I am not a crafty person by any means. The first time I tried to cross-stitch, I sewed a quilt square to my jeans while sitting on the steps of my parents’ house. I was 12. Decades later, when I tried to sew the dangling arm of my daughter’s teddy bear back on, I did an unconventional but decent job. With yellow thread in hand and masking tape securing Teddy to the counter, I managed to fix him
up pretty well. It was downhill from there. A few years later my then-mother-in-law tried to teach me to knit (I am left handed. She is not.) The lesson ended when with her tossing what looked like golden daggers, otherwise known as needles, at my head. She left the room muttering, You’re unteachable. That’s why the CDC’s recommendation to wear a mask outside had me tossing and turning last night. I knew I would be baffled and bungle the thing until I had no supplies left. But we live in a Do It Yourself (DIY) environment now. Saving lives is saving lives. My sewing ineptitude is trivial compared to other massive issues in this crisis.
As I sat trying to roll and fold and tuck my mask, it came to me that the world going forward was going to be a lot like this—patience required, new skills acquired could actually become a huge trend. Here’s why:
This DIY mindset, the new normal or whatever it is that’s coming in future months, is already changing the way we do business. Non-traditional business mindsets seem to be flourishing in 2020. Trevor Nolte, a longtime designer and art director who works for SCGPR, who was dubbed the Swiss Army knife of employees, explains it well. “If you find yourself wanting to know how to create, build, fix or change something, then learn something new and Do. It. Yourself,” he wrote in a recent blog. It also probably why Hunter S. Thompson likely wrote, “When the going gets weird, the weird go pro.” Employees or contractors who know their craft or can learn another one quickly will be the fabric that weaves a company together. Who are these weird pros? Successful, brilliant neurodiverse minds like me—who are ADHD, dyslexic, on the autistic spectrum to name a few.
Here’s how to embrace this neurodiverse normal:
Talk About Differences As Strengths. I may not be able to sew a mask. But I see patterns in ways the average mind does not. I do it differently than others might. You might call it D.I.Y trend forecasting. With these exceptional skills, I may be able to design an outstanding marketing plan or ad campaign on the fly, where other more traditional thinkers would well, be more traditional (not that there’s anything wrong with that either).
Give People Work. The high rate of unemployment for people with ADHD, as well as autism, dyslexia and other learning disability diagnosis is shockingly high. Today, most companies are only dabbling in disability. A pilot program here and a training for autism-friendly workplaces is a great start. But those small programs are based on an uncertainty mindset, not a growth mindset. To grow in the D.I.Y economy means to is to take risks on people you might not have ordinarily hired. Honestly, what do you have to lose by trying something different? We are all in the same very scary economic situation. Fill the pipeline now.
Look For Diagonal Thinkers
The CEO of Absolut, Anna Malmhake, often says you can’t really tell much about a person’s skill from their CV alone, coined this term. Diagonal thinkers, according to description, have a combination of creative drive and structured leadership skills. Sounds like the perfect neurodiverse combination to me.
Change the Conversation
But there is no obvious place on most employment applications that asks: What kind of thinker are you? That’s unfortunate. In fact, for people who have learning disabilities like me, any time a company asks you to tell them more about yourself, talk about the way you think. I’m not saying you need to disclose that you have a disability of any kind. Talk about your strengths and your talents. Be what I call a Rebel Talent. Doing things differently is not doing things wrong. Soon enough, you’ll find the place where your skills are valued. For those who don’t respond to your way of thinking, well, agree to disagree. Pushing the issue of hiring people with neurodiverse minds becomes a negative. It should be everything but that.
Discuss The Power of This List At Your Next HR Meeting
I stopped when I got close to 50 public figures. Forgive me—hyper-focus can only go so far. But from this list alone, I think you’ll get the point. Don’t underestimate someone because they think, feel or experience the world differently than you do. There’s a lot of success out there already. Here are just a few names:
Muhammad Ali, Jennifer Aniston, Simone Biles, Dan Aykroyd, Susan Boyle, Terry Bradshaw, Richard Branson, Octavia Estelle Butler, Agatha Christie, Cher, Colin Eldred-Cohen, Barbara Corcoran, Katherine Ellison, Nathaniel Reed Geyer, Seth Godin, Whoopi Goldberg, Salma Hayek, Tommy Hilfiger, John Irving, Chris Kaman, Keira Knightley, Solange Knowles, Lisa Ling, Courtney Love, David Neeleman, Paul Orfalea, Michael Phelps, Dave Pelkey, Daniel Radcliff, Keanu Reeves, Kelly Ripa, Karina Smirnoff, Charles Schwab, Steven Spielberg, Justin Timberlake, Vince Vaughn, Robin Williams, a host of politicians.
But this list could be so much longer. My hope is that if Americans have learned anything from this tragic alone together experiment, it is that they can be different together, too.
Make a Mask Without Sewing If You Are Still Need One. This technique is my pick for the best no-sew mask. It’s from Kayla Girdner, an instructor at Gather Here who demonstrates the technique on video and does it in under a minute. Thank you, Kayla!
Stay at home. Stay open-minded. Stay well.