All posts in the Motivational category

Why Am I Doing This? A Dangerous Question During Exam Time for Graduate Students

Published August 17, 2014 by Tabby


I am a Ph.D. student in History. I am having an existential crisis. This can apply to people in any type of situation when it gets tough and makes you ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Sometimes you don’t have an answer. 

To earn a Ph.D. in history at my university, you must take so many semesters/credit hours of coursework, earning a grade no lower than a B. That is not enough to prove your worth, however. You must take three, six hour long exams over three days, known as comprehensive exams (comps). The three exams are your general field (US history), secondary field (American West), and a minor field (Public History). 

Why are these so daunting? For me personally, I am not good at tests. Sure, I know the information inside and out but when I am handed an exam I can’t even remember what name to put at the top of the page. I will do reviews, projects, or write you a frickin’ book but don’t give me a test. In addition, I am aware that the exam can ask anything that happened in the United States from 1492 until the 1980s. That’s roughly five hundred years of stuff. And you must know what every historian has written about each era as well. 


Yes, I’m aware it’s a form of academic hazing. It’s weeding out the lesser, supposed to be humbling, etc. As if taking (and acing) history courses for about ten years isn’t good enough. And humbling? What about surviving the professors that routinely made your colleagues cry and whose classes required multiple all-nighters (not from procrastination either). 

What I’m getting at, besides being whiney, is today after I found out I must also submit a dissertation proposal during the exact same time as I’m supposed to be studying (and getting signatures from my committee is like herding cats). I made the mistake of asking myself, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I even getting my Ph.D.?”

exist crisis

Most people go to graduate school to get degrees required for higher jobs. I went for my Ph.D. because I had just gone through a divorce, wanted to avoid a personal life, and only knew of adulthood through the lens of a college student. I genuinely love the classroom and reading, any academic pursuit really. If I had unlimited scholarships I would be happy doing nothing but being a perpetual student. 

But then there’s real life. The place where I had to quit my dream job I went to graduate school for in the first place because it didn’t pay enough for me to survive on. The place where I work a horrid 40+ hours a week job with a verbally abusive boss before going home to stress over these exams. I’m proud to say that through hard work, scholarships, help, and luck I have no student loans, but I’ve paid dearly for that in other ways. Because I work, I am unable to dedicate myself to publishing (which is the only means to employment, if you can even find it). So why am I doing this?


In addition, where I live, having higher education makes you more unemployable than a felon. I often lie and leave off my higher education on resumes or I don’t receive interviews or are flat out told I am over-educated, over-qualified, etc. Smart people need to eat too. (I’m serious about the felon part-I know of a registered sex offender that has a job that pays three times as much as mine)


I wish I could end this post with an enlightened, ‘This is what I reminded myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing’ but I’m not there yet. I don’t have an answer. Maybe I’m doing this because I’ve already worked for three years to get this far into the Ph.D. Maybe because school was the only thing I felt I was ever good at and base my sense of worth upon it. 

Perhaps this is why you seldom see sober Ph.D. students when they’re studying for comps.

exist 3


Common Myths about Adult ADHD

Published January 30, 2013 by Tabby


I have noticed several articles lately that have painted those with ADHD in a poor light and furthered false stereotypes. Contrary to these articles, all of us are not running around stealing everything we can get our hands on and spending the majority of our lives unemployed or in prison. Also, the disorder affects people differently. There are two types of adult ADHD: hyperactive where the person is more physically impulsive and inattentive: where we just can’t pay attention and the disorder is more about internalized chaos.

 In this post I simply hope to raise awareness, foster understanding, and counter the recent articles that imply we are all hopeless and will always be a menace to society. The following myths are ones I’ve encountered, heard in conversations, and read in articles. I have cited the sources and recent myth-busting articles after the text.


 -ADHD is not a real disorder

I’d really like to smack someone every time someone says this-I hear it often in my presence as I don’t have a neon blinking light on my forehead that I suffer from it. Several medical studies consider it a biological disorder, meaning that it’s connected to genes often passed through offspring. Recent studies have shown that kids with ADHD have genes that their more attentive counterparts don’t have (see Note 1). ADHD has been recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by major medical, psychological, and educational organizations, including the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education. The American Psychiatric Society recognizes ADHD as a medical disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the official mental health “bible” used by psychologists and psychiatrists. You could read these articles, or you could just observe me or anyone else suffering try to work a desk job without any medication.

 -ADHD only occurs in children    

ADHD does not magically disappear once you turn eighteen. Several American health insurance companies seem to think so in their coverage of treatment for children and cutoff of treatment once that person has turned eighteen. The symptoms do appear differently in adulthood, such as less hyperactivity and more inattention. In a way, ADHD can be more debilitation for adults because children are expected to have shorter attention spans and be hyper while adults are expected to deal calmly with all the still, boring, and minute details of life. For adults, sitting down to do bills (as an example) is fine for a short amount of time but once that person has reached their limit they get an insatiable mental itch to get up, do something else, be more active. Or perhaps that person has already been distracted by absolutely anything and has now forgotten what they originally sat down to do.

 -All adults with ADHD are hyperactive and bouncing off the walls

I personally do not always have the urge to randomly start running a marathon (although sometimes I do). I once described it to my boyfriend: I drew up a picture from several cartoons that show miniature versions of that person inside their brain running its operation-I said that sometimes having ADHD is like having all those little people running around with their heads on fire. While hyperactivity is and can be part of it, the less visible and more common component is inattentive. In the inattentive type, the person is more likely to struggle with distractions, forgetfulness, poor time management, disorganization, etc. For example, we are notorious for losing our car keys, even if we just had our hands on them and/or they are in our pockets.


