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Letter 18: ADHD & Web3
On where neurodivergence meets risk and opportunity
Today we’re going to talk about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
*A quick disclaimer: as will be plainly evident in just a moment, I am not a doctor. I’m a guy who people know as a purple octopus online. Our newsletter is not a suitable replacement for seeing a medical professional if you suspect that you have ADHD.*
You may think that this letter isn’t for you, but I’m going to let you in on a not-so-hidden secret—we’re everywhere. ADHD hands are all over the tech industry, and many of the major innovations of the past century. Web3 is perhaps the most ADHD community I’ve ever encountered, and if we could take a poll of the space right now, I’d bet everything on us being disproportionately over-represented when compared to the general population.
But what I’m driving at is that even if you aren’t ADHD, you almost certainly know or work with someone who is. For their benefit, maybe you should keep reading anyways.
Magpies and Shiny Objects
It’s well documented that ADHD minds are seemingly drawn to things, like curious magpies. But, instead of shiny objects*, our subjects of fascination include things we find interesting, challenging, novel, or urgent. We’re also prone to higher levels of risk taking, impulsivity, and gambling. Many of us experience time blindness, especially when hyperfocused on something.
It’s no surprise then, that crypto, NFTs, and web3 are a natural siren song to those with ADHD.
*This stereotype about magpies is actually untrue. There’s no evidence to suggest that magpies have any preference for shiny objects. In fact, the limited studies that have been done on this subject show that magpies have an aversion to shiny objects. Why do I know this? Many days of hyperfocusing on birds, courtesy of ADHD.*
These early days of web3 are filled with curious risk takers: founders, engineers, investors, degens, artists, gamers, and gamblers. Heck, the greatest thought leader in web3 used to be a professional poker player, but I guess it wasn’t exciting or risky enough, and offered too much job security (only teasing Zeneca, we love you!)
One of the most common misconceptions about ADHD (after the belief that only troubled kids with poor grades have it) is that there are only downsides. While it’s true that we are presented with a host of unique challenges that can make our lives more complicated, it has also been immensely beneficial for our team, enabling us to approach things in a creative and exploratory manner that perhaps, at times, skates outside the neurotypical ice rink.
One of those perks? Hyperfocus. Ironically, despite the widespread belief that those with ADHD are all like Dug, the dog from Up (squirrel!), we are actually incredibly adept at focusing on things. You can think of hyperfocus as a period of intense concentration, or “being in the zone”.
Now, most people have experienced this from time to time, but believe me when I say that it’s not to the same degree of frequency or intensity that someone with ADHD experiences. If I’m locked in on something I can easily spend the entire day on it, not realizing how many hours have passed. I can even forget (or willfully ignore) bodily functions like eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom. What’s my point? Just that this level of fixation is actually to our benefit, at times. Because of this, many people with ADHD become extremely knowledgeable or skilled in their interests.
Hyperfocus is how our CTO wrote a 90 page primer on NFTs in just six days. It’s how we’ve written the smart contracts for many prominent projects in the space. It’s how, in under a year and with a tiny team, we shipped multiple products which have already saved NFT creators millions of dollars. Two of those products include HeyMint, our allowlist manager, and Launchpad, our no-code NFT and art generator.
Hyperfocus is how we manage a newsletter, NFT blog, and all sorts of additional written content. It’s why our engineering team can outperform competitors many times larger than us, both in speed of development and quality. It’s how our designer can pick up a program she hasn’t used before and become an expert in it before we even realized she started using it.
How is all of this possible? Most of our team is diagnosed with ADHD. When people with ADHD are passionate about what they’re doing and find their work novel, ever changing, and uniquely challenging, there’s nothing that can stop them.
The Other Side of the Coin
There is a caveat, however. While those with ADHD may benefit from hyperfocus, we don’t have the luxury of directing that focus. It’s great when what we want to do overlaps with what needs to be done, but it doesn’t always work that way. It is excruciating not being able to perform what’s expected of us, while simultaneously finding ourselves unable to make it better.
I haven’t been to the dentist in nine years. I went to ETH Denver on business last year and I still haven’t submitted my receipts so that I can get my expenses refunded. Each of my web browsers have 50+ tabs open at any given time, many of which I’ll never read. I moved to Seattle half a year ago and still haven’t gotten a state ID. I bought a pot rack organizer on January 16th that will take all of two minutes to put together: every day I walk past it while hating myself for procrastinating. I could have assembled it in less time than it took to write this paragraph. It’s not that I’m lazy or choosing something else over it—I really want that pot organizer assembled—but I can’t. And I won’t, until one day, for some reason, a switch will flip in my brain and I’ll just do it.
