Why No One Is Talking About This Workplace Secret

Beige on the inside — colorful outside of work: Is that how you really want to exist?

DIFFERENT IS ALWAYS MORE, NOT LESS. That one sentence changed my world a few weeks ago. Why? Because for literally decades, as a journalist, editor, author and marketer, I have wanted to see those words on a big screen in lights. And I did. At the Business Innovation Factory Summit (#BIF) held in Providence, Rhode Island, when A.J. Paron-Wildes got up to tell the story of inclusive design and how what may be normal for some workers is not normal for everybody else. The conference was all about work, being different, and the importance of allowing creative minds to flourish. You see that all over Linkedin, but you never see about anyone talking about learning differences themselves.

Learning differences: It’s the one topic people deftly avoid on LinkedIn. Why? Difference isn’t a weakness it’s a strength.

A.J.’s talk, included the slide: “Different is always more, not less” and it inspired me to tell you exactly how and why different is awesome at work. First, to back up a second, I have to say thank you to A.J.: She truly helped me see my own learning differences as positives as in what you think is not the wrong way to think, but a different way. I began to appreciate what my neurotypical “average” colleagues were missing out on with their average, typical, normal, whatever you want to call them, perfectly lovely brains. Secretly, though, I actually began to feel badly for these average folks because:

…they probably have to sit, and wait and wait and wait, for inspiration. I don’t. Ideas come through my brain like a double espresso.

..without a learning difference, the average employee probably wastes a heck of a lot of time wondering how to be unique and stand out. Not a problem for me. As Milton Glaser once said, “An idea is either yes, no, or WOW! Aim for WOW!”. I hit “WOW” a hell of a lot more often than the average person does; it’s one key to my success.

… and after years of practice, I know how to execute on those WOW ideas. For the average person, organizing projects may be fairly straightforward. But, without any serious challenges to the way you operate, your brain becomes rigid. You stop learning new skills as often and you’re less open to change. That can really gum up the wheels of change, according to experts.

…and you will never be a mentor the way I am. The kind who gets to say as I did to a colleague once, quietly, ‘It takes one to know one’ and with one look, I saw that person’s face start to shine again. We were both relieved to realize that we think, learn, process and work differently. And that we see our ‘difference’ as a huge positive.

Yes, I probably have ADHD, sensory processing disorder, a math learning disability or some other batch of labels they didn’t give out when I was a kid.

I am beyond confident that different is always more not less. I am positive that the more inclusive we are as a workforce, the more we will succeed. Thank you A.J. for making that crystal clear.

And I have no idea why I didn’t talk about it sooner. It’s my strength. As for the 1 out 5 with a learning difference, I believe the odds of success today are potentially really good. You, me, WE are crazier, smarter, braver, more resilient and more passionate than four out of five of you combined on most days. And we can change the world by speaking out.

I want to say thank you to every single average, normal, typical person I have ever had the pleasure of working with — because you showed me on more than a few very memorable (mostly positive) occasions that my creative brain is valued and my way of thinking inspires you.

The lesson I have to share with you: If you are one of five adults with a learning difference, for goodness sake start celebrating. Say ‘thank you’ when people call you weird. Thank your lucky stars you are more like Richard Branson, Justin Timberlake, Jim Carrey, Jamie Oliver, Lisa Ling, Karina Smirnoff, Katherine Ellison and so many more.

If you are the one in five adults who has dyslexia, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, working memory or executive functioning issues, I promise you that your brand of uncool is now cool. Start loving those looks you used to simply endure every day — the face palms and sighs and eye rolls.

Think of those as reminders that you are, in the most positive, brilliant way, disrupting a project, a colleague, or a day at the office that would otherwise be boring as f*ck.

You are seriously amazing. Be you. Stay different. Now go change the world. #diversity #mentalhealth #work #learningdisability

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on October 5, 2017.

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