 -People on stimulant medications are addicts

Ok, first of all I want to say that yes some medications are overprescribed. However, this does not mean that absolutely every single person taking them does not need them and only does so under the advice of drug-happy doctors or because of an addiction. This medication does help people that need it. As someone who needs the medication, I greatly envy those who can make it through a day without it. For myself and many others, getting through a single day is a panic-inducing struggle without help. It is true that if quitting a medication, such as Adderall, the person must step down slowly so not to experience withdrawals, but that is more from chemical issues rather than personal ones. Some do get addicted to these medications, but those are more often illegal users and not what this article is focused on.

 -People with ADHD are drug or alcohol abusers

I have read/heard a couple of times that people with ADHD are more likely to be addicts because they take medication. Actually people who are not medicated or do not receive help with the disorder are the ones more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs (see Note 2).

 -“Everyone” has ADHD these days

Yes technology and our fast-paced lives have decreased our society’s attention span but that does not mean that absolutely every single person has ADHD. Those with the actual disorder have it much worse than being distracted by Facebook or a text message and suffer in their everyday lives. Everyone has problems focusing at some point or other but those with the disorder have it every day. For example, if you’ve ever been sad for a short amount of time that does not mean that you have clinical depression.

 -People with ADHD don’t want to focus and are lazy and/or stupid

I would loooove to be able to sit still, not take medication, not forget things, etc. It’s not that we don’t want to focus, it’s that we can’t. We simply do not have the ability. Some people have said that those with ADHD just need to try harder: would you tell someone with poor eyesight to just see better?

People with ADHD are of above-average intelligence, recent studies show. They certainly aren’t lazy. In fact, many well-known, high-achieving individuals from the past are thought to have had ADHD, including Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Bernard Shaw, and Salvador Dali. The list of high-achieving ADDers in business today includes top executives, such as David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, and Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s. People with ADHD tend to be higher in intelligence than a lot of the average public. ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence. It is a disorder of regulating attention, and affects how well you can sit there and get stuff done.

 -ADHD isn’t a big deal

People with ADHD struggle in all areas in their lives: professionally, personally, and everything in between. ADHD is also very tough on relationships because of inattention during communication, irritability from having to sit still, frustration with conditions, miscommunication, and/or a lack of experience with or understanding of the disorder.

I’m sure I’m missing some myths-feel free to include them in the comments. Have you had a hard time dispelling these myths? Have you never heard of these?

 Notes and Further Reading

1. A study published in Molecular Psychiatry in 2009 identifying specific ADHD genes:

2. A study on substance abuse amongst those with ADHD:

3. Margarita Tartakovsy, “Nine Myths, Misconceptions, and Stereotypes about ADHD,” Psych Central, (accessed January 30, 2013).

4. “Seven Myths about ADHD Debunked!” ADDitude, (accessed January 30, 2013).

A New Year’s Resolution for Everyone

Published December 31, 2012 by Tabby

Every year, many people make a list of resolutions for the next year. While the majority of these are broken by February or March, we still continue to make resolutions. Perhaps making these resolutions make us hopeful that the next year will be better. That we will be better.

Most people seem to resolve to lose X amount of weight. Or to quit smoking, start exercising, find a boy/girlfriend, etc. While these are all great, especially the working for a healthier you, they can be quite difficult to achieve. Maybe resolutions that are less detailed and more general would be easier for us to make and keep. I found a general, but difficult single resolution that I need to fulfill and that maybe would be a good one for others as well.

This year one of my college professors advised that I needed to remember to be nice to myself. I didn’t ask what he meant and it took me a little time to work it out. My first thought was perhaps he thought I was working too hard, with a full time class load to earn my Ph.D., one full time job, and two part time jobs. Yes, I’ll admit I could lessen my workload a bit but there are reasons that I do all that I do. Then it hit me: I am actually quite mean to myself in another way: my impossible expectations.

I have always had high expectations for myself. After all, I’m the one who is in control of me and my success. As I get older I tend to make them even more impossible with no forgiveness for any failures or setbacks. And I don’t expect the same of other people as I hold myself to so much higher requirements. I can easily forgive others for personal faults but never myself.

So my resolution for this year is to be nicer to myself and let go of the self-imposed guilt, humiliation, and shame when any little mistake is made. I will celebrate the smallest victories and learn rather than ostracize for mistakes. I will acknowledge that I am human. I will try my hardest to accept me, imperfections and all.

Bummed…Depression and Suggestions to Beat It

Published November 14, 2012 by Tabby

I found this article on a wonderful website for quitting Adderall for adult ADHD. Since I’m currently experiencing this, I find it very helpful and comforting that other people have the same symptoms. However, this article focuses on tips to beat depression, which can happen to anyone, regardless of the reasons. I hope it helps.

Mike, “How to Beat Depression,” Quitting, (accessed November 14, 2012)

Depression is often a huge part of quitting Adderall. Most people know that creation and productivity is good, and that idleness and sloth is bad, so when you temporarily strip yourself of your ability to produce, you understandably feel worthless for a while.

The two key points to remember about post-Adderall depression are: 1. It can help you keep moving and 2. It is not permanent.

You must constantly fight your depression. Do not let it take you. A great philosopher once said “you are either moving forward, or you are deteriorating”. Remember that and live by it.

