How I Use ADHD To My Advantage Instead Of Letting It Hold Me Back
Growing up on the Isle of Mull in Scotland was idyllic. The farm we lived on had over 6 miles of rugged coastline and more trees than you could ever build treehouses in. As young boys we had no such thing as TV, so we were forced to live wildly and adventurously, thriving in our imaginations.
Shortly after arriving at primary school, it became apparent there was something "wrong" with me. Before primary school I just seemed a bit energetic, though some might have said "hyperactive" or even "completely wild." When the need for conformity was imposed upon me, suddenly I wasn't just sprightly—I had ADHD. I was dangerous, bad, naughty. I didn't fit in. And when you don't fit in, people either try to make you fit in or label you as "sick."
I'm very fortunate that, during my primary years, my parents refused the drugs that were suggested to "calm me down" and instead opted for counseling. I have no recollection of what I said to the counselor, but I remember him—Mr. Hall. He was tall and warm and caring. I was lucky to avoid the drugs, lucky to find Mr. Hall, lucky to have assertive and forgiving parents. Things could have gone differently and that makes me grateful.
When I moved into secondary school, I struggled. It was a new school and new friends—or no new friends. Being the fourth of five kids, I had developed acute attention-seeking skills. If you didn't, in my house, you might get elbowed out of your dinner. My head was so busy, so complicated, and no one could understand the voices inside my head. But they ate at me—so much so, I tried to take my own life from depression, not once but two stomach pumps and an incident with a rope.
When I finally lifted myself out, it was like seeing the matrix.
I left school at 16 and started my first business. I have my parents to thank for their incredible support and their words of wisdom drowning out the negativity from society around me. It didn't go as planned, but that didn't deter me one bit. I had this ability to focus on what's ahead—this sort of knowing. I know I'm going to get there, that this is all just part of the journey. And I'm so lucky and grateful I've had that mindset from the get-go.
By the time I was 23, I'd been a top door-to-door salesman, worked three years in corporate sales, and set up five businesses, the largest of which employed 10 people for two and a half years. People constantly reminded me that I had a gift—something special—which was as much a burden as it was a motivator.
All during this time I was self-medicating. Lots of partying, lots of drinking, lots and lots of getting out of my head. Oh, my head, leave me alone. Pray, leave me alone.
So when I found myself moving to London to become a broker, I could finally mix the two. The partying and drinking and the hard work went hand-in-hand. Brokering fit me well, and I fit brokering.
It wasn't until I removed alcohol from the equation that I suddenly realized how limiting it had been. I may as well have been taking Ritalin for the past 20 years. The clarity of mind, the productivity, the awareness, the relationship upgrades, and the total life boost—alcohol had been my Kryptonite, draining my power.
I couldn't believe what an advantage going alcohol-free gave me. I needed to spread the word. This was my calling, my destiny. Everything had led me to this point. I knew I needed to help people realize the same thing I had: that alcohol is one big, fat blind spot! For so many years, I had been numbing myself, numbing my super-fast-talking brain with a couple of pints here or a bottle or two of red there. When I finally lifted myself out, it was like seeing the matrix.
I know that many people with mental health problems will be using alcohol to numb the pain, the hurt, the fear, the anxiety, the stress, the difficulties. This is only exacerbating the problem. Now, I know you know this, but it's one thing saying and another doing. So here's the challenge: If you suffer from a mental health problem, stop drinking. Stop drinking right now. Then email me in 90 days and tell me how your life has changed, like the thousands of other people who have emailed over the past few months.
When I was a kid, I was mentally ill. I had ADHD. There was something wrong with me. Now I'm an adult.
I set up five businesses, all different, all giving people jobs—I have ADHD to thank for that.
I started a brokering desk in a crowded market and was number one in under three years—I have ADHD to thank for that.
I built a startup while building a multimillion-dollar brokering desk and helped thousands of people change their lives all over the world—I have ADHD to thank for that
It's truly a gift. It's a superpower. It's something you learn to control.
As a young boy, I always felt like such an outcast. This is the purpose of my message to you—you, with the ADHD, ADD, whatever, damn right, you're special. And you're not alone. You're part of an elite force, the SAS of humans—we have unique abilities and you need to learn to harness them. It takes time and patience and lots of love from those around you, but it's inside you, and I can't wait to see it flourish.
Ruari Fairbairns grew up on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, where he set up his first business at 16. After a successful career as a commodities broker he one day (after a few failed attempts) finally quit drinking, and it fundamentally changed his life. Together with a colleague he decided to create something to change the stigma around giving up drinking. This became OneYearNoBeer.com, a challenge to give up alcohol and focus on healthy alternatives, featuring a vibrant on and offline community. Fairbairns is now based in Edinburgh.