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How adult ADHD diagnosis led Dr. George Sachs on the path to success in his career

I was laid off. 9/11 happened, I ended a relationship. I was 28 or 29. And I realised that I wasn't having success, a lot of my other friends in their 20s were achieving success. I don't mean big success, but just traction in their job. They were moving up being promoted. And I was not and this was before I had realised I had ADHD. But I was really struggling to make it as in any career. And now I was approaching 30, and I really had to do some self analysis.

Dr. George Sachs is a licensed clinical child and adult psychologist, specializing in the treatment of ADD, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. He is the founder of the Sachs Center, a holistic treatment center for ADHD, co-founder and clinical director of Inflow, a science-based app for adults with ADHD, and author of Helping the Traumatized Child, Helping Your Husband with ADHD, The Adult ADD Solution and The Happy, Mad, Sad book for toddlers. Dr. George is also a career changer and before becoming a psychologist, he worked in technology for IBM, Viacom, and Barnes and noble.com.

Let’s start with your background. How did you start your professional life? Or better? What was your first job?

Oh, I love this question. I didn’t know if it came from parents not being able to provide as much as I wanted. My father’s favorite expression was money doesn’t grow on trees. That was what he always said. So at the age of 13, I started working. My first job was changing the scoreboard at a baseball stadium in my neighborhood. And then I had my own businesses, mowing lawns, and I grew up in Connecticut, and we used to go around the neighborhood and shovel the snow for people. And then I probably had 100 jobs. I mean, I’m not being hyperbolic, you know, little jobs. I worked in a pharmacy, in high school during summers. And then in college, I delivered chicken wings.  I taught English in Asia, in Korea, after college, and then in Japan. And then I came back in my 20s and worked in New York City and technology. And this was the beginning of the dot.com boom in the 90s. And it was a very exciting time in New York City. At the time I was also attempting to be a television writer, and had limited success with that. Writing was my real passion. But it was the beginning of the.com era. And there was a lot of opportunity in New York. And so I did, I was working as a consultant for different companies. And then the consulting life with ADHD is very difficult. Because you’re always kind of scrambling and it’s can be overwhelming. And so I got a job at Barnes and noble.com. I think it’s still around. It’s American, was a big book seller, but really couldn’t compete with Amazon at that time. So went out of business, I was laid off. 9/11 happened, I ended a relationship. There are a lot of different things that happened, I was 28 or 29. And I realized that I wasn’t having success, a lot of my other friends in their 20s were achieving success. I don’t mean big success, but just traction in their job. They were moving up being promoted. And I was not and this was before I had realized I had ADHD. But I was really struggling to make it as as in any career. And now I was approaching 30, and I really had to do some self analysis. I was laid off unemployed for a good six months or a year. And then I said “I really don’t want to be chasing the next job every two years. And I wanted something where I could have stability for the rest of my life. Also, I wanted a job where when I was 70 and had gray hair I was still respected. And I saw in technology that there was no buddy older than 35, at least back then. I majored in psychology in college, but I didn’t really seriously entertain it because I  I had this entrepreneurial bug. But at some point I decided it was more important for me to have stability and structure and actually have a profession where I was helping people. And so I went back to graduate school when I was 31. Which is not a quick road. Really, as I say door to door from the day I decided to go to graduate school to become a psychologist, to the time that I opened up my own practice was 10 years. So in the meantime, I did work as part of my training as a psychologist in Chicago, doing testing of children with ADHD, and then in Los Angeles, doing therapy for children in in South Central Los Angeles. And then I became a psychologist, and worked for a famous psychiatrist in New York City, Dr. Halliwell, who wrote the book “Driven to distraction”. When I left I started my own private practice, which I did for the bulk of my 40s. And had success with that, because I really enjoyed helping people. I realized in graduate school, I had ADHD. So now I was doing something not only for other people, but to help myself. And, and so I did that in New York City and really enjoyed that. Then, during COVID, I received a phone call from two young men, technology guys in their 20s, in London. They were looking to build a therapeutic app, digital app on the iPhone, and Android for people with ADHD. And they needed some expert who actually knew something about ADHD. And we hit it off really well, because I had this background in technology. I have this entrepreneurial bug. And also, I have   experience with ADHD and knowledge of ADHD, which could help build the app. So for the last three years, I have been working with them on building this app. It’s now live on the app store for Google. It’s called inflow. So if you want to, if you have ADHD, and you want help and support and, and information and coaching, you can go download this app called Inflow. So I’ve been working with them, and also still growing my private practice by having other people taking over and doing some of the things I was doing. I still haven’t written as much as I wanted to create creative writing. But during COVID I started a novel. And still, that’s a hobby. But I can say that, yeah, 30 It was a tough time to really change careers. When I was 30. But I’m very, very happy I did. I went with my passion, which was important, you know? It was also realistic, I say, realistic passion, because I could have still, you know, had this drive to do television writing. But I was concerned that now I was getting into my 30s. And if I didn’t have success there, I would have really suffered I mentally and emotionally.