Step 1: Identify Depression Triggers

For most people, depression does not occur randomly, even though it feels random sometimes. You’ll feel like “oh, now I’m depressed again…out of nowhere”, but if you look closely, you can trace most bouts of depression back to a cause or a combination of causes.

Here are some examples of depression triggers

1. Direct triggers: Your ex calls and tears your heart out, unknowingly kicking you while you were already down. You were having an alright day but now you feel like total shit…and every negative thing starts piling up…you start spiraling downwards.

The Antidote: When you get a direct deperession trigger, remember that this bout of depression is just about the trigger event. Don’t let your brain invite all of these other horrible thoughts into the mix. Keep yourself focused on the one thing that triggered the depression.

Direct triggers can be avoided if they have a consistent source. For example, if half of your conversations with your ex girlfriend/boyfriend end in your severe depression, don’t talk to them for a while, or have one difficult conversation to put yourself on better terms with them.

2. The un-epiphany: You suddenly realize something that totally blows. Maybe a memory hits you and you suddenly understand the full, terrible implications of it. Or maybe you realize that a current effort is going to be much more difficult that you originally thought.

The Antidote:  The most depressing thing about un-epiphanies is that you feel helpless to do anything about them at first. The instant you figure out something you can do to address or accept the facts revealed by the un-epiphany, you depression about it will start to go away. That’s the key with un-epiphanies:  Find out what you can do about it and start doing it.

3. Culmination events: Sometimes all the little fears and doubts that nip at your heels every day will build up to fever pitch and body-slam you. Then you must fight them off before you can stand up again. Sometimes that takes days or weeks.

The Antidote: Culmination depression is like an evil potion, made up of a slew of painful ingredients. The key is to make the depression potion less toxic by cancelling out the ingredients one by one. Put literally: The only cure for a culmination event is either to shove it back down (it will come back later) or make significant movement on your goals…towards being a better, happier, more accomplished person….towards shutting one of those negative voices up once and for all.

Step 2: Develop Your Own Anti-Depression Tactics

The name of the game with fighting depression is Change your Mind. You have to figure out ways to trigger a mood shift, like your own natural antidepressant. Most tactics involve distracting yourself, or throwing your brain into a different, happier, more productive perspective.

Here are some examples of anti-depression tactics…

Go to work: Even if your job sucks, it still forces you to act rationally and keep your chin up for appearances sake. This is why it’s important for depressed people to fill their life with some obligations. Obligations, though stressful, can keep you sane and moving by default.

Go run an errand (go outside): Depression tries to keep you indoors, isolated in your cave with your worries. Sometimes breaking the cycle is as easy as stepping outside or taking a drive, even to do something mundane like going to get groceries.

For the love of God, get the fuck out of bed: You’ll be tossing and turning under the covers, telling yourself that nothing is possible, and from that position, nothing is.

The depression nap: Let the depression carry you to bed, kill a couple hours of the day, then wake up and reset. Make sure you have something to do when you wake up or your funk will continue. Note that this doesn’t work if your depression has lasted longer than a day.

Force yourself to hit bottom: Sometimes you’re expending so much effort trying to fight the depression and you know you’re losing the battle. Then you hit bottom, and you start climbing up again. If all else fails, dive, dive, dive. Until you crash. Then rebuild. Note that this is painful and should only be a worse-case tactic.

Small moves on your goals: You’ve heard me say else where on this site that “A success per day keeps the depression at bay”. I’m a huge believer in this. When the depression voice calls you a failure, succeed, and silence it. You have no idea how small a success it can take some time. Hell, sometimes just cleaning your room will do the trick. Other times it will take something bigger like submitting a job application.

Face festering problems: Sometimes you can use your depression to move yourself radically forward crazy acts of desperation. When you’re in medium-spirits, it can be scary to send a job application in that you really care about. When you’re wallowing in misery, you can say “fuck it something pull me out of this” and click the button with your last breath. You can also redirect your depression into physically productive tasks like “move crap out of old house” when you don’t feel like doing anything mental.

Google your fears: So much of what the depression voices say is a lie; truth can often be the antidote. If the source of your depression is worry, do some research. Google your fears and more often than not you’ll feel better afterwards.

Step 3: Avoid Depression Accelerators

For all the activities that help you beat and conquer depression, certain activities will make your depression worse. Here are some examples.

Drinking Alcohol: Using alcohol to escape an emotion is a dangerous slippery slope. It’s terribly easy for this response to depression to become habitualized. Even if it helps you feel better for an hour or two , you’re pre-screwing the next 24 hours of your life. Being depressed and drinking alcohol pretty much garuntees that you will be depressed when you wake up the next day hung over.

“Fuck it” mentality: Do not let go of all the noble things you have commited yourself to just because you’re angry at your depressed state.  Many professional organizations like NA and AA warn against the “fuck it” mentality, and rightly so. Doing this for more than one day will engender failure at things you were previously succeeding on…thus prolonging your depression.

Mental cutting: “Cutting” is the practice of physically cutting yourself. Teenage girls seem pretty into this these days, but it’s been around for a while as a psychological compulsion…long enough to be diagnosed, investigated, and treated. Having dated a cutter who was also a psych major (and thus could explain it to me in technical terms), I’ve learned that most people cut to feel alive. Some people do this in their brain. Especially depressed people. They bring up painful thoughts and memories because they are painful, like a cutter slicing into their arm. If this applies to you at all, you must stop. It’s totally abnormal and unhealthy for you to drag yourself down unnecessarily like that. Normal, healthy people do not think like that.

