I am a failed pigeon.

Kanye, I love you.

An Indian Ringneck Parakeet.

Stefan Gerard is a Photography Artist. He has two limited edition art collections and is the founder of www.founderspresskit.com. He discusses the intersection of #authenticmasculinity, #art and #courage. And he is discovering the gift of #ADD.

‘What do you see?’ I asked the Belastinginspecteur. ‘I see an Artistic Soul, that can obviously write incredible motivational letters, and does things in the world that I could not do. You tell me you have a beverage company on the other side of the world. You’ve had a billboard in Miami. And you tell me have 2 Art Collections and a 3rd in the making. Now you’ve just showed us a beautiful one-scroller for your new business.

But you still can’t do your admin? I just don’t get it.’

As I was sitting in the Belastingdienst Almelo in a dimly lit office without windows, looking in her indignant eyes, I was confronted with the lack of understanding of my own gifts and — it seems — a clear lack of gifts in other areas. I was squinting my own eyes — in semi-darkness — and for the love of god — I could not explain the paradox she just presented to me.

It is strange — I thought, as I was overcome with a feeling self-hate. Then rage. A mix of self-hate for not living up to the expectation, not being good enough. And rage towards her, for making me feel like a piece of shit — a useless, incompetent man. I felt punched in my gut. I felt small. I was trying, really hard to keep up my admin — but I was still failing.

I felt an all too familiar feeling: I felt like a failure.

The source
Fast forward to last week, where I had a revealing conflict with my dad, who wrote a ‘We shall see’ to great business investment news about a beverage company I am grateful to be a part of. That very same cocktail of feelings rose again, but this time it felt more intense, like I was closer to the source.

First indignation, inwardly. Then flooded by a feeling of rage, towards him, outwards. ‘How dare you’ I thought. ‘How dare you question my competence? How dare you question my ability to succeed? How dare you make me crawl — again — for an ounce of validation?’ It went through my mind in sheer seconds, like flashes of red.

Gutted, gutted by the apparent lack of faith. Gutted by the lack of my own. I did not know which one was more painful. I was left scrambling for a sense of dignity.

‘Your comment hits home’ I wrote back politely in an email, as a I recomposed myself in front of my computer. ‘And I’d like to keep it at that for now.’ I stated defiantly. ‘Oh Stefan, why do you interpret my remarks so negatively? You are hurting both me and you.’ He send back.

Was it gaslighting? Perhaps. But thats besides the point. What did I hear? ’Stop being so sensitive.’ The big question on my mind was: was I really being sensitive?

Was I really being ‘so sensitive’?

I’ve had many interactions in the past months that made me question the empathy of others on a grand scale. How can they say so-and-so? Don’t they feel what they are doing? How can they do this and this? Don’t they see how hurtful their actions are?

Was this reappearing gutted feeling of indignation somehow not real? Was my mind playing tricks on me?

Then, by chance I discovered an article on RSD. It read:

‘Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD) is a term used to describe an extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception (real or imagined) of rejection, criticism, or failure. It is often described as a physical pain, like a punch in the gut.

RSD is almost exclusively associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).’

Emotional sensitivity: heightened emotional response to situations involving criticism.


Emotional disregulation: difficulty managing emotions from perceived rejection. Bingo. Behavioural Responses: reactions may include social withdrawal or defensive behaviour. Bingo. Impact on Self-esteem: persistent feeling of inadequacy, heightened self-criticism. Bingo.

It felt like I hit the jackpot. My whole life I’ve known that all too familiar visceral feeling: being punched in the gut by someone’s rejection or invalidation — the idea of disappointing someone.

I definitely have RSD, I thought. Did it mean I have ADD?

In the past two weeks have been a very difficult and rewarding journey. I can say with high certainty I have ADD.

Difficult because I have come to the realisation that I have been fighting my own biology for the past 35 years. It feels like a disillusion, figuring out I was the enemy after all. Rewarding because it turned out I am not some moral fuckup, for not living up the standards of the majority of people — the so called Neurotypicals, the 80 percent.

What about the other 20 percent? By sheer coincidence I got recommended a the new channel of Ben Branson, the Founder of Seedlip. My business partner and friend and DOPE business partner Johannes le Roux recommended a his new platform after listing to my initial rant. The subject? The injustice of being held to the same standards as the majority.

