Updated 14 June 2017

Ten of the most successful people with ADHD

Not all ADHD sufferers are too erratic to achieve anything. Take Albert Einstein for example . . .

There is a mistaken belief that people with ADHD are too unfocused to achieve or accomplish anything. Usually ADHD sufferers are unable to control their impulsive actions, but not in all cases.

An estimated 7% of adults are affected by this common behavioural disorder, including some of the world’s most influential people. Some of the greatest musicians, artists, athletes and entrepreneurs of all time suffered from this condition.

1. Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist

He was the most influential physicist of the 20th century and developed the theory of relativity.

Albert Einstein was a typical case of ADHD.  He was known to be forgetful, often seemed unaware of his surroundings and was happy with his dishevelled look. He basically lived by his own rules.

His brain was removed after he died and kept aside to be studied instead of placed back in his body before he was cremated.

2. Sir Richard Branson, business mogul

Sir Richard Branson is an English business mogul. He started his own space exploration company and owns his own island, and his reach is truly enormous. He is able to innovate, achieve and succeed in just about everything he does.

3. John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States

He served in both the US House of Representatives and US Senate before becoming the 35th US president – with ADHD. He was popular in the media, more than most pop singers and movie stars. He faced many foreign challenges and managed to secure achievements such as the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.

4. Will Smith, actor/producer/rapper

This "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has achieved a lot – from creating one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, acting and rapping, despite his ADHD. Newsweek called him the most powerful actor in Hollywood. He is a fan of chess and video games.

5. David Neeleman, aviation entrepreneur

David Neeleman only discovered he had the disorder while in his 30s, and disclosed it on CNN. This didn’t stop him from founding three commercial airlines. Neeleman attributes much of his success to having ADHD, giving him the ability to think outside the box.

6. Jim Carrey, actor/comedian/producer

Jim Carrey has been the funny man gracing our screens for over two decades. He clearly has a serious case of ADHD and he can’t stop his hyperactive behaviour. He has starred in some of the greatest comedies of all time. ADHD works well for him!

7. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time

He became the greatest basketball player of all time and went on to be a successful entrepreneur and owner of the Charlotte Hornets. He is always looking for his next move – a common characteristic of this condition. He even owns a private jet with the "Air Jordan" logo on the tail.

8. Justin Timberlake, singer/actor/producer/businessman

JT dominated the Billboard charts for years and went on to win nine Grammy awards. In an interview with he revealed that he has "ADD mixed with OCD". He has since become an actor and businessman.

9. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time

Michael Phelps is one of the greatest athletic icons in the world.  Phelps also holds the all-time record for Olympic medals and credits much of this success to his ADHD. He started the Michael Phelps Foundation which focuses on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthier lifestyles.

10. Walt Disney, the inspiration behind Disneyland

Walt Disney was known for his unsophisticated drawings which became recognizable worldwide. Even 50 years after his death, some of his earliest cartoons are still shown on television. He initially was the voice of his famous character "Mickey Mouse" – quite an achievement for someone with ADHD.

More of an advantage

People with ADHD will dedicate themselves to something they’re fanatical about, and excel. In cases like these, ADHD can actually be considered more of an advantage than a weakness.

Read more:

ADHD: Link between meds and socio-economic background

'Emotional' ADHD runs in the family

Source: Elite Daily, bio.


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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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