Most of my teenage and early adult years I was described as out of control, troubled, difficult and overly-active. Like most kids I had what appeared to be endless energy and a curiosity for life.
My dad died when I was 10 so I grew up without the direction of a father, raised by a mother, who was just short of sainthood, but clearly had her hands full bringing up three very strong-willed and high energy teen-aged boys. Moving through puberty and into adulthood is challenging and without the direction of a father complicated. Most of the time I was just bored out of my mind, looking for activity and adventure and trying to figure out how to get my day interesting.
From the ages of 15 to 25, life got complicated for me and I started experiencing more than my share of problems. The first showed up in high school when I found myself unable get along with the 'in crowd', then problems with authority figures, which accelerated to abusing drugs and alcohol and then the inability to keep a job.
Due to my mother's insistence, I graduated from college but it was like pulling teeth. It took me five years to acquire a degree in accounting. I owed the government tens of thousands of dollars and knew more about alcohol and drugs than I did about how to get a job or balance a checkbook.
At about the age of 23 I had been labeled as troubled, compulsive, obsessive, attention-deficit prone to an addictive personality and some suggesting I had a disease. Trust me, I knew I was having problems, but had never considered any of them disorders or diseases. I thought it was a simple issue of lack of direction and purpose.
At about the same time it seemed like everyone was jumping on the disorder-label bandwagon. I went for this hook, line and sinker, as I knew something was wrong, I just didn't know what it was. It was clear that I wasn't living up to my potential and these labels seem to fit some of what was going on with me.
At the age of 25 I quit the drug thing, cold turkey and it was recommended that I get on prescription drugs to help me handle my "other" problems. Instead, I took all of the time, energy and misdirection I had been wasting and threw it into my job. Almost immediately, I became the top producer where I worked. For the first time in my life I was winning and the more I won the more I wanted to win.
I loved the new direction and positive results and was working 12+ hour days, when someone suggested that I had just replaced one addiction/obsession with another. I couldn't believe it. For the first time in my life I was doing well and was now being told that this too was a problem. Most of the people who I worked with, including management, couldn't keep up with my relentless pursuit for finding a solution to a problem. In my eyes they were either just plain lazy or simply didn't want for much. I wondered, "why are they being labeled?" Maybe they have a problem like; "under-performance disorder" or "settle for crumbs compulsion" or " gave up on the dream disease"? Why was I still being labeled an obsessive-compulsive work addict and as diseased and defective?
My father approached work like it was his obligation and duty to be successful so that he could provide for his family. I admired my father and the other successful people that I had read about who had thrown themselves completely into their work and made something big happen. I decided I was done listening to the endless free advice and would disregard the labels being imposed on me.
I made a conscious decision that even if I had any of these problems I was going use my 'supposed disabilities' and make them my abilities. The moment I embraced and used my energy, creativity, curiosity and even my disagreement with the status quo my life changed forever! Rather than making excuses for my disabilities, I harnessed them to fuel my dreams and desires.
I started reading countless books about successful people and realized that they all shared a tremendous passion, even a compulsion to create something special. It made me think, "Is the commitment to do something extraordinary so profound, to so many, that in order to make sense of it, some have to label it as something bad?" I have never sat with a group of highly successful people that talked about their love of work being a problem. Or that their desire to do something unbelievable was a deficit or a disease. Maybe the behavior of highly successful people is only abnormal when compared to the masses and to make sense of it labels must be created.
For the first time in my life I got it-- I didn't have a disease or deficits, I had gifts! I didn't have disabilities, I had unique and extraordinary abilities. I didn't have a compulsion or obsession, I had an undying yearning inside of me to make my dreams come true. I didn't have attention deficit disorder; I had a 1000 horsepower that just needed a purpose and direction. I only had troubles with life when I started to believe something was wrong with me and when I tried to fit in and be like everyone else. My disagreement with authority figures wasn't a bad thing, but a desire to be the authority of my own life.
By the time I was 31 I had created my first successful business and have since built three more from just ideas, a lot of drive and an unwavering commitment. In the last 18 months I have written three books, one of which became a NY Times Best Seller, created a virtual training product and an phone app that are both getting unbelievable attention in the marketplace and have a beautiful marriage and daughter. At 52 years old I still have the energy of a child and a growing interest in leaving my footprint on this planet.
I dare anyone to label my gifts or yours a disease, dysfunction or a deficit. I dare you to show me anyone doing something exceptional that is they are not compulsive, obsessed even addicted to the idea of doing. Martin Scorsese, Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Van Gogh, Walt Disney, and Ben Franklin--all of these geniuses were obsessed with their ideas, fanatics in the execution, and compulsive about making the world a different and better place! If these traits are disabilities or disorders bring it on!