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ADHD and The Art of Learning

Guest Blogger: Rob Hanly

Rob Hanly, a lifestyle architect from Sydney, Australia, blogs about his struggles with ADHD and how The Art of Learning helped him focus on the essence and details of his work.

Making Smaller Circles

“I’m smarter than this!”

Not long after I turned 12, these words started ringing in my head after every assessment like the buzzing of a mosquito late at night. It was intrusive, a signal of something I couldn’t control.

During my younger years at school, I’d constantly been at the high end of the bell curve – my marks were high and my achievements were constant. I was told I was smart and could do whatever I wanted, and I believed it.

When I was 9, I moved schools and a year later, I was placed in the top streamed class for my grade. That was the end of an era.

Little by little, my marks slipped further and further downward. Every assessment marked another occasion of feeling let down by my smarts and more and more out of control. Everything seemed to be spinning towards an unavoidable fall.bored

When I was 16 I decided that I needed to stop drawing in the back of the classroom and find a way to concentrate. Over the course of the next few months, taking me to the age of 17, I saw a counselor; educational consultant; and finally, a psychologist who diagnosed me as having ADHD. At last there was an explanation for my inability to concentrate in class and my slipping marks.

After taking the prescribed medication, my marks started to go up. I was working more regularly on my own and with a tutor and rapidly moved up the ranks in my classes. The only possible reason for this, as far as I was concerned, was that the medication was enabling me to access new parts of my brain. At long last, my smarts were back. And I was using them.

When I reached the university environment, both medicated and unmedicated experiences allowed me to see the impact of prescription drug on my marks. Over the years, I came to perceive a connection – medication allowed me to access the smarts that could get me better marks.

In my fourth year of University, I embarked on a major project focusing on an ADHD Student’s Guide to University. I started to delve into Performance Psychology and came across The Art of Learning; everything changed. Through Josh’s story, I was introduced to perspectives and theories that I had experienced yet never understood. Finally, they had a name, and I could emulate them time and time again.

I found that in my work I was focused on too much at once, making it impossible for me to focus on the essence and details. My circles were too large! After reading ‘Making Smaller Circles’, I started to focus on the brick instead of the wall, making sure that I was zeroing in on the smaller individual elements that make up the bigger picture. Over time, these smaller elements were internalized and became more potent.


My approach to learning and achievement evolved over the years. It went from ‘my smarts get  the marks’ to ‘my medication gets the marks’. However, after reading ‘Two Approaches To Learning’, I was able to see in hindsight that my achievements weren’t the result of my smarts or my medication – they were the result of the work that my smarts and medication had lead me to do. No longer was my success the result of an intangible and unchangeable. I knew what made me tick and I was able to go on and repeat it time and time again.

I now work as a Lifestyle Architect in Sydney, Australia, passing on these techniques and perspectives amongst others to children and young adults with ADHD. After experiencing first-hand the awesome power of these changes in perspective and technique, I have been driven to pass them on to others just like me.

It’s not that I’m smarter than this.

It’s that I work hard.

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