After the success global launch of his 0.0 alternative, Ben started the platform for Neurodivergents called ‘The Hidden 20%’. In his podcasts he discribes his own late diagnose and how it changed his identity.

It inspired me to start digging. Most telling was the book ‘What? You mean I am not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?’ from Authors Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. It describes their personal journeys in figuring out that their many imperfections have a clear cause: our dopamine systems are designed differently.

Our ‘imperfect’ behaviour is clearly tied to our biology. And it has nothing — nothing — to do with moral failure.

Hungry Ghosts
ADD includes chronic difficulties with maintaining attention, often resulting in a tendency to become easily distracted by other stimuli. Individuals with ADD may struggle with organizing tasks and managing time effectively, leading to frequent procrastination and missed deadlines. Impulsivity is another hallmark, manifesting as bold decision-making, interruptions in conversations, forgetfulness, mistakes, loosing items, and an adverse relation with rules and instructions.

According to science, people with ADD have a different relationship with Dopamine. What does that mean? It means that when you, Neurotypical, after folding your washing, experience a sense of relieve — a reward — a feeling of satisfaction.

We don’t.

We are the army of the restless. We fold our laundry — and nothing happens. We are always in pursuit of a sense of relief — reward — fulfilment. Always looking, never finding. We are hungry ghosts roaming the dark night.

No rest for the wicked. This is the reason why ADD people struggle with impulsivity, and in worst forms, addiction. To replenish dopamine that remains unrewarded to us — biologically. This is why alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs are so intoxicating to us — it blocks our dopamine receptors so we have more free floating dopamine in our brains. This means our dose-sensitivity is 2–3x higher than yours. This, my dear Neortypical friends, is also the reason why ADD is prevalent in prison demographics.

We are biologically designed to fail the marshmallow test.

Imagine, for a brief moment, being this person.

Imagine your mind is a browser. A neurotypical person has one tab open. He uses his computing power (focus) to explore the one web page. An ADD person has 20 tabs open. He uses his computing power (focus) to figure out which page has priority, whilst trying to figure out which tab the music is coming from.

I’ve felt Lazy, Stupid and Crazy my whole life.

Lazy for having difficulty getting up in the morning — losing interest in life — because no matter how hard I tried, the constant message was: you do not belong in our world.

I felt stupid for knowing, passionately, to have so much talent, so many unique gifts — but failing, constantly, at simple tasks that most people do so effortlessly.

I felt crazy — absolutely bunkers — for the love of god — because I could not figure out what the hell was wrong with me — for failing whilst applying myself fully.

Imagine waking up every morning in a world that was not made for you. In a world that is designed for the majority. In a world that thinks, subconsciously, that you are lazy, stupid and crazy, and treats you that way. A world that cannot see your gifts, and that has no problem constantly underwriting your many imperfections. Imagine a world that takes your behaviour personally.

Mistake? Show some f* respect.

Distracted? Show some f* respect.

Late? Show some f* respect.

Missed deadline? Show some f* respect.

Interruption? Show some f* respect.

Imagine waking up in a world where people tell you, time after time, that you could succeed, ‘if only you applied yourself’. Imagine internalising this societal voice over years of bullying — ‘if only you would apply yourself, Stefan. If only. Why can’t you f* apply yourself?’.

ADD children will have received 20.000 corrective messages at the age of 10. Think about your own child for a moment.

Now let that cold statistic sink in.

Imagine, one day, you would wake up with an accumulated self-hate that you can’t see yourself clearly anymore. Exhausted from the mental artillery of internalised indignant voices. Worn out from the barrage that only stops once you fall asleep. If you fall asleep. Imagine being physically hurt by the constant disappointment of others, piercing you like bullets. That same old pain of being misunderstood, but you just can’t be bothered to defend yourself anymore — because ‘its me, I am the problem it’s me.’

Imagine being fearful of hope.

Because believing in your own gifts and talents leads to inevitable disappointment. Its only a matter of time before a bomb explodes of your own making.


RSD is nothing but a trauma response to being misunderstood your whole life.

