Skip to content

Learn About the Stories of 8 of the World’s Most Successful People with ADHD


There is much debate about how to manage the symptoms of ADHD — whether it should be via conventional medication, alternative medication or a choice of various therapy treatments. Some even argue that ADHD doesn’t exist at all. However, one thing that is indisputable is that there is an abundance of highly successful people with ADHD.

Let’s investigate further to examine this phenomenon.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD is an acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a cognitive difference, resulting in hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness, and poor executive functioning.

It is not a medical condition or a disorder, but a dysregulation of the biological functioning of the brain. The human brain is a complex communication network, whereby messages are relayed between neurons. In order for messages to be relayed, the brain requires two key neurotransmitters, also known as chemical messengers. They are called dopamine and noradrenaline. In an ADHD brain, there is an irregulation of these neurotransmitters resulting in a variety of symptoms, both positive and negative, that can impact on education, work, and relationships.

The symptoms of ADHD usually fit into three general categories: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and executive functioning.

Symptoms Of Hyperactivity

1. Difficulty sitting in a chair

2. Poor sense of danger

3. Fidgeting

4. Excessive talking

5. Excessive physical movement

Symptoms Of Impulsivity

1. Interrupting conversations

2. Problems with self-control

3. Aggression

4. Overreacting to criticism and disappointments

Symptoms Of Difficulty With Executive Functioning

1. Disorganization

2. Forgetfulness

3. Chaotic work/home environment

4. Poor Planning

5. Poor Prioritizing

Person with ADHD keeping track of schedule by using a planner
Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Why Are There So Many Successful People with ADHD?

It is known that people with ADHD have specific strengths, as a result of their brain functioning difference. They are more spontaneous, creative, energetic, intuitive, imaginative, and inventive. They also have the ability to hyperfocus on subjects that interest them to a far greater extent than their non-ADHD counterparts.

They are outside-of-the-box thinkers and often produce the most original and creative ideas, and their superior energy means that they can achieve more and work harder and faster than others. Impulsiveness and spontaneity are closely related and many people with ADHD succeed in redirecting impulsivity and turning it into spontaneity, which can be utilized positively in every area of life.

People with ADHD need to work in professions that allow them to direct their need for physical activity, creativity, imagination, or sense of innovation into a profession in which they can utilize it positively and in which it will stand as an asset. Some suitable professions for people with ADHD are: entrepreneur, inventor, artist, interior designer, graphic designer, paramedic, firefighter, police officer, teacher, computer programmer, or sportsperson.

Successful People with ADHD

1. Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps, born in 1985, is a legendary sportsman who was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, according to Psychology Today. He had attention difficulties and behavior problems at school. As an adult, he found swimming to be the perfect outlet for his hyperactivity and went on to become a famous gold medalist swimmer and an excellent example of a high achiever with ADHD.

2. Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, born in 1950, is a business magnate and billionaire. According to Forbes Index, his net worth is $4.77 billion. He is the founder of the Virgin brand, which consists of businesses in the travel, health, space, cellular, banking, music and leisure industries. Richard has spoken publicly about his ADHD and dyslexia.

3. Rory Bremner

Rory Bremner, born in 1955, is a successful comedian that spoke openly about his ADHD on an interview with Good Morning Britain in the UK. He discussed his restlessness, hyperactivity, and disorganization, although he referred to it as “his best friend and worst enemy.” He also spoke about the importance of channelling and focusing the ADHD to turn it into a superpower.

4. Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver, born in 1975, is a famous award-winning British celebrity chef and an author, entrepreneur, and famous TV personality. He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and is known to activate tirelessly towards the prevention of childhood obesity in the UK. Jamie reported himself that he has ADHD.

5. Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, born in 1452, is one of the most well-known and influential artists in history. He was a master sculptor, painter, engineer, scientist, mathematician, and architect. The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are his most famous works of art. His scientific and engineering inventions were equally influential and ahead of his time.

According to research, Leonardo da Vinci was reported to have had many symptoms of ADHD. He worked on multiple projects at once and had trouble completing them and had extremely chaotic organizational skills and was constantly on the move.

6. John F Kennedy

John F Kennedy, born in 1917, was the 35th President of the United States who had countless achievements and overcame many political crises. He is known to have had difficulty with concentration throughout his school years and was known as a mediocre student.

7. Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake, born in 1981, is an award-winning American singer and songwriter. He first appeared in two television shows and then rose to prominence in the late 1990s as the leader of the boy band NSYNC. Justin admits to being both ADHD and OCD.

8. Bill Gates

Bill Gates, born in 1955 is the founder of Microsoft, and has a net worth of $103.2 billion. He also chairs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation which has so far donated $35.8 billion to charity. Bill Gates, is known to have ADHD. He talks about dropping out of Harvard as he was itching to start Microsoft at the beginning of the personal computer revolution in an interview with This Morning in 2016. He also discusses his constant activity and extremely busy schedule in an interview with Warren Buffet.

Advantages And Disadvantages

When children learn in a highly structured school system, the symptoms of ADHD are evident and visible and result in considerable behavior problems and learning difficulties — such as fidgeting in class, hyperactivity, concentration problems, memory problems, and chronic disorganization. Kids with ADHD are not conducive to learning in a structured setting, sitting still for long periods and keeping organized.

Young adults in a classroom
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

However, post-high school and in the working world, ADHD can actually be an advantage due to the many benefits of ADHD. In fact, there are companies that specifically seek to recruit employees with ADHD functioning. They are trying to hire people who have the ability to hyperfocus, think outside of the box, be highly creative, be innovative, be imaginative, and have original problem-solving techniques.

ADHD is not a disorder. In fact, if directed, harnessed, and utilized, it can be a superpower and give you the ability to achieve great success. The brain chemistry that produces negative effects, also produces positive effects.

How Exactly Do You Harness Your Superpower?

If ADHD is directed towards a suitable profession or activity, then the challenges can be overcome and great things can be achieved.

  • Select a profession that really interests you.
  • Improve your time management skills and research ideas on how to get organized. There is plenty of information available online that will give you hints and tips on organization, time management, and planning.
  • Select a program that will give you the ability to study at a time and place that suits your schedule. In this way, you will be able to take breaks and you won’t need to sit in lectures for long periods at a time.

If you have difficulty sitting in lectures for extended periods, lose concentration, daydream, fidget and can’t sit still, then the best way for you to get an education is through flexible online learning. In this way, you can design your own schedule to suit your individual learning style in order to give you the best chance of success.

University of the People is an excellent place to start if you are looking for flexible learning that will give you the opportunity to study when you want, where you want, and how you want.

UoPeople is a tuition-free, American accredited university dedicated to opening access to higher education globally by enabling qualified students to overcome financial, geographic, political or personal constraints that may be preventing them from entering into higher education.

And remember! ADHD is not a disorder. It is a brain functioning difference which has its disadvantages, but also has some great benefits. It makes you more spontaneous, creative, energetic, imaginative, intuitive, and inventive than the rest of us. If you want to study but feel apprehensive, just remember the achievements of the above successful people with ADHD and this should give you all the inspiration that you need to take your first step.