Coach of the Week – Jean Porto

Several years ago, wireless internet connections were just emerging as the latest and greatest way to connect to the internet. My then 12 year old ADHD challenged son, who loved computers, came to me saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have wireless?”

“Yes it would”, I replied.

“You could sit on the front porch while you did your work”, he shared, trying to leverage the fact that I worked from home.

“Yes, that would be nice”, I said, thinking I knew where this was going.

“Do you want me to install it?” he asked with a grin.

“You know how to install it?” I asked incredulously, thinking, no, I hadn’t known where the conversation was going.

“Yes!” he said confidently.

“Wait, you KNOW how to do it, or you THINK you know how to do it?” I asked, trying to be sure I wasn’t missing something.

“I KNOW how to do it” he said, very clearly sure of himself.

“How much will it cost?”

“About 20 bucks” he answered quickly. He had done his homework – he knew what I would ask.

I thought hard. I had been trying to focus on building his self confidence, an area often hit hard by those challenged with ADHD. I knew letting him install the wireless connection would provide a big boost to his confidence… but, I depended on the internet to do my work. What if he really didn’t know how to do it and I was left without an internet connection? My decision came from my heart. I clearly recognized the full range of possible outcomes and was nervous, but decided I would just find a way to deal with whatever emerged. We drove to the store and bought the items he said we needed (and yes, it was about $20!). And, that night…

…we had a wireless connection in our house.

Today, my son is in his mid-20’s and works at the local Marine base. He maintains several trailers of computers and presents simulation trainings to soldiers, which helps keep them safe when they deploy. After the simulation, he confidently debriefs the exercise, helping the soldiers understand the outcomes of their choices. He often receives compliments on his skills from high ranking Marine officers and VIPs.

As parents, teachers and coaches, we talk about developing ‘islands of competence’ in our kids, to help boost their self esteem. At that time long ago, as a Mom just beginning to understand the impacts of ADHD on her son, I had no idea what an ‘island of competence’ was, but I often think about that day when he came to me as a 12 year old with a dream, asking to install wireless in our house.   I’m so glad I chose to deal with the risk of no internet and believe in my son.   I never could have imagined the difference it would make.

I learned much from my son as he grew up and the experiences I shared with him inspired me to become an ADHD coach. It’s hard to understand all the very personal implications of ADHD and the large negative impact it can make on a person’s self confidence unless someone you love and live with is challenged by it.

Poor self confidence is a common and insidious challenge in the world of ADHD. Other ADHD challenges though difficult, can often be eased in a relatively short timeline by external support or specific strategies, but self confidence challenges tend to be very long lived with big impacts. Low self confidence can create a person who decides what can be accomplished before ever attempting the challenge. Sadly, this fixed mindset can severely limit the end result, as available skill sets are often measured with overly strict criteria. Henry Ford said it well:

“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Multiplied over a lifetime, self confidence can tremendously influence the end result of that life. What’s possible when you think you can is VASTLY different from what’s possible when you think you can’t. Self confidence can fill gaps in skills. A self confident person is comfortable figuring out the things they don’t yet know. This growth mindset enables the person to accomplish much more – sometimes more than was originally thought possible.   Case in point: The day my son installed wireless in our home, I was quite sure his career would involve computers, but I never imagined that as a ’20-something’, he would be using his computer skills to maintain large trailers of computers, preparing soldiers in the Marine Corps to be ‘mission ready’.  

It may be hard to start out having self confidence in life. Building areas of expertise or ‘islands of competence’ can be a way to start increasing self confidence. Take the skills that are your strengths and that bring joy and start working to make those ‘islands’ bigger. For my son, it was computers. I fed that love and skill as much as I could (despite the stress that sometimes came with it!). His ‘island’ grew from the family computer to maintaining and networking multiple Marine Corps simulators.

There are many skill sets needed in this world, thus there are many different kinds of ‘islands’ you could consider developing. What do you love to do? What kinds of things do you ‘lose’ yourself in? What are the skills you consider to be your strengths? Start there. Start building. Start growing. Just start. It will be amazing to see the ‘islands’ you construct!

About Jean:

Jean has been coaching since 2004 and continuously adds to her coaching skills via training. In addition to ADHD coaching, she specializes in Leadership, Wellness and Resilience coaching. As an ADHD coach, she tries never to forget all she learned from her son and what it feels like to live the ADHD challenge every day. Jean enjoys working with adults, college students and high school students in the US and abroad via Skype, phone or in person. Her ‘islands of competence’ include helping clients that say, ‘I can’t do that’, to learn about themselves, build skills, improve their self confidence and grow into people that say, ‘I can’t do that yet.’   Click here to find Jean in the JST Directory and connect with her.

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