It’s incredible to hear your story, how everything pans out, and how you discover that you had ADHD.

I didn’t know until I was doing testing of children I would read the assessment, you know, the TAT, the quizzes, and before I would give it to the parent, I would read and say, oh my God, this is me. I started putting the pieces together and realize this is this is what I have. And this is the reason that I struggled so much of my life because of ADHD. So it was very helpful. They say people don’t like labels,  like you have ADHD or you have autism. But I actually find that very helpful, because then you can know your stuff better. And then you can make decisions from that. For example, freelancing is very hard for people with ADHD, generally, because you have to be super organized. But we also don’t like to really work for other people as much. So it’s kind of a difficult bind. But I, I do think structure is very important with ADHD. Graduate school provided me a lot of structure, just do this thing, and then do this thing. I call it hoops of fire, I had to just keep doing these things that they asked me to do until I was done.

So how did you help yourself with your ADHD before starting to help others?

Well, number one is to find something you’re actually excited about, you know, not just stability or money, because ADHD is not really a problem of attention. That it’s in a way  the definition, but really, it’s a problem of motivation. And so if you’re excited about something with ADHD, you can pursue it and hyper focus on it and get a lot of things done. But if you’re bored, it’s not interesting. Nothing happens. So that information that I had ADHD really told me, I have to pursue my passion, and until I’m not passionate about it anymore. And so when these guys called me, I was getting a little bored with the private practice life, you know, it was fun to hang out to build the practice and work with a lot of people. But ultimately, towards the end towards the beginning of COVID, I was just sitting in my office all day. And then I realized I needed maybe another career change, not a dramatic one, but doing something a little bit different to stimulate me more than just sitting in my office all day.

Let’s talk about ADHD. What is it, how it can be defined and how it can be diagnosed in adults.

ADHD is a genetic, neuro developmental challenge. It’s hereditary. If you wonder if you have it, check your parents, you know, do they have a lot of problems with disorganization, and impulsivity, and procrastination, and maybe difficulty managing their emotions? That’s one clue. Somebody in your family has it. But really, like I said, the main problem in adults is getting things done. It’s like you just can’t have the energy to finish a lot of things. Especially if they’re boring. Feeling disorganized, overwhelmed, always like you’re you’re not doing enough. Feeling like other people are succeeding around you, getting laid off, getting fired. Getting  actual problems in life manifests because of undiagnosed ADHD in adults.

How can ADHD affect people careers, you mentioned being laid off, but in the day to day life as well?

Well, like, if you’re in a job you’re not particularly excited about you don’t finish things on time. You’re always late. Your work may be not satisfactory to your supervisor, you miss details. You are not a detail focused person. So if you’re really struggling in your career in your job, ADHD could be one of the reasons.

What are some effective techniques that help to reduce the negative impact of ADHD?