Evading big problems: You must make a habit of making small moves on your goals…you must make little successes frequently. If you let your problems linger and fester, they will grow so sore that they consume you. This is where Culmination Events come from (discussed above, under depression triggers).

Step 4: Condition your reaction to depression

The ultimate goal in fighting depression is to change your perspective as quickly as possible so that it naturally puts you in a happier, healthier, more productive mental state. The quickest way to do this is movement. Once you are aware of your depression triggers, and of the activities that help you fight them, then you must condition yourself to react to depression with your depression-fighting tactics, instead of wallowing in the crappy feelings.

You have to train yourself to recognize that depression is starting, and immediately take steps to beat it back and come out on top.

Step 5: Understand the natural purpose of depression

Depression has a natural place in the human mind. It is like pain. It lets you know when you are injured, and when you have a wound that needs to be treated.

Depression is a hunger…for movement, for fulfillment. Feed it.


Getting Over a Breakup…or Anything

Published November 12, 2012 by Tabby

As the third anniversary of the stupidest decision I’ve ever made is coming up, I’ve wondered if there are stages of working through the grief. And how do you know when you’re done with it? Every time I’ve gone through a rough patch, I’ve been able to trace defined steps of grief: shock, manic action, depression, acceptance, and realization. The one time I truly believed the world was falling down, I oddly didn’t have any of these normal steps. It was overwhelming shock, emotional and physical pain, and then nothingness. I shut down completely and went emotionally numb. I had no idea of what a normal way to cope was. Now a lot of people may be thinking, ‘Jeez, it’s been three years, get over it already.’ I’m over “it” and what happened, but not quite the trust that I have the ability to survive anything like that again or cope like a normal person. Sometimes I wonder, what’s going to put me back in that mental/emotional place I don’t ever want to go again? I found this article that sums it up, the healthy ways to cope. It’s specifically for breakups, but I think it could apply to other grieving times as well.

Mark Banschick, MD: Getting Over Him In Six Steps
By Mark Banschick, MD
Posted: Nov 8, 2012, 3:00:57 AM
Huffington Post

You’ve been dumped. It feels like hell, and you don’t know what to do. What will it take to get over a nasty affair, or worse, an unexpected divorce? And will you or your kids make it?

The key is to your recovery is to take back control and own your life. Acceptance is mandatory. As hard as it sounds, there’s no moving forward as long as you’re mired in regret, anger or fear. This is not to say that you don’t have to protect yourself, and sometimes, your children. He may be manipulative. She may be dangerous. Acceptance does not mean passivity, it means living in the present, the future and not in the pain of the past.

Here are six steps to feeling yourself again:

Mourn: You sacrificed a lot for your marriage and it didn’t work out. Feeling hurt, anger, remorse, guilt, or shame is normal. You will have to go through the steps of grief one by one: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. Get a good therapist and grieve properly. You may still be angry with your narcissistic ex wife or your adulterous husband, and that is a part of the healing process. If, however, you get stuck in one of the phases of grief like anger or depression, make sure that you’re in good hands.

Admit: Admit that you cannot control everything. It is hardly productive to focus on the “what ifs” of the past. Admit that breaking up cost you something — be it emotionally, financially, or both. Bad things do happen to good people.

Trust: Have faith that you won’t feel like this forever. Healing is what your body and soul really wants. And healing is what your children want. Perhaps this is an opportunity for spirituality. Many people are comforted by the sense of being held by a God who cares. If you’re not inclined toward religion, perhaps get in touch with the grandness of the world. See your story as the part of a complete human experience. Meditate and observe. It can liberate.

Forgive: Forgive yourself, forgive the universe, and if possible, forgive your ex. Understand that everyone carries their own injuries, and that he or she may be fighting his or her own demons.

Make Centered Decisions: To forgive is not to forget. Become more aware so that you can move forward. If this means self-protection, then self-protect. If it means allowing your kids to see an ex you hate, but who is a loving parent, allow it to happen. Wounds of the past should not prevent you from making sound decisions. Plus, taking care of business properly feels good.

Accept: You are now in a place where you can understand what happened to you more clearly. Maybe your narcissistic husband or boyfriend did not truly love you. Acceptance is necessary, and at some point, you need not fight the past. It means seeing things clearly.
In the aftermath of a divorce, your emotions may seem overwhelming. I urge you to experience them all, from the outrage to the hurt to the self doubt and the fear of what comes next. Grief work is required, and it’s a necessary component of healing.

Grief is the spiritual equivalent to the body slowly healing a bad wound. It gets triggered time after time, overwhelming when least expected. But it gets worked through and the wound ultimately heals.

Life is not fair.

Loss hurts. If he left you, then you are holding a bag of resentment and hurt. If you left him, you’ve been grieving the loss of your marriage for some time. It’s a big loss. We all want to rage at the world, or crawl into a depressed spot when we feel the injustice and randomness of our pain.
Acceptance heals. Real acceptance is a gift — for you and for everyone else in the world. If you try and shortcut your healing, you will not get there. Losing a relationship is a loss and grieving is required. Just know that there is hope, a brighter tomorrow and that true acceptance can help you and your children get there.

Acceptance is an evolutionary good because acceptance doesn’t mean passivity. It means freedom.

