Rick Webster, CEO

Rick Webster is the Founder and CEO of Rena-Fi, a financial literacy education company dedicated to creating ADHD-friendly resources and support systems. 

Table of Contents

Social Circle

November 2020

It’s so relaxing when you have nothing to prove …  

The other day, in this politically charged environment we’ve created for ourselves, listening to  an acquaintance give oversimplified and flat-out wrong political admonitions, I did the standard  “ADHD tune out.” I mean, seriously, does anyone honestly think they’re going to change anyone  else’s mind on such fundamental issues of character?  

While he kept pontificating … I devoted ten percent of my consciousness to managing the  socially lubricating nods and head shakes required to maintain my side of his sermon.  

“Dunning Kruger” came quietly to mind. But why complicate the encounter? 

A cool thing about our ADHD minds is our ability to connect dots that seemingly have nothing  to do with each other. Sometimes they do. This time, my mind flashed over to all of the unsolicited ADHD management advice I’ve been on the receiving end of … ofttimes passive-aggressive, character assassinating advice. 

I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. Try Yoga. You should meditate. Cannabis,  that’s what you need … or the latest fancy flashing light therapy. Just do it. Stop being lazy.  Everyone has that. A hook near the door for your keys, that’s the ticket. Fish oil, that’s the cure! Just get a better day-planner and USE IT, for god’s sake! What’s wrong with you? We  know you can do it, we’ve seen you do it before. Discipline, that’s what you need!  

I’ve learned a lot in twenty-plus years, post diagnosis. I’ve learned that most all of the  pejorative oversimplifications breakdown in the light of knowledge. 

I’m happy to share what I’ve learned but I no longer have a need to educate the willfully  ignorant. I’m well armed with facts but don’t feel an urge to defend myself against  misconceptions … no longer need to prove I’m right. 

Dimly aware of the person in front of me becoming a bit more emphatic, I return to the  conversation. Smile, “that’s very interesting” and attempt a graceful exit. Not feeling he was  “heard” my guest seemed intent on having another go at it.  I could almost hear the sound of a  boxing ring bell signaling round two.  

Unsatisfied, I’m sure, he seemed willing to buy my “I have somewhere to get to” exit plan. 

Changing/Adding Habits & Routines

October 2020

Have you ever tried to change a habit or install a new routine into your life?  Do you wonder why such a simple thing often proves to be so frustrating?  This rings true not just for those of us diagnosed with ADHD.  Humans in general frequently underestimate the difficulty of changing our behaviors.  Without conscious observation, we do not understand the mechanics of the matrix of our lives that keep us in place, even when our rational mind craves change.

My opinion is that we have “set points.”  We are in a state of equilibrium.  Whether we like our position or not, “we are where we are” based on the interaction of all of the forces acting upon us … both internal and external.  Through sheer force of will, we can change for a time.  However, if we do not change our “set point of equilibrium,” we will find ourselves reverting to the old ways.*  Newton was right!  Actions and reactions.  It is ignorance or hubris to think we aren’t a product of natural law. 

We can see it as an inconvenient truth we’d prefer to deny.

  OR, 

To make lasting change, realize we must change our set points.  To do this, we must alter both the forces acting upon us, as well as our reactions to them.  

In the simplest terms:

This can mean strengthening the things that help us, i.e., getting our sleep, diet and exercise under control.  Pruning the toxic people from our lives.  Building new relationships with ADHD friendly people who will enhance our best traits, and even offer us exciting challenges along our journey.  Seeking scientific / evidence based medications (when necessary) and behavioral modifications to help ourselves reign in the negative aspects of ADHD. It really is about what best suits your individual matrix.

I see this as eschewing problematic “appetites of the mind” that take us down addictive and dark paths.  Rejecting labels that place us as victims such as disorderedoperating at a deficit, and suffering from an across the lifespan pathology.

ADHD is a neurological brain function difference.  There is nothing to cure.

We are not victims unless we choose to be.  We have the ability to strengthen that which helps us, and weaken the ties that hold us back.  It is not a matter of will power.   It is a matter of self-care and choice … the choices we are free to make everyday.  

That’s how I see it.

*The book entitled  Willpower is Not Enough (reprinted and published c. early nineties) lays out this argument rather convincingly.

My Take on ADHD... and Positive Life Strategies

September 2020

The reason I do not buy into “the deficit, disorder, I’m defective” medical model of ADHD is that it’s counterproductive to a life well lived.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not unmindful of the science. ADHD does present challenges, and the medical model can help us with some of them. For example, stimulants can help connect the “knowledge and skills” back of our brain with the “getting it done” prefrontal cortex. That’s a very real thing. The neuroscience is real and we shouldn’t deny it.

But I’m also not oblivious to the deeper holistic truth that emotions, beliefs and mindsets are just as relevant to our everyday happiness and success.

Deficits and disorders? Those are the seeds of victim-hood. Those are the expressions of an external locus of control. Of abdication and capitulation. 

I understand ADHD to be the manifestation of strengths and a constellation of weaknesses.

What am I good at? Passionate about? What makes me feel good about myself? What do I struggle with?

And, from there: What am I going to do about it? What can I do to get to places on time? What can I do to complete my work on time? What can I do to be a great partner to my significant other?

So, for me the questions are always … What am I going to do? Or as Carolyn Myss would say, “Where to from here?” Never, “I can’t because someone told me I have a deficit.”

So, you decide. Are you a victim of across the lifespan deficits and disorders they say you are, or do you take command of your life starting today? Whichever path you choose, you’re going to be right. To be fair, we all vacillate between these two mutually exclusive paths. All of us. But which side is better for us? Which side do you want to live on?

Let’s talk about simple tips and strategies that can help us rein in the negative aspects of our ADHD so we can get on with all the great stuff life has to offer.

 

How ADHD Affected My Personal Life

August 2020

What’s a financial education platform like Rena-Fi, Inc. (Rena-Fi) have to do with ADHD?

As I sit down to write this I’m honestly overwhelmed by the emotional content of the topic. I’ve been fortunate to work with ADDA and CHADDwhose sole reason for existence is to improve the lives and well being of people with ADHD. What shade of awesome is that? People like me. People like you. Now I get to take that one step further by helping solve issues that those with ADHD have, and that aren’t being addressed elsewhere. 

My story:

I was born into a healthy upper middle class family who believed in hard work, education and human kindness. I was a hyperactive, enthusiastic and inquisitive young person, raised by wonderful and generous people. That’s how I was raised. 

But… we all hit a wall somewhere and many of us ADHDers tend to hit them repeatedly. That’s the thing about undiagnosed ADHD, there’s always a “but” in there somewhere just waiting to raise its unruly hand. 

My first wall was fourth grade. A new school. Homework. Autonomy. So many factors. Like many ADHDers, I was already developmