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The Benefits of Neuro-diversity, Brain Retraining, and Thriving Personally and Professionally

adhd all blogs career executive function Jan 17, 2022

How would you feel if your employer told you to “take drugs” to increase your production at work? 

Living with ADHD is challenging enough, but what if you weren’t aware of your condition or what if your employer didn’t appreciate your strengths and focused only on your weaknesses? 

Would you manage to live a full robust life (personally and professionally) in spite of everything? 

In today’s Part 2 of 2 blog post on AIA-FS and job success, we’re going to highlight Achiever Márton Klecska and his search for the right job that maximizes his talents and abilities.  

“I began to question why I could manage other people and organize big events so well, but I couldn’t manage myself.”

Márton’s Pre-Pandemic Life…

Márton admits that he’s always felt different from others and has had trouble fitting in at times. 

Grade school and college in his homeland of Hungary were challenging, but he’d made it through and landed his first office job with a giant international computer manufacturer as an engineer. Though he didn’t care for the stillness of his day job he found ways to offset his restlessness. During his free time, he worked as an entrepreneur absorbing himself in the cultural scene by organizing festivals, event-planning at local pubs, or working alongside friends who DJ’d local events. 

“My brain is just really good at holding all the details together, making everything work like clockwork precision,” Márton says. “But I’m only good if I have an end result…like a few weeks or a few months out. School for me was hard because I felt like it would never end.”

When Márton was doing all these events–including organizing several large festivals of up to 40,000 people–he felt energized, like his batteries were charging, and this allowed him to do his office job well. Thriving at such high levels socially also distracted Márton from being cognizant of his ADHD symptoms (he hadn’t yet been diagnosed with ADHD, so they were symptoms at that point in his life).

Early success: Márton and his brother worked hard and opened a small, local pub. Through his social networking, Márton gathered 800 people for the opening night. The pub was a success, and two years later they were featured in Forbes Magazine as the most iconic pub in their hometown. “My brain is really fast …I’m really good in adrenaline-rich situations.”

“I realized early on that I’m not a good musician, or artist. I just don’t have the patience for that,” Márton admits, “but I was really into socializing, creating events, and wanting to help people.” 

Márton describes himself as an “upside-down learner” who is slower to learn things, but for whom the information sticks for a very long time so he can build on it and quickly accelerate easily.

But Things Began To Unravel At His Office Job…

For a time, Márton was thriving in both his personal and professional arenas of life. But then Márton’s manager told him to “take drugs to increase his production” at work, because Márton wasn’t being as productive as the other engineers.

“My manager then realized what he’d said and took it back,” Márton says. “It was the most awkward situation I’ve seen professionally and it was probably pretty illegal. I was fired afterwards.”

It was a very confusing time for Márton; he felt that his employers talked about supporting good mental health, but they were basically suffocating people who were different from neuro-typical individuals. 

All of this happened before Márton realized that he might have ADHD. 

Being fired is no fun for anyone, and for Márton, life took a new twist when he landed a new job in the United Kingdom. While the job position was similar, it meant leaving Hungary and abandoning his event organizing and his social networks. He was sad to leave that behind, so he thrust himself into a new passion–martial arts–and began exercising 10-20 hours per week to maintain the endorphin rush his brain and body needed. (Exercise is great for the ADHD brain!)

How the COVID Pandemic Led Him to Positive Change

When the COVID pandemic hit and everything shut down, it was a difficult time for Márton. “I found myself without a routine. I couldn’t exercise anymore, so I didn’t have the dopamine rush or the schedule I needed. I’d given up drinking which was challenging. And work was getting quite frustrating.” 

“And I began to question why I could manage other people and organize big events so well, but I couldn’t manage myself.”

And as he was getting settled into his role as a senior engineer, he began to discover difficulties related to ADHD that showed up in his work environment. 

“I realized that something was going on in the background with me as I was working my job, and I started to be more open about my frustrations and anxiety, too. I realized that I overshare quite a lot and that often people can’t deal with it,” Márton says.

Márton’s decision to begin working with Dr B in the ADDventures In Achievement Foundational Skills Program was a game-changer.

And as Márton opened up about his struggles he recognized a recurring pattern: supporting mental health was talked about in the company, but the management personnel were expecting Márton to offer remedies—to tell them exactly how to help him deal with his struggles… even though he had no idea what he needed.

“It’s kinda like asking the shortest person in the room to get you something from the highest shelf. It can’t work that way,” Márton says. 

So, Márton began researching the brain. His world opened up. He became quite emotional and relief washed over him when he realized he wasn’t alone. Answers and discoveries were emerging from his research! He learned all he could about neuro-diversity and found terms and phrases like “ADHD, executive function skills, hyper-focusing, no skills in pills.” 

“I knew I didn’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life [like doctors often recommend]. And the medication for anxiety I had tried caused me depression. And it didn’t solve the anxiety issue. And waiting for 2-3 years for an ADHD diagnosis wasn’t a good option for me.”

It was a long haul, but it finally paid off. After trying to get help from two psychologists who were untrained in diagnosing ADHD, and after being on the UK diagnosis waitlist for months, he finally discovered Dr B’s podcast where he learned about the ADDventures In Achievement Foundational Skills Program. It was exciting to think that there was something out there that might work for him!