The Eleven Leadership Secrets You’ve Never Heard About

Published October 22, 2012 by Tabby

I have always had conflicting views regarding leadership. I never believed in leadership programs in school (high school or college) as I thought it was something you could not just teach someone, you had to just have “it.” Leadership was a natural talent that someone is born with and can hone and develop as they grow as a person. I also wondered if everyone is a leader, then what is the point? You must have followers to support a leader as no one can do everything on their own.

To me, there are also different types of leaders. The loudest (and sometimes most obnoxious) person in a situation does not automatically mean they are a leader. Sure, there are plenty of extra-extraverted leaders but I have quite a bit of admiration for the quiet leaders. Those quiet leaders take the ego out of it, not boisterously bossing anyone around but stepping up and providing direction, organization, and charisma to solve a problem.

I found this article quite a while ago but found it’s concept fascinating: “great followers follow by leading.” It also features various characteristics that are admirable regardless of leader/follower designation. What do you think?

August Turak, “The 11 Leadership Secrets You’ve Never Heard About,” Forbes Magazine (accessed October 22, 2012). The old distinctions between leaders and followers are gone. Great followers follow by leading. Here’s 11 ways to make sure you do just that.

In 1982 I left a great job at MTV: Music Television for what is now the A&E Network for one reason: to work for Jim Collins. A highly successful executive, Collins poured wisdom into my head by the bucket while keeping me in stitches with his big-hearted Irish sense of humor. One day he said:

“Remember Augie, everybody got a boss. The vice president reports to the president and the president reports to the CEO. The CEO reports to the chairman of the board and the chairman reports to his wife. All God’s children got a boss. If you want to be a great leader you must also be a great follower.”

According to Louis Mobley, my mentor and the director of the IBM Executive School, Albert Einstein did far more than reinvent physics. Human beings are no longer just passive cogs in Newton’s mechanistic machine inexorably driven by the iron wheel of cause and effect. Instead we are all conscious agents, thinking for ourselves, just as capable of causing change as being driven by it. Einstein’s universe is a fluid place of feedback loops where cause and effect are interchangeable and often indistinguishable. Does the media lead public opinion or merely reflect it? Do parents produce children or children produce parents? Are consumers hapless victims of marketing or are marketing folks just hapless victims of a fickle consumer?

For leadership, Einstein’s revolution means that the old, neat distinction between leaders and followers no longer exists. Those bright lines between kings and subjects, nobles and serfs, bosses and “workers” are gone. We often switch between leader and follower many times in a single day, and success depends just as much on being a great follower as it does on being a great leader. Great followers follow by leading and here are 11 ways to do just that.

1) Great Followers Seize the Initiative: The days of leaders saying “Jump!” and subordinates asking “How high?” are over. Today’s leader desperately needs followers that bring fresh ideas not passive worker bees waiting to be told what to do. Great followers say, “This is what I think we should do.” not “What do you want me to do?”

2) Great Followers Create their Own Job: Collins taught me a model for every new job I took. Moving quickly I’d identify a quantifiable goal that I could achieve in a reasonably short amount of time. I would then write up a plan for achieving that goal along with a weekly reporting process. But most importantly, I always presented my plan before my boss asked for it. In this way I demonstrated that I could lead myself. The side benefit of creating my own job was getting the autonomy that turns work into fun.

3) Great Followers are Coachable: One time Collins shared a “secret” with me. Rather than lug around a notebook, he folded a sheet of paper into thirds and put it into the breast pocket of his jacket for notes. I faithfully imitated him, but the first thing I did after leaving the company was stop carrying that damn sheet of paper. It may seem that I was just playing the phony to ingratiate myself, but I had a nobler objective. I wanted to demonstrate to Collins that I was coachable. I used a little thing to signal that I was coachable on the big ones.

4) Great Followers Anticipate: One of the most humorous bits from the TV series M*A*S*H is Cpl. “Radar” O’Reilly consistently anticipating Col. Blake and later Col. Potter. They can barely open their mouths before Radar finishes their sentence by assuring them that whatever they are looking for is already done. Like Radar, great followers stay a step ahead of their boss by proactively asking: “If I were my boss what would I want next?” My 23- year -old sales assistant at MTV, Sheri Gottlieb was so good that within weeks 90% of the work that hit my in-box went straight to my out-box with only “Sheri, please handle” for instruction. Soon and without being asked, like Radar, she was intercepting most of my office work before it even hit my desk. Sheri, unsurprisingly, quickly rose from “lowly secretary” to vice president.

5) Great Followers are Great Communicators: If your boss ever has to ask for a status report, you are failing as a follower. Great leaders are great worriers. Great followers preempt worry by proactively communicating in writing. If you do not communicate your boss will naturally worry that you are hiding bad news. Besides, unbidden information is treated far more credibly than information demanded. Poor communicators consistently find themselves on the defensive and perpetually wondering why.

6) Great Followers are Goal Driven: Leaders are busy. The last thing they want to do is “supervise.” Great followers reason backwards: they use future goals to prioritize today’s “activity.” Poor followers reason forward: They react to their in-box and email in the forlorn hope that just staying busy will magically produce results somewhere “down the road.” Your boss is not paying you to “stay busy” or even to “work hard.” He is paying you to strategically deliver on clearly defined goals that materially impact the mission. This is true no matter where you are on the corporate ladder as my assistant Sheri repeatedly demonstrated.

7) Great Followers Show Don’t Tell: I am coaching a young MBA student. At our first meeting I began groping for a quote, and this young man quietly pulled out a neatly tabbed binder with everything I had ever written and quickly pulled out the quote. His preparation demonstrated seriousness far more convincingly than an impassioned speech ever could. I am now investing far more in him. Human beings are wired to value action and discount verbiage, use this trait to your advantage.