I’ve also listened to Ren’s “Hi Ren” on endless loop as I write this letter. Actually, in truth, I’ve had it on loop for nearly three days straight, and I’ll likely play it 1000 times more until I manage to extract every last drop of dopamine from it that I can. In the meantime, I’m still trying to process how much this song means to me. It’s one of the most unique and emotionally honest songs concerning mental illness and artistic expression that I’ve ever encountered.
You should give it a chance if you have an open mind, nine minutes, and a quiet place in which to watch it and reflect.
It’s okay, I’ll wait.
While it’s impossible to diagnose someone hundreds of years post-mortem, it’s interesting to note that many notable figures from the past may also have had ADHD and dealt with the same struggles. Leonardo da Vinci, for instance, is an exemplary look at a creative mind that wrestled with procrastination, finishing projects, and staying on task his entire life.
Curious Addys: The ADHD Octopuses
If you didn’t already know, our NFT project, Curious Addys, is a not so subtle nod to ADHD. From our website:
An Addy is your curious ADHD octopus companion, filled with boundless energy and hyperactive enthusiasm for learning each and every little thing about crypto. Smart, curious, and all over the place with eight arms to do eight things at once, we felt that an octopus best embodied the essence of being a bold, brave new pioneer on the crypto frontier.
Mai and Ben, the developers behind this project, are both ADHD, and a large proportion of our friends in crypto are similarly ADHD - crypto is the perfect playground for an ADHD soul, with a million shiny and infinitely interesting things to play with, and what feels like thousands of things coming out every day.
We’ve also, time and time again, not so subtly shared that fact on our Twitter.
^ This is another great opportunity to watch a cool video. If Ren was a little too heavy for you, have no worries, because this is as light and as wholesome as it comes—a parody of “Under the Sea”, but about ADHD.
How Do I Know if I Have ADHD?
Before we start, an informal poll:
The other day, Swombat shared this comic by ADHD Alien, and for whatever reason, it caught my attention. Once again, a comic is not a diagnostic tool. But if these examples are ringing true to you, and you’ve already had your suspicions, well, it may be worth looking into and meeting with a medical professional who can help you make sense of things.
If you’d prefer to get your information in non-comic form (which is generally good advice), you can also read about ADHD at the National Institute of Mental Health.
If this letter can get even one questioning individual to take time for themselves and seek a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional, I’d be delighted.
Also, if you’re an employer or coworker of someone with ADHD, try to cut them a little slack. In case you haven’t heard, there’s been a national shortage on most ADHD medications for months now. Times are tough.
Let’s Hear Your Stories!
This letter has three small calls to action.
Firstly, I hope you voted in the poll. Secondly, if you have ADHD, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know how and why you got started in web3, and what (if any) influence you believe ADHD played in that. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (my information is at the end of this article), or drop a comment on this post.
Finally, I’d love it if you could share this letter, so we could rally around the contributions that people with ADHD have made to the space.
Some Launchpad Updates!
Shifting focus from ADHD, we have three short but exciting updates about Launchpad to share!
1. We’ve officially added a ~$1 fee to each token minted on Launchpad. This tiny surcharge is paid by collectors when they mint; not the creators. We owe a big thank you to Manifold for finding a way for companies like ours to support creators, without having to charge a % of mint fees.
If you wish, you can read the full details of that previous announcement, below:
2. We’ve redesigned Launchpad! (a special shout out to Jenny!) We took some amazing feedback from our customers and made the process even simpler, smoother, and dare I say it, sexier? 😜 Whether you’re making an ERC-721a or ERC-1155 NFT collection, you’ll undoubtedly be impressed by the new, intuitive flow.
3. We’ve removed the waitlist for Launchpad! Earlier this month we underwent a brief, waitlist-only period of time so that we could handle the increasing amount of customer support requests we were receiving. Anyways, the gates are now open again, and we can’t wait to see what amazing NFT projects you dream up!
HeyMint Blog Updates & A Tool Teaser
Over on our HeyMint Blog for NFT creators, we’ve dropped more articles for beginners since our last newsletter was published. Our three most recent include:
NFTs for Dummies
How to Make an NFT for Free
What is a Whitelist NFT?
Also, we don’t want to shock you, but a little birdie told us that we may be rolling out another tool later this year for NFT creators. Keep watching our Twitter (Curious Addys | HeyMint) and you’ll be among the first to know what it is when we announce it.
And that’s it for now! We’ll see you soon!
Written by: Brad Jaeger
Director of Content @ Curious Addys (say hi on Twitter or LinkedIn!)
🐙 “Having ADHD is really like being a Sim that has their actions constantly cancelled, so you end up in situations where you’re standing in the bathroom with a banana and you’re not quite sure why.”— some internet meme 🐙