Well, the number one thing is to find out if you actually have it, and that’s where the value of the label is. Soget tested. You can go online, you can call my center and get tested, but most big cities in the United States have some sort of ADHD testing. In London there’s a place called ADHD 360. That’s the company, they have clinics. But any psychiatrist or psychologist should be able to diagnose you. And in Europe in the UK, I think you can put your name on a list for the NHS and the rest of Europe, it’s a little bit more difficult. For example, in Italy, I think there’s one good ADHD doctor in Florence, maybe because I have a client in Italy, and he  struggled to get an appointment with this person. I think he had to go to Switzerland to get the right medicines. So some countries, even though they’re developed are behind in ADHD treatment. I had another client in Finland, who actually had a very negative experience with the doctor there because a lot of countries in in Europe don’t think ADHD is like a real thing. Or they think people are complaining and making excuses and just saying they have ADHD. So you have to be very careful to find somebody who really specializes in it. Otherwise, you may get actual negative experience with the doctor, which is not uncommon in mental health. So look for somebody who like, actually specializes in it. The next thing is to really see that it’s a motivation problem. And therefore, you have to be excited about what you’re doing. Generally excited every day. That doesn’t mean you know, every task is fun and exciting, because paying your taxes or, you know, dealing with certain paperwork may not be fun, but generally speaking, the job excites you. And people will feel that excitement from you. But more importantly, you’re going to be able to focus more and accomplish more. Because ADHD is a motivation deficit. And if the reward is not enough for us, then we won’t move forward. So I described doing boring things, almost like climbing Mount Everest. You’re at the last last bit, and you take one step every five minutes because of the lack of oxygen up there. And that’s what ADHD feels like when we’re bored. We just can’t move forward towards something. So recognizing you have ADHD, getting help, which means possibly medication. That’s not the only answer, but it’s certainly something to try. And then behavioral coaching. And that’s provided by Inflow, the app that I’m I have created. One of the things that’s really helpful is getting outside support. And that’s because if we don’t have the internal motivation, a coach is great to get you excited about things and to get you to move forward. So you can’t do it alone.

We mentioned the negative aspects of ADHD. Are there any positive sides? Also, having some qualities that are different from someone that doesn’t have ADHD?

Well, I think if you are actually doing the right job and the right career, you can have a lot of energy and a lot of passion. People with ADHD are often impulsive. But there’s a correlation between impulsivity and creativity. For example, if you go to a brainstorming, meeting at work, the ADHD people are going to be able to fire off ideas because you kind of have to be a little impulsive to brainstorm, right? The people that are not impulsive, they can’t generate as many ideas. So there is some research that people with ADHD can generate more ideas quickly. So that’s one thing. What else? I think people with ADHD have something called a fear of rejection, or a rejection sensitivity. This is basically, we are afraid we’re going to be rejected. But there’s no evidence we’re going to be rejected. And I believe this comes from an actual history of rejection because when we were younger, and had ADHD there may have been reasons why we were rejected by peers or jobs. I was fired from a number of jobs because of ADHD. But we take that forward into our life. And it can be a challenge, because we’re always worried people are going to reject us. But the silver lining is that we get really good at reading people’s faces and emotions, because we’re kind of looking at them a lot to make sure they’re not angry at us. So that looking teaches us a lot about people’s expressions, then we get really good at that. That’s why a lot of people with ADHD are very empathetic. Because they can read emotions well, almost too well. And we can fall into something called toxic empathy, where you’re overly empathetic with somebody. So when riding the bus or the train, most people just ignore everybody. But with ADHD, you look around, and you start feeling the energy and the feelings of everyone. And then it can be overwhelming. So we’re very sensitive to emotions, which can be a positive thing, especially if you’re a teacher, or a salesperson, or a therapist where you have to be able to know what the other person is feeling.

There is a lot of talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. What do you feel could be done more to include people and help them thrive in the workplace, people that are living with ADHD?