8) Great Followers Earn Trust: My number one goal upon taking a new job was getting my boss to relax. The sooner I earned his trust, the quicker he would spend his most valuable asset, time, worrying about something other than me. Louis Mobley said trust relies on promise and fulfillment. People who keep promises can be trusted. Those who don’t cannot. Great followers keep promises. It is critical, especially early in your relationship with your boss, that you deliver on every commitment no matter how trivial.

9) Great Followers Offer Solutions: Any damn fool can turn his problems into problems for his boss. Great followers solve problems. If they cannot they always offer their boss solutions along with the problem.

10) Great Followers are Compassionate: Often referred to as “managing your boss,” great followers are sympathetic to the enormous pressure that leaders must endure. For example, leaders may wait too long to make a change or fill a position. Then they spend months and many thousands of dollars recruiting while Rome burns around them. Once they fill the position they still spend sleepless nights haunted by the chance that they hired the wrong person. If they have, not only must they go through the agonizing process again, but answer to their own unsympathetic boss about their poor decision. Examples like this are the ordinary lot of leadership, and great followers not only empathize but look for ways to reassure their boss that at least one person understands his pain and can be counted on to alleviate it.

11) Great Followers are Loyal: If I could not, in clear conscience, back my boss to the hilt then it was time to change jobs or take an unpaid sabbatical. Great followers take pride in making their boss “look good.” Even if I disagreed in private, it was still my job to present a united front once the decision had been made. I never undermined my boss to curry favor with my own people or played politics at his expense. I only went over his head to let his superiors know how great he was, and I constantly looked for reasons to do just that.

As I hope you’ve noticed, many of the same traits I ascribe to great followers apply to great leaders. Great leaders not only acquire these traits as followers, but model them for their own subordinates. But most importantly their interchangeable nature makes my point: Just as the distinction between noble and serf is a thing of the past so are the distinctions between leaders and followers. Everybody got a boss and I was fortunate to have the privilege of avidly following a number of great teachers and business leaders like Jim Collins. And my efforts to become the best follower I could possibly be paid off handsomely when I finally found myself leading my own company… What do you think makes a great leader?

Understanding Someone with Adult ADHD and Quitting Medication

Published October 21, 2012 by Tabby

It’s amazing how many people unknowingly have friends, family, and/or colleagues with adult ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. These unseen conditions do affect people and awareness would greatly benefit not only those with these conditions but also their loved ones. Maybe it would also lessen those who believe these conditions don’t really exist. (I’d invite them to spend a day with an adult ADHD sufferer, without their meds, in a small non-stimulating environment).

Part of having these conditions is facing the decision whether to medicate. I’m not a fan of taking medication or the belief many non-sufferers have that we take medication just to be taking a pill. While I do believe many are over-prescribed and some people do abuse them, but not everyone. It’s sometimes an amazing/unreadable concept to some that some people need medication to function in an every day life. I’m sure many people who need these medications would love to stop spending the money, stressing their liver and dealing with side effects, it’s just not plausible. Natural cures are great if they work, but they don’t for everyone. And for the Tom Cruises out there, exercise and vitamins are great regardless but don’t correct glitches in your brain.

A less favorable aspect of necessary medication is finding the right one. Since modern medical science doesn’t yet understand what causes ADHD, they are also unsure of why certain medications work and others do not. This means that often people must try multiple medications until the right one is discovered. It’s not fun being a human experiment while searching for the correct medication: there are vast unpleasant side effects. In addition, it often takes months or years to find the correct medication and dosage. And sometimes you have to judge if the long term effects from the medication are worth the payoff. Most of the time there is no choice.

One example for adult ADHD is Adderall. It is a controlled prescription form of meth, basically. It’s a stimulant. Adderall is highly addictive and abused (not just by people who need it). The side effects include dehydration, addiction, insomnia, lack of sexual desire, irritability, mood swings, heart palpitations, skin wounds, urinary tract infections, and more. Not everyone experiences these effects but they are pretty common. But for those who try Adderall in the quest for a normal existence and discover it is not for them, there is another problem: you can’t instantly quit taking it. “Cold turkey” stopping of the medication can cause lifelong seizures, death, and same withdrawal symptoms of a lifelong drug addict quitting heroin. They must slowly reduce their dosage until they can safely stop taking the medication. This withdrawal time is the hardest. The following is an article from a website for ADHD sufferers attempting to quit Adderall. Please keep this in mind if you or anyone you know is going through a withdrawal period-it’s not just for street drug addicts.

“How to Help a Friend Quit Adderall,” Quitting,

Note: I’m going to switch gender pronouns back an forth. Most of this applies to guys and girls, friends and spouses.

1. Be the one person who understands why they’re quitting

For your friend, one of the hardest parts of quitting Adderall will be that everybody else will think he’s crazy. If he were quitting cigarettes or alcohol, all of his good friends would pat him on the back and say “Good job, Jimmy! Congrats on getting sober! We’re so proud of you!”
But that’s not what happens with Adderall.

On the contrary, most of his peers will act concerned and disapproving when he quits, and say things like “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you getting your work done? Why are you sleeping all the time? Why are you so morose lately? Did you take your medicine today? You should take your medicine, because you’re pretty worthless without it. What do you mean you’re quitting?! It’s just a medicine. I mean, I take prozac. It’s not a big deal. Just take it.”

