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The ADD Advantage

By December 20, 2014Blog

“Coop, get me the f*@&^! out of the education system!” was how it started, four years ago.

We’d been researching ways to help kids with autism and ADHD since our very first day in business in 2005.  Now that it was coming to a head with our IgniteGym program, we were suffering from a severe case of “hurry up and wait.”

Tyler is an amazing teacher. But he was bound by the rigorous confines of the educational system.  Instead of teaching CrossFit and Paleo and Primal, he was forced to gag up the dry dust of the old Food Pyramid and Cardio. He’s been reading and studying the effects of exercise on the brain for years.  He knows all kinds of neat stuff about BDNF, IGF-1, and other exercise-induced chemicals; he can bring a hyperactive kid around in under four minutes with his centering techniques.

Faced with an incredible opportunity to include Ignite as part of a young man’s therapy – and thereby open the world of insurance-funded CrossFit – we also faced a big obstacle: put together a compelling case, based on science, for the program. By Monday, 3pm.

All weekend, we wrote until 11pm; I’d send a draft, get up at 4am, and revise.  The ebook we finally handed to the claims manager is on the Ignite site.  But in the middle of it all, while cross-checking references, I took the ADD short-form test.  At midnight.

I ‘failed’ the test.  I’ve long suspected that I’m a little ADHD – I love starting things, but not finishing; I’m usually juggling a dozen things in my head at once; my workday is incredibly long, but I rarely finish everything. This site lists several other frequent things I do in a normal day.

“ADD people are high-energy and incredibly good brainstormers. They will often happily work 12 to 15 hours by choice. The business community should not fear ADD. Instead, they should see that they have a potential gold mine here.” 
– Dr. Kathleen Nadeau, a psychologist who is ADD herself (from an ABC News Report)

People with ADD are excellent at seeing a situation from all sides, says Dr. John Ratey. Emergency-room doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs….the ability to approach an obstacle from ten different ways is of enormous value.  Likewise, the ability to imagine oneself in the shoes of others – to empathize – has helped me keep clients for years (getting close to 7 years for more than one.)

Is my truck untidy? Heck, yeah. Can I tell you the phone number of a client from five years ago? Yes. Do I send emails, and then think of another detail, and send a second one…a few seconds apart? All the time. Could I handle this business without ADD? I don’t think so. While prioritization gives me anxiety, and procrastination usually costs me extra energy, I’m able to generate ideas rapidly. I can ‘see’ shapes while I’m listening to music, and that helps me appreciate it more. I can switch rapidly between creative and academic tasks, like math. I can incorporate successful ideas from other industries into ours.  And I can write for 5 blogs in the same hour.

Instead of ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ I’d love to see the education system appreciate the gifts bestowed by ADHD. Frankly, in a business environment that’s just suffering the effects of the Atomic Wedgie that is facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs, we’re going to need more scramblers.

By the way, the above was originally written in 2011. IgniteGym now enjoys a worldwide following, and CrossFit Brain will help us deliver these lessons to 11,000 gyms who can make a real difference in education, thanks to Greg Glassman’s vision.

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