“I cracked the case around one of the hottest technology topics, called DevOps,which is the mixture of software development and IT operations. It’s now a buzzword, but it’s like the future of the technological approach.”

At the same time, things were unraveling at work. In spite of having several early successes with this new employer, including cracking the code around DevOps, one of today’s hottest technology topics, the company’s upper management was stuck in the 1990’s. He watched in frustration as all the advancements he and his coworkers had created were stymied. The company couldn’t get out of its own way to transition to the modern systems, nor effectively lead their personnel in moving forward. The team of senior engineers spent all their time firefighting with the old systems and old modalities. What was meant to bring progress and prosperity to the company was sabotaged as team members were shuffled into opposing roles. Instead of moving forward and working together, everything began returning back to the old ways, and worse. 

The combined stress of the pandemic and work was pulling Márton deeper and deeper into a downward spiral. 

Márton’s decision to begin working with Dr B in the ADDventures In Achievement Foundational Skills Program was a game-changer. 

“When I first heard about AIA-FS, I had such severe brain fog, and I was unsure if I could afford or commit to the program. But I’m so glad I did because you cannot put a price on your mental health. It’s the most precious thing we have.”

And little did he know how much he would rely on this community during the months ahead. Shortly after enrolling, Màrton’s father died of COVID, so he had to return to Hungary. 

Between the challenge of losing his father and his stressful work conditions, Márton had begun having panic attacks that lasted for five days to a week at a time.

Dr B and the AIA-FS community supported him throughout all of it. From his work within the AIA program–the training, the live group coaching sessions, and the forum discussions, Márton learned about his brain and his unique learning style. A personal insight for him came when he discovered that being in an imbalanced state was the root of his anxiety issues. 

Three specific skills from the program that have benefited Márton: 

Metacognition: “I can ask myself things, and reflect on these things with higher level thinking.” This skill helped him immensely professionally and personally.

Initiating: “A three-minute conversation… in a group coaching discussion … made me think of a couple of things very differently, and it changed my whole approach towards starting things in my life.” Márton says he realizes he doesn’t have to be a “maximalist” or perfectionist about things – he can just get started and even move at a slower pace, if needed. 

Inhibiting: “I can stop myself before doing something when a situation happens at work.” Márton has learned so much about successfully navigating work environments when you “don’t fit the neurotypical” expectations.

How AIA-FS Supported Márton in Landing a Better Job 

Sadly, during the months away from his UK office, Márton saw all his hard work destroyed. His hopes of getting a promotion and a raise were dashed. He decided he needed a job change.

When Márton made the decision to change jobs, the AIA-FS community was there for him. 

“Dr B and a couple of people in the group were helping me to understand and to try to figure out what I actually wanted for my life, and where my struggles are actually coming from,” Márton says.

Through working with Dr B and the AIA-FS community, Márton discovered the importance of rearranging his environment, and realized that he doesn’t need to stay in work environments where he doesn’t really have the influence to change anything.

He talked pre- and post-emptively through his interview processes. He asked how to bring the topic of ADHD up in follow-up interviews in such a way that he wasn't putting the label on himself or triggering any negative response.

After his numerous interviews, Márton received three major job offers because of his experience of “deep diving” into the topic of site reliability engineering (SRE) and by helping his former company through a major transition.

“Even though that failed, I still learned about the topic and how not to do it,” says Márton. “And I learned, too, with Dr B and the AIA community’s help, that I should be paid for my knowledge and experience.”

Márton has finally achieved his promotion in a newly developed role within system administration as a senior site reliability engineer. He gets to use his brilliant brain and its capacity to hold images and detailed imagery fully in his new role.

“The Most Precious Thing We Have”

These days Márton is feeling more empowered in both his work life and in his personal life. “I’ve definitely felt my brain and thinking patterns start to change.” 

He’s learning how to manage himself better with the Executive Function skills that he’s learned through AIA-FS, and he’s even enrolled in Dr B’s Next Level Program to continue his learning within the supportive community environment. Even in the midst of grieving his father’s passing, Márton found support from Dr B in her ability to speak from her own experience of losing her mother in recent years. And he also finds that Dr B speaks so directly to what he needs in the moment. 

“When I first heard about AIA-FS, I had such severe brain fog, and I was unsure if I could afford or commit to the program. But I’m so glad I did because you cannot put a price on your mental health. It’s the most precious thing we have.”

“It’s taken me about eight months for my brain to be retrained,” says Márton. “Opening up about my frustrations by talking with others…was important for me. I think it’s far better than being alone with your thoughts, and the fear and the feelings of failure that comes with them…I recommend everyone to find a community where they can speak about their experiences.” 

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Márton and Tuvi (from Part 1) are just two examples of the many Achievers who have successfully landed better-paying, more satisfying jobs with the help and support of the ADDventures In Achievement program. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading their stories and have learned more about how the program supports people in specific ways. 

If you’re inspired and want to find out more about the program, please visit the AIA page on my website here: ADDventures In Achievement.