Think about what’s going on there. Think about how he hears those statements: He is trying to quit taking a drug, and all of his peers are directly or indirectly encouraging him to stay on the drugs. This makes quitting Adderall a very lonely struggle for your friend, who will constantly question his decision because it gets so little support from his peers.

He knows that to make everybody else happy, it would be easier just to stay on Adderall. But he’s at a point where he’s finally ready to start trying to make himself happy first. And for somebody like him, who cares very much about the approval of others, that’s a big step. Now, what you can do as his friend is be on his side when nobody else is.

Even if you cannot become convinced that quitting is the right thing for your friend to do, for his sake it will help if you at least understand his motives and encourage him to see them through.
If you’ve never taken Adderall, it might be a bit hard to fully understand why somebody would want to quit, but I’ll try to explain anyway…

Why most people quit Adderall

In the movie Neverending Story II, there’s an evil witch who gives the main character (Sebastian) a device that will grant him any wish he desires, at the expense of one of his childhood memories (one memory per wish granted).
Wish by wish, young Sebastian gains a power and loses his memories. By the end of the movie Sebastian is very powerful, with all his wishes granted, but he has forgotten everything that makes him who he is. Adderall has a similar effect on many people. This is why the number one reason people decide to quit Adderall is “To get back of a piece of myself that feels lost.”
By quitting Adderall, your friend is hoping that he will eventually get back some of those special parts of himself that he feels like he’s lost. Maybe it’s a passion (acting, writing, painting, making short films, etc.) that he doesn’t prioritize enough when he’s on Adderall. Maybe it’s his sense of humor. Or maybe it’s his willpower and self-discipline that he misses.

Pain is an important part of life. Pain tells you when you’re doing something stupid and wrong that you should stop doing. Adderall, in a way, is like an anesthetic for work-related pain. On Adderall you will never think “this work sucks”. You will never think “I don’t like this job.” And you will never think “Gee I really wish I was doing something I enjoyed.” At least, not to the extent sober people feel those sentiments.

Part of finding your place in this world is going through lots of work you don’t like doing to find work that you do like doing. Adderall blocks that process. So part of what your friend is doing is turning his pain sensors back on so he can step back on that path that will lead him (through discomfort) to a calling that suits him.

Whatever he’s lost, he’s hoping that by quitting Adderall he will get it back. And he’s counting on being able to feel pain again to point him in the right direction. He knows he’s going to be worthless for a while. He knows it’s going to be very hard. But he hopes that eventually with enough work he’ll be a stronger, more genuine person than he ever was before. And here’s the secret: he will be.

In time, he will be noticeably better, and his decision to quit Adderall will be seen in a more positive light by his peers, who didn’t realize what he was doing until it was done.
Your role, as his angel and friend, will be to swallow an ounce of faith and support his reasons for quitting before anybody else does. It’s a very courageous thing your friend is doing, and you can be his hero by seeing it in that light when nobody else does.

2. Understand that she doesn’t like being an unproductive slug all day

Your friend/significant other turned to Adderall in the first place because she has a deep desire to contribute and excel in all areas of her life, especially work. When she quits Adderall and suddenly loses her ability to produce, it will be very hard for her.

She has pressured herself into a very high standard of productivity, which Adderall helps her maintain even to exess. When she quits Adderall, she still has this high standard, but suddenly she can’t bring herself to meet it anymore, and the pressure of her sudden helplessness compared against the mountain of work she has invited on herself will crush her at first.

She’s the type of person who will always feel like she could have done more even when she’s producing twice as much as everybody else, and now she’s completely stripping herself of her ability to produce at all (and for the first time less than everybody else). It’s agonizing. And the guilt is overwhelming.

If you want to make an ex Adderall user reach for her pills, make her feel like you’re disappointed in her for not getting any work done. She wants desparately to get the work done and to do it very well, and she wants to earn your respect and make you proud. But right now, for this little period of her life, she can’t.

3. Point out positive changes when you see them

There are plenty of negative side effects that crop up when a person quits Adderall, but there are also some good, pleasant side effects as well. It will help to point out these positive changes when you notice them, to help show your friend that he’s making progress even if he may not be aware of it.

As you observed your friend over the course of his time on Adderall, you probably noticed many of the positive affects of the drug: He was more energetic, more confident, he seemed to be much more productive, he lost weight, etc.

And you probably noticed some undesirable quirks in his behavior too: Maybe his sleep cycle was erratic (binge/crash), he spoke too fast, he spent too much time on trivial details and sometimes had trouble completing projects because he got so wrapped up in them and ran out of time.

If you’re in a relationship with the person, there’s a whole slew of additional negative behaviors you might notice when they’re on Adderall. Maybe they don’t pay as much attention to you, don’t seem to need you as much, their sex drive is lower than you’d like it to be, they can’t have silly fun like they used to, they can’t relax when you just want to chill out and have fun, they’re always thinking about work, or they obsesses over too many things. Maybe he’s a little full of himself.

Often when a person quits Adderall, all the positive and negative changes the Adderall brought are completely turned on their head (reversed). If their sex drive went down on Adderall, it will probably go up when they quit. If they were full of themselves on Adderall, they will probably feel insecure and inferior when they quit.

You can pretty much go down the list of what they were like on Adderall, and expect the direct opposite behavior when they quit. This is why quitting Adderall is one of the biggest changes you can make in your life: it turns your world around, quite literally.

