant to mention it because in society when you say, “Hey, I’ve got ADD,” or “I’ve got dyslexia” people don’t usually say, “Wow! That’s awesome.”
Actually, that’s my goal. My goal is to get people to say wow, that’s awesome. I wish I had that, which isn’t really quite the case today.


What I’ve noticed, when working with clients of mine, is that often the conversation shows up through their kids. They’ll be talking about one of their kids and the challenges that kid is having in school, or with some area of their life, and that’s where we end up talking about ADD and/or dyslexia.     Time after time, after this conversation dozens of times, a lot of the challenge is their parent getting their head around it so they can be helpful to their kids. The most common scenario I see is “My kid has ADD” or “my kid has dyslexia. We have to do every single thing to get him through school so they can go to university.”


My question is why? If your child has a brain that’s not naturally wired for books, and reading, and writing, and that type of thing, why would you push them into an environment that’s all about books, and reading, and writing? That’s probably not what they’re made for. That’s probably not what they’re intended for.     Yet, that often becomes a challenge; they feel because of the way society is that that’s what we are all supposed to do.


A classic example is one person I was working with; their child is extremely gifted in the area of creativity and video production. Incredibly creative, and even to the point where they’ve been offered opportunities with GoPro®, which is a company that many of us know. They were trying to get their child on a track to university. I’m saying why?


If I get back to the root of the challenge, we have this built-in belief in our society that you go to school, finish your schooling, go to university, and then you get a great job. That’s true for some percentage of people, maybe half of the people, or twenty to thirty percent. But the people that I’m passionate about helping are these people who have gifted abilities in leadership, and creativity, and making crazy things happen in this world.


University and some types of formal education would kill their spirits because they would struggle. I’m about getting the best education you can, but the bigger thing I’m passionate about is getting people to realize if they are gifted with this thing called ADD, or dyslexia, that there’s probably a different path. And the “conventional” wisdom probably is going to crush your spirit.


You need to look at things a little differently if you want to find a way to take these gifted people and have them have a life where they can really make a difference in our world. We need a lot of people to help make a difference in our world.


That’s me, and I hope that you’ll watch the rest of these videos and resources that we share over the next few months, to try and create a movement about people getting to the point that when someone does share that they have ADD or dyslexia people are like “Wow! I wish I had that too.” Have a good day.