Well, we have a long way to go with that. I think autism is actually a further ahead with this idea of inclusion. But with ADHD, it’s a lot about getting things done and getting things done correctly, which a lot of people with autism can do, generally speaking, but with ADHD, this is a real challenge. So there’s still a lot of judgment about people with ADHD in the workplace. So telling people you have ADHD, telling your supervisor, your boss, your HR department, is still not an easy decision. Because you don’t know if they’re going to judge you as lazy or not as competent. So we have a long way to go here with full inclusivity with with ADHD. But I think if it’s a big enough company, and you tell your HR department that, maybe they can find another job that’s better suited for you. So that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to they have to fire you. But maybe if your skills are better people oriented, or you need something more active, maybe they can find something in a larger company that suits your personality with ADHD better than just sitting at a desk all day doing excle spreadsheets. I do think companies are, are waking up to this. In the United States there’s a law called the Americans with Disabilities Act. And I don’t know what it is in Europe, but I’m sure it’s the same. And basically, if you have a disability, and you disclose it, then you are protected. That doesn’t mean they can’t fire you, but they should provide accommodations and work with you. But we still have a little little bit further to go with society and society’s appreciation and acceptance of ADHD.

So each of us or with our choices can have a positive impact in the world. How do you feel through your work you’re making the world a better place?

Well, I mean, I see it with my individual clients, which is why I’m very happy, I made that career choice to go into helping people because I get the satisfaction. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. But when I can see growth in a client then I feel really good. And regarding the Inflow app, we get a lot of feedback about people who are very are happy with it. They finally feel understood and appreciated and included in a community, and they’re actually learning how to better manage their lives. And so that really makes me feel good.

What type of advice would you give to anyone living with ADHD, during their journey to Self Realisation?

The most important thing is education, and then self acceptance. So with ADHD the problem is, because of the history of losing jobs or, or rejection, we generally have low self esteem, and don’t feel good about ourselves. And so if you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s hard to make changes, right? Here’s where we get stuck in this kind of depressive, sad place about ourselves. But if you can find a community of people with ADHD online, I recommend Tik Tok, because there’s a lot of interesting people there. And of course, the app, then all of a sudden, you don’t feel alone, you don’t feel like you’re the only one. That means you have less anxiety, and then more self acceptance, because all these other people are now sharing their feelings about their ADHD, and you’re sharing and they’re accepting you. And then that leads to self acceptance. This is the basis of any kind of recovery, like Alcoholics Anonymous, the power of the group. It’s very important to find a group so that you start accepting yourself, and you don’t beat yourself up as much. And then you start learning about what ADHD is.Ultimately, it’s self acceptance, because there’s some things we just can’t change. I had a cleaning person clean my apartment, it looked amazing yesterday. And today, I’m wondering what happened? So I, you know, I can’t beat myself up. I don’t say,  I can’t believe I did this. I just think I’ll have to have her come back. Soon. So I think that’s really important. Awareness that you have ADHD, self acceptance through community, and then actually working on, slowly working on behavior changes.

If anyone would like to reach you how and where they can find you?

Well, they can Google me, George Sachs. And then that will probably bring up my New York and United States practice, private practice, and also maybe Inflow where they can download the app. I do a lot of the recordings inside the app too, so they can find me in there.

Great. So now the last question that we asked every guest on The Career Changers. If you could give yourself a piece of advice, what would you say to your younger self?

That’s a very good question. Well, I could say something like everything’s going to work out. But I don’t know if that’s the best advice. I guess I would say, take advice from people. Because when I was younger, I didn’t really want to listen to other people’s advice, or I thought that was boring.. But I think there’s a lot of value in the wisdom of other people. But sometimes with ADHD, or even just being a young person, it’s very hard to take feedback, because we’re rejecting our parents as teenagers to become independent, but there’s also a wealth of knowledge and information all around us. So I guess I would say it’s gonna get better. And also, there’s a lot of people that want to help you if you listen.

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