Many of the behavior changes you notice after they quit Adderall will be unpleasant and negative, for you and for them. But there will be a few things that are noticeably positive improvements. It’s important that you point these positive changes out to your friend when you see them, because it’s very hard for him to feel the good parts of quitting despite the bad (at first).

Positive changes to watch for:
Sense of humor coming back
Sex drive pleasantly increasing
Ability to chill out and relax more
Talking about/renewed interest in artistic & creative things like writing, painting, acting.
In general, watch for these: Humor, sex, silly fun, child-like creativity, love of being outdoors.
When you notice these positive changes, say something! It really helps.

4. Take any work off her plate that you can (at first)
When she first quits Adderall, it will be very hard for your friend to do anything besides lay in bed all day and deal with the withdrawals. When she does manage to crawl out of her dopamine-depleted coma, it will be a challenge for her just to make food, get dressed, and make it into work reasonably close to on-time.

Adderall is a drug that helps people work. So when it’s taken away, they’re left with what remains of their natural work muscles (willpower, self-discipline, etc.), which won’t amount to much after years depending on Adderall to get the job done. Think of it like somebody who’s been walking with bionic-assisted legs for years, and then the bionic attachments break and she has to try and walk on her shriveled, atrophied original muscles. It’s not pretty.

In the first months after she quits Adderall, your friend will be putting off and casting aside tasks as if she were the laziest person ever born. But it’s not laziness. She is acutely aware of every single task, and she wants to get them all done and make everyone proud, but she can’t figure out how to get through them without incurring so much stress and mental pain that she goes running back to her pill bottle. So she just shuts down.

To help, take whatever tasks you can off your friend’s plate. Reduce the stress of her workload. Take tasks in shear numbers, or leave her the easy tasks and you take the big, creative, heavy-lifting ones (note: here I mean mental heavy lifting). Give her time to be a slug and recover her chemicals for a month or two. The more you depressurize her to-do list, the less she will have to be anxious about, and ultimately the more she’ll be able to focus on her recovery.
Remember: She would do it for you.

5. Try not to throw big tasks at him, but do throw little tasks at him

Do you remember your last math class in school? Math is easy when you only have to worry about one variable, like “x”. It’s a little tricky when you start adding “y” and then it gets downright daunting when you have to worry about x, y, z, m, and lots of other factors…all of which have to be factored for and calculated with perfect arithmetic or the whole problem goes to hell.
This is why math teachers start out teaching single-variable problems. Then as the class moves through the chapters and the students get comfortable, the teacher starts increasing the number of variables and complications in each problem, until eventually you find yourself coasting easily through a problem at end of the semester that would have given you a panic attack if you’d seen it at the beginning.

Generally, this is the approach you should take with your friend the newly-sober Adderallic. Start him off on very simple problems with few variables, and work him up as he gets comfortable.
When he first quits Adderall, it will be the large, complex, multi-variable problems that are the most difficult for him (because his attention span, interest level, and patience will be 1/10th of what they were).

Trying to make your friend do a task that is too mentally demanding too early will be the equivalent of throwing a PhD-level math problem at a freshmen and telling him that he has to solve it right now or he will fail at life and everyone he cares about will hate him.

All that said, do throw tasks at him. He will need a little discomfort to keep his willpower and work ethic on the mend. Just don’t go too big too early, or it’ll break him.

Here are some tips:
Physical tasks (e.g., “clean the basement”) are more manageable than mental and emotional tasks (e.g., “fill out this application”)

In terms of your friend’s reactions to the work: Groaning and discomfort is fine, but watch for anxiety. You want to avoid causing him so much mental stress that he freaks out.
You goal here is not to push him and give him “tough love”. Your goal his to help him convince him that he is still capable of doing work, by giving him things he can digest.

6. Be a pleasant distraction for her

The one thing your friend is going to crave like crazy when she first quits Adderall is distractions. Something, anything she can use as an excuse not to face the horrible reality that she is now excruciatingly incompetent at all things productivity and work.

In the beginning, she will often trap herself between her sense of obligation to work and her inability to meet that obligation. You can offer her escape from this by jumping in and wisking her away to fun distractions. See, it’s hard for her to distract herself without feeling guilty like she’s procrastinating. But if you pull her away for something pleasant, she allows it though her guilt filter. Because you are an obligation. She has to keep your approval. So if she has to go ride roller coasters with you to keep your approval…that’s permissible in her mind.

It is in this way that you can give your dear friend a much-needed sense of break and enjoyment in her quitting Adderall struggle. Don’t pull her away if you see her actually making progress on something, but if she’s slumped on the couch looking like she wants to die, give her something better to do.

Additionally, most Adderall uses report a significantly increased desire to exercise after quitting Adderall. That’s something you can do together, which can be fun and beneficial for both of you.

7. When in doubt, just leave him alone and let him recover.

If you’re too much in their face, you become an obligation that stresses them. This is especially true of Introverts. Quitting Adderall is in every way a battle against the self. It is a very lonely war that few people are capable of fully understanding. Ultimately, you can help them in lots of ways, but they’re going to have to teach themselves how to live and work again without Adderall.
Most Adderall users are by nature approval addicts, who are hyper-sensitive to obligations that they feel are placed on them by others. This is why a largely hands-off approach can often work best (as a default approach) when dealing with a newly-sober Adderallic. Give them lots of time and space to feel free of others and obligations. Part of the quitting process will involve them creating, sometimes for the first time, a space in their life that is all their own. It is in that space that they will grow into the kind of person that doesn’t need Adderall anymore.

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