There was once a man who had never seen an eagle. One day a magnificent eagle landed on his windowsill, and when he saw it, he exclaimed, “What an ugly creature!” The man grabbed the eagle and pulled it into his house. “First, I’m going to fix that curved beak of yours.” He used a file and removed the hook in the eagle’s beak. “Those claws are vicious looking,” the man said and he clipped the eagle’s claws until there was little left. When he finished, the man said, “There, now you are better” and he put the bird back on his open windowsill and shooed it away. ~Author unknown
The claws and curved beak might have looked unattractive or useless to the man, having never seen an eagle before, but what would an eagle be without its distinctive hooked beak and sharp claws? Could it hunt? Would it survive? How would not having these unique characteristics change the nature of the eagle and how would that change the face of the animal world?
Like eagles, we each have qualities or characteristics that may be misunderstood or even seen as unattractive or useless to someone else, but they are the very qualities that make us irreplaceable, beautiful, and are the distinctive gifts we bring to the world. What is it that makes you unique and different? What makes you extra ordinary? What would the world be like without your one-of-a-kind ideas, divine passions and talents? Without those unique traits that make you, you.
Diversity enriches our lives. In animal ecology, a variety of species is crucial for survival, and is responsible for the richness and the beauty of our natural world. There is a sense of loss when a species of animal, habitat or flora becomes extinct. And, certainly, we have made great progress in embracing the diversity and differences of cultures, religious beliefs and sexual orientation knowing that not one of these makes someone superior to another and each adds to the rich diversity and splendor of our world.
However, the diversity or differences of brain styles has not been so honored. There is as much if not more diversity in how we process information, how we learn and how we interact with the world, as there are differences in culture, spiritual beliefs and religious views. In our world today, we may celebrate a beautiful rainbow of skin color, but we are a long way from embracing and valuing the magnificence and range in our brain styles.
Like the man who alters the eagle to suit his own ideas, many of us are still compelled to “fix” people who process differently, learn differently or interact differently than the majority and who may not fit into our idea of what is “beautiful”. To claim we completely embrace diversity, we must acknowledge and appreciate the value of different learning styles, thinking styles and brain styles. None is superior and each are as unique as our fingerprints.
One type of brain style that can look unattractive to others is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). More than 8% of the world’s population has an ADHD brain style which interestingly does not discriminate based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation or skin color. People with ADHD brain styles are present in every culture, age group and ethnicity. The diversity of our brain styles is deeper than the color of our skin, and far more mysterious and miraculous than a label or diagnosis could ever encompass.
People with an ADHD brain style characteristically find it difficult to pay attention to things less interesting; they may often act or say things impulsively or need to move or fidget to focus. It is the hyperactive, disorganized, unfocused and misbehaving child that often comes to mind when people think of ADHD. What most people do not understand is that ADHD is also intertwined with spectacular gifts. While there are memory, organizational and attentional challenges, people with ADHD have a brain style, that is also characteristically adventurous, great at solving problems, resourceful, innovative, resilient, willing to take risks, curious, imaginative, creative, passionate, intelligent, innovative, gives definition to the term “out of the box thinkers” and much more.
The irony of ADHD is that these positive qualities can often be partnered with overwhelming challenges. People with an ADHD brain style are brilliant, yet often forgetful. Creativity often comes with a difficulty for following through. The out of box thinking allows an ADHD brain to come up with inspired and inventive ideas but the lack of organization, planning, time awareness and a tendency toward overwhelm make it difficult to figure out the steps to take to make it happen.
Despite an innate passion and unique perspective for life, people with ADHD live in a world that unfortunately focuses on these “negative” aspects or their challenges and rarely are the positive attributes of ADHD highlighted, appreciated or celebrated. Some might say that the problem lies in the “label” or diagnosis. However, far more problematic than categorizing or grouping differences, is when that label or term is assumed to designate that people with ADHD are “less than”.
As history has shown us, people with ADHD have contributed and changed the world in amazing ways, far beyond the narrow view of labels. Having ADHD is not ‘less than’ or a problem to be solved, but rather possibilities waiting to unfold. Whether they were diagnosed or not, where would we be without the accomplishments of such people as Michael Phelps, Paul Orfalea, Founder of Kinko’s or David Neeleman, Founder of JetBlue Airways. How would our lives be different without the telephone, cubism, the airplane, impressionism, Hershey’s chocolate, pasteurization, chewing gum, The Great Gatsby, Fur Elise, Star wars, The Beatles or Ford automobiles? What would it be like not to have discovered that the earth is not the center of the solar system, music to the opera “The Marriage to Figaro”, electricity, the Americas, Yosemite or Disneyland…all discovered, imagined or created by people with a beautiful ADHD brain.
To truly say we embrace diversity, that we value equally the differences of all people, we must go deeper than skin color, not stop at culture or religious practices, but acknowledge and embrace the beauty within, the divinity and diversity of the beautiful ADHD mind.