What if ADHD is a Skill Set?


Introduction by Ava Green, TotallyADD Co-Founder,

“ADHD as a skill set” is a thought that Stuart Lloyd Cohen introduced us to a few short weeks ago. That concept was like a lightening bolt!  Many of us focus on the symptoms of adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but there are indeed skills that come with this mindset. What if we frame it as a collection of skills?

Stuart is in the process of co-authoring a book on this topic with fellow ADHD coach, Dr. Mark Miller (more details about that are below) and they will be our guests on an upcoming live chat with Rick for TotallyADD patrons on Tuesday, September 15th.

The following story is Stuart’s journey to discovering this shift in perspective while he was on a silent retreat. Enjoy!

ADHD Life Skills

By Stuart Lloyd Cohen

“It’s Very Hard Being Me” These were the words I wrote at the top of the page which officially started day three of my silent retreat while my wife, Kimberly, was in Denver visiting family. It was late August 2019 and I was driving a brand new 100-page composition notebook into the ground. As usual, the pen couldn’t keep up and I was frustrated.

My head was clogged. I call it brain fog. Have you ever been foiled by the ‘spinning wheel of death’ on your computer? That functionality-failure happens to me frequently; my brain cannot handle all the tasks given to it in the moment and so it freezes. I swirl. I stop. It sucks.

Being silent and inside my own head for 4 days was risky but righteous. I would write, release and rejuvenate or heat up and shut down. So, I sat and let it all out. No stop signs, annoying speed bumps or GPS devices shouting RECALCULATE.  I hit the writing road and was prayer-filled for an epiphany to pop.

Coping Skills

After penning pages of ALL CAPS self-brutality (which I’d later discover to be RSD or Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria), it swallowed me.

You know how we joke that ADHDers are easily distracted by shiny objects (aka SQUIRREL)? For me, it is the rabbit hole plunge. Suddenly, I was on the edge of a big one. My non-neurotypical brain lit up as these four words leapt off the page: ADHD AS A SKILL SET.

BANG, ZOOM! (as Ralph Cramden would say) the concept hammered me. I didn’t fall into this ADHD AS A SKILL SET rabbit hole. I dove! The journey began.

ADHD Diagnosis at 40

This journey would have never gotten off the ground if I never knew what powered Stu. Sixteen years ago, the mystery of me was solved: I am WIRED to be WIRED! Ever since Kimberly encouraged me (lovingly) to get tested for ADHD, I have been steadfastly resolved to identify and manage my surpluses and deficits.

Why I Manage My Surpluses and Deficits

  • I manage them for the sake of my marriage
  • For the sake of relationships with my adult children, and dear friends (who somehow, shockingly weathered and loved me for me)
  • To strengthen my career (a little late for that but who’s counting)
  • To improve my health and happiness
  • For the sake of growing upwards versus spiraling downwards (a dark place which I had already visited and vowed never, ever to go back to again)

What if we are able to redefine Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as an embraceable, marketable, leverageable, invaluable SKILL SET? The benefits would be profound.

One of my “superpowers” is the ability to go from zero-to-sixty yesterday. So, the voice recorder supplemented the tattered notebook. The pen rested peacefully. And, the process became deeply emotional.

I was beginning to understand why my 23-year corporate career was a journey through eleven companies. (That’s a fascinating story for another day.) Half the jobs were mis-fits. The other half were position-perfect – for a hot minute.

I had been a hot mess back then. It was surely a broken road. Yet, it led me here!

Finding Solutions

I can stay broken or I can learn how to stop breaking. I wrote that down so I could see it, feel it, believe it and action it.

How many others had never put ADHD and SKILL SET in the same context let alone in the same sentence?

During that same 4-day silent retreat I did two things instantly; I set up a lunch date with my friend Mark Miller to share this epiphany, and I applied to TEDx Memphis to tell the world.

TEDx Memphis rejected my application which was a good thing (I concluded only when my RSD had subsided.) Mark accepted my lunch invitation.

Meme about dessert

What do you get when two ADHD adults meet at a restaurant for lunch?

A frustrated waiter. Needless to say, Mark considered the concept captivating. We talked and talked (and talked!) His study of ADHD and zeal to heal others is his skill set! We agreed to collaborate on the research and the book.

Fast forward to today and we are well into our dream journey of demonstrating why and how ADHD can be recategorized as a SKILL SET by ADHDers and their employers, families, business owners, HR execs, college career counselors, etc..

I am happy to report that it is getting easier being me.   I live for the dopamine rush that comes when I am passionately purposeful.   These days I’m lit. Except when I’m not. The dreaded ‘spinning-wheel-of-death’ will always come and go.

To keep brain fog brief, Kimberly gave me this meditation to recite, and I’m sharing it with the hope that it will help you too!

Even though I currently have this issue,

I believe that my desire to be free of it

will allow me to be free of it.

It’s presence no longer serves me

and I choose to let it go.


ADHD Community

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About the author:

Stuart Lloyd Cohen is a master motivator/enter-trainer on stage and a serial solopreneur at heart. He brings audiences a refreshing, uplifting voice in Entrepreneurship, Salesmanship, Leadership, and Good Stuartship. An accomplished corporate executive turned full-time entrepreneur, he has keynoted internationally and coached since 2008. Stuart is the founder and co-president of ADHD AS A SKILL SET, LLC. He and co-president Mark Miller will be publishing ADHD AS A SKILL SET™ in 2021. Learn more at www.stuartlloydcohen.com

 and www.adhdasaskillset.com

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