Succeed in Spite of Your Disability – By Missy Ward

by Missy Ward on September 22, 2014


What do Sir Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Airlines), Paul Orfalea (founder of Kinkos), David Neeleman (founder of JetBlue Airways), and Ingvar Kamprad (founder of IKEA) have in common? Well, besides the undisputed fact that they are incredibly successful entrepreneurs, all of them have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). feedfront-27-cover-small

I have the latter.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADHD is classified as a disability. It is also one of the most commonly studied and diagnosed psychiatric disorders, yet scientists still don’t understand its cause.

Unfortunately, 40+ years ago when I was in elementary school, ADD and ADHD did not exist. In fact, it wasn’t until 1980 that ADD and ADHD were officially introduced into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If parents, teachers and doctors were as in tune with it as they are today, life would have probably been a whole lot easier for me and millions of other children.

All through my childhood, even though I was labeled as an “achiever”, and received straight A’s, I was always in trouble with my teachers for talking too much, being absent-minded, daydreaming, annoying classmates with my bouncing leg and my inability to stay in my seat, not being able to finish assigned projects, work on a team, keep my desk clean, or follow instructions.

As I got older, things became more difficult, as the mandatory curriculum became increasingly boring to me. I grew impatient, which led me to become impulsive and I’d talk over everyone that was speaking to me. My grades started slipping and I constantly heard from my teachers that I was “not living up to my potential”.

Juxtapose to the persistent pattern of inattention, there were times where I could sit and work on a project for hours on end — forgoing everything else around me. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I wasn’t able to be “in the zone” all the time.

To say that I felt out of step with just about everyone around me is an understatement.

Harnessing Your Disability’s Powers

In my late 20’s, I finally landed at a company that overlooked my tardiness when it came to arriving at work each day, attending meetings, or hitting deadlines. They also provided me with staff that managed my calendar and helped me along with projects that I couldn’t seem to finish on time or completed sloppily. I was told on more than one occasion that my ability to come up with great ideas or see a more direct route to overcome a business obstacle made up for my “poor work habits”.

It wasn’t until later in life that I decided to see a psychiatrist to see if there was something wrong with my brain. After a thorough evaluation, I received a diagnosis of ADHD and the doctor explained a few different ways to treat it. I was so excited to finally have a name for my “quirkiness”.

When I began sharing my diagnosis with family and friends, it seemed that the only person that was surprised by it was me. I had never suspected that I had ADHD, because I erroneously believed that people that had it couldn’t get anything done and were relatively unsuccessful.

I was completely wrong. Fortunately for me, somewhere along the line, I figured out some ways to compensate for some deficits without even knowing I was doing that. I also landed into an industry where I am able to leverage some of ADHD’s characteristics such as creativity, multi-tasking, risk-taking, and the inability to not let go of a stimulating project until it is completed or loses its sparkle.

While I will be managing ADHD for the rest of my life, I have figured out a way to harness my ability to focus with laser-like intensity and have become successful in spite of my disability.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

For the last 12 years, Affiliate Summit has released their annual AffStat report, shedding light on the folks that make their living in the affiliate marketing industry. Each year, I eagerly await the results to compare and contrast against my demographics, my marketing techniques, trends I see, etc.

What I’ve noticed is that my answers are very much the same as the majority of the respondents. Naturally, my ADHD brain had to consider the implications of those results and decided to survey affiliate marketers who were diagnosed with ADHD or believe they may have it, but not have been tested.

While the results of the survey are not scientific, there were 187 voluntary respondents who identified themselves as fitting the abovementioned criteria.

It was interesting to see that a lot of us ADHD’ers have found a home in the affiliate marketing industry. I was also pleased to see that although disabilities can be difficult to manage, they don’t necessarily impact a person’s chances of success.

You can view the results of the survey here.

Missy is the Co-Founder of Affiliate Summit, Co-Editor-in-Chief of FeedFront Magazine and blogs on

This article appeared in issue 27 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in August 2014.

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