How Autism Made Me Better

How Autism Made Me Better

I was recently diagnosed on the autism spectrum. It explains a lot of things I’ve always known. Like why my mind loves systems, problems, and puzzles. Why I go down the rabbit hole following a topic that takes my attention. Why I fixate on something until it’s resolved.

I can also see how autism made me a more effective business owner and manager. True, it did challenge me in social interactions: I tend to want everything black and white, and I can interrupt people a lot. But it also helped make me more effective in some key ways.

Training internal staff to manage challenges

I was fortunate to have a really good internal staff. Overall, they didn’t need a lot of management, but sometimes they would have issues and needed advising. If they ran into road blocks with people or systems, I could talk with them and give them guidance. I knew the right course of action, but I didn’t always have the skills to make it happen. For example, my office manager could talk to an irate customer and be really effective in a way I could not. Because I didn’t take the problem from them, but advised them and gave them the support to handle it, they developed important job skills.

Focus and concentration

I can focus and work at a computer for a long time, which is a great skill when you’re starting and managing a small business. This hyper-focus allowed me to put in the long hours that are necessary to make a business succeed. However, they also put a strain on me physically and mentally. I’d work long into the night taking care of stuff, and the more I worked, the more adrenalin shooting into me, the worse I would sleep. I couldn’t relax and would just get more wound up. Eventually, I knew I had to quit working after five p.m. for my mental health. I trained myself to turn off my phone and stop checking emails, and basically learn how to relax and get some recreation time after work.

Follow through

Because of that hyper focus, I can also go down the rabbit hole with a problem that needs to be solved. If there was a problem in my business – like an irate customer or a website issue –I couldn’t settle down until I’d taken that problem as far as possible into a solution. I’d analyze the situation, the facts, and then take whatever action I could. Maybe it was a refund or talking to the web programmer. Once I’d done everything I could, my mind would relax. For a few bigger challenges, I would make the call to my lawyer just to tell him this is what’s happening. I could rest easier, knowing I’d done everything I could for that day, and it was in my lawyer’s hands. 

There’s a lot of stigma about people with autism – but we offer some important and valuable skills that can make a work environment better for everyone. I talk more about them in my upcoming memoir, From Turmoil to Triumph.

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