Someone on the internet described ADD as the following: ‘I go to bed with a dreaded sense of swimming under the ice, trying to find a way to the nearest exit — I can’t breath — and I can’t find the exit.’ Our sense of worthlessness is as deep as the black that surrounds us, there in the icy water.

That is our daily reality.

The anger, the rage. The indignancy I feel describing this to you, you have no idea.

You really haven’t.

The book just mentioned, has a chapter where it describes the how being diagnosed with ADD is like the stages of grieve. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Well my neurotypical brother. Right now, I am in the Anger stage.

I have done nothing but applying myself. My whole life.

God knows how I got through my University Bachelor with a dopamine deficit. God knows how hard I try and be on time — every time, with a brain that is designed to think non-linear. God knows how I bite my tongue in a conversation — with the gift of abundant thoughts — constantly connecting the dots.

God knows the courage it takes to get out of bed every morning — expecting a bomb to go off — anytime.

My friend, I fight in ways you can’t even imagine. I have moved mountains to meet your mandates. Your senseless standards. Your predictable prerequisites.

I have fought a battles you know nothing about. I have waged an internal war, and finally, I am on my knees.

I am on my knees. And I am done begging for your approval.

Because today I rise.

Understanding Kanye
As the old adage goes, every coin has two sides. The science has marked my ‘condition’ as a disorder. Disorder is chaos. Chaos is creativity. Creativity is the breeding ground of life.

For every silly mistake I make, I am able to find a solution so novel, it will shake everyone around me in its simplicity.

I am the most resourceful person I know. When a dear neurotypical friend hassled me for not having arranged a coffee machine for a diner party— I bought a French Press. At a discount. Within 10 minutes. Around the corner.

For every distraction of mine you have to endure, I built a castle in the sky for you to admire. When I was 17, I was sketching plans for a grand piano during history class.

That summer, my grand piano, hand build, ended up in the living room — to the disbelief of everyone around me, including my own.

For every time I am late for a meeting, I make up for it by being the best friend you can ask for. I have an uncanny ability to look in your eyes, in the far end of your soul in ways none of your friends can. I can redirect conversations to the deepest, most painful places of your inner world, and I can make you feel better, not in spite, but because of it.

You adore me for that gift. And I adore you for letting me.

For every missed deadline, I come up with a reality bending concept that will shake you at your core, in a way that you will never look at the world the same way again. I get beaten up by a stranger during broad daylight in the streets of Amsterdam. I forgive him, on my way back home. And I allow this experience to inspire my next art collection, reviewing my own relationship with anger.

I turn lead into gold.

Interruption? For every inconvenient interruption, I have had a simulated conversation in my mind in a different language — which has allowed me to learn 7 languages with no books. Machine learning avant le-letre. But you are right, manners matter. I apologise.

A am inconvenient. Yes.

I am also a gifted man.

I will no longer stand for your bullying. And I will not be drugged into submission.

And to each voice, real or imagined, that tries to belittle me, calling me lazy, stupid or crazy, I roar from the bottom of my lungs:

Thy shall not pass.

I think I finally understand Kanye. I have a beautiful mind.

And I am proud of who I am.

As part of my journey and coping strategy for ADD — I started to meditate. Today I used a 15 minute guided meditation by Joe Despenza. In it, he asked me — to ask the Universe — for a gift that will be so unexpected, that it would be a sign that I was living up to my full potential. I shortly scoffed at the thought, and then I did it anyway.

As I come home three hours later, there is a paradise bird on my kitchen table.

It looked exhausted, with ruffled jungle green feathers. The window was open, and from the edge of the table it kept trying to fly through the glass frantically.

He could see his natural habitat through the glass, but he could not enter it. No matter how hard he tried, no matter the amount of force he used. He could not push through.

The only reason his reality seemed a Fata Morgana because he could not understand the concept of glass.

I gently closed the window and put him in the palm of my hand. He was surprisingly calm. When I opened the window again I put him on the ledge.

He just stood there — in hesitation. Suddenly he spread his jungle green wings, and he squeaked of elation, and gravity guided him to the nearest green-filled branch. There, where he belonged.

Yes. I am a failed pigeon.

I am also an Indian Ringneck Parakeet.

Are you interested in more brutally honest self-exploration on the subject of #masculinity #courage and #art?

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Thank you for reading.

Bon courage,