Can someone with severe ADHD be a successful entrepreneur?

I am a software developer. Have around 2.5 years of experience. I have always underperformed. Underperformed in school, underperformed at work. I have a different way of doing things. It is frustrating not to reach full potential and my coworkers are starting to give up on me.

I can take on things that are challenging and prototype the ideas I have. But I have tremendous difficulty focusing on mundane stuff. I started going to the gym everyday and it helps a little.

Because of my novelty seeking personality, I start side projects from time to time (all of which I managed to complete, thankfully!)  So one of the side project took off in the past one year. I am having people email me everyday that they like it and would like to pay money for it to use all the features. I haven’t integrated the payment system yet.

I want to quit my day job and focus on my side project full time. Or even work as a consultant taking in additional gigs to supplant my missing income. However, I am not sure how successful I will be.

The only reason I am not yet fired is because I am personable, very enthusiastic and have lots of ideas. Somehow, the management thinks that I will improve with time. I have struggled with this all my life and working for other people is simply not sustainable.  



  • I say go for it! You seem to know your limitations, and still you work to overcome them. Believe me, even people without ADHD struggle with those kinds of distractions from time to time, or have other problems which would make them rethink the idea of starting their own business. So you shouldn’t be more scared than usual and jump to the pool!

  • Unlike 90% of the other entrepreneurs that take Adderal, you actually have a need for it. Don’t be ashamed to use medications if it can help you. I have anxiety and struggled for a long time taking an anti-anxiety medication, because of the stigma. Got over that as soon as I saw the ROI of taking it verses not.

  • Data indicates that people with ADHD are objectively more creative since their inability to focus enables them to think outside typical cognitive bounds. Check out Jonah Lehrer’s book, “Imagine: How Creativity Work.” Perhaps ADHD is an advantage!

  • Get income coming in from your project first, then go for it. Many people say they’ll pay for something, but…

  • I have ADHD. The medication has made a huge, huge difference, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy (mostly around coaching for time management that works especially for us ADHDers). There’s no way I could have started a business without treatment, I was just too flaky.

    You need a routine. You need 8 hours of sleep a day. You need regular exercise and to watch your intake of sugar and bread. And you need medication.

    At first the meds will feel a bit buzzy but then it settles down. Literally overnight my symptoms improved. Choose a good psychiatrist, one who specializes in ADHD and is evidence based. It’s worth going out of network to find the right one, since after the first few months you only see them 4x a year for half an hour. you don’t want to be misdiagnosed or overdosed.

    • The medication has made a huge, huge difference

      I am planning to get back on medication. I was afraid I would lose my creativity if I used it regularly. Did you notice any loss of creativity after prolonged use?

      • a good doctor will give you different dosages you can take on days you want less focus. my doctor calls it “just enough to not lose your wallet”. it’s what I take on vacation or when I just want to relax. no big deal. you can actually skip the meds too, they really do only work while you are taking them. there’s no harm to skipping a day.

  • Might also help to get a co-founder that has complimentary skills. Can be super helpful when making difficult decisions and splitting responsibility.

  • I have mild ADD (less the H) and struggle with keeping organized at times. I would say take the leap, but first find a co-founder which complements your weaknesses. A startup is much better off with two founders and in your case I think its clear what type of counterpart you should be looking for.

    It takes more strength and intelligence to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help then to simply claim your are good at everything. So you are already on the right track.

  • I have severe ADHD and it is a daily struggle. Here are a few things have helped me launch my first company and stay focused:

    -Managed medication. I take addarol 3 days a week and those are my “hyper focus days”. Many people think addarol is an abusive drug, those people don’t really have adhd and are probably abusing it. My ADHD sometimes is like torture but addarol really helps me focus, which is why doctors have been prescribing it to me for 10 years . I dont want to rely on it forever so I schedule three days a week to work under medication.

    -Sleep. get 8 hours of sleep a night. PRO TIP: Take a bubble bath before bed, it allows you to wind down and think about everything you’ve accomplished that day.

    -work on the weekends. I work on saturdays and sundays because there is less “internet” activity to distract me and then have lighter days during the work week when I know I’ll be more easily distracted by reddit, twitter, facebook etc.

    -Talk about your ADHD with coworkers. My ADHD makes me extremely impulsive so if I have an idea-I send an email. I can bounce from idea to idea to idea. It may drive my coworkers nuts-so by telling them, ‘I have adhd, this is how I operate’ they can better understand how to react and why my e-mails can sometimes come across as frantic

    -Take Walks when you work. Make sure to take a ten minute walk at least every two hours. And not just a walk to the bathroom-take a walk outside around the block, it will help you organize what you need to focus on immediately for your next two hour working period.

    I hope this helps!

  • ADHD is a Twenty First Century, First-World excuse. People with much greater challenges go on to do great things. Learn to fucking live with whatever cards you’ve been genetically dealt and then excel. I speak from personal experience.

    • Hmm…Apparently that’s what they are all trying to do..And no..ADHD is not an excuse, it’s real..Stop telling a fish not to swim in water and it will be fine. (it might even excel)

  • It’s not about being an ‘entrepreneur’. It’s about the TEAM. Don’t set yourself up by thinking it’s only about you.

    Be transparent with your inner circle and ‘lead from the front’ by sharing the worst aspects of your thing. Pick them carefully but know you will make mistakes.

    Find a support group you can relate to and/or at least find one other person to ‘identify’ with.

    Watch David Mamet’s first film, ‘The House of Games’. About an obsessive compulsive shrink/author who gets played by some con men.

    “When you have done something that is unforgivable you must learn to forgive yourself.’

  • Advice from a lifelong, successful 38-eight-year old entrepreneur with ADHD:

    Keep your current job until you have enough money to quit. It’s hard to fight the urge, I know, but hang on until you can support yourself or have money saved. You will likely never work for someone other than yourself again, so do yourself a favor and just wait it out for now.
    Always be open to medication and definitely see doctors, but tread lightly. Sleep, exercise and a healthy lifestyle can work wonders and keep you off meds.
    Nurture that crazy, amazing, buzzing creativity.
    Admit your limitations to yourself and address them. No need to announce it to others, in my opinion. We all have our thing. Find others who can help you, as equals.
    Try to keep 3-6 months expenses in savings at all times. This is good advice for anyone, but ESPECIALLY for those of us with ADHD. You are impulsive and full of ideas. Give yourself a safety net so you can act on the best ones.
    When I was in my 20s back in the late 90s/early 2000s no one really talked about ADHD and barely anyone was on meds for it. It’s a “thing” now. If you’re taking care of yourself you don’t need to announce it.

    Finally, everyone struggles. EVERYONE. Work isn’t easy for anyone, even though some people make it look that way (let’s be honest, they’re probably bored or boring). You’re probably not cut out for full time office work. I get it. Don’t seek it out, but remember that by making that choice you have to work your ass off to make it happen on your own…which is just the thing that probably fires you up.

    Listen to yourself. Take care of yourself. Go for it. Good luck.

  • I don’t have ADHD and would like to say I admire those that have. It is a hard grind for most but to have ADHD on top… I salute you guys 🙂 Keep doing the damn thing, your success will be even more sweeter! 🙂

  • ADHD people can be successful if they focuses on only one thing in a highly energized narrow way, and give most of the implementation work to other people while they working as a product manager.

  • Definitely go for it. Especially if you already have “people emailing you everyday” telling you that they would pay. What are you waiting for?

    Just set up some e-commerce facility and get going.

    Make sure you have some staying power (money to pay rent, living expenses, etc), otherwise, operate it part time to see how it pans out.

    Never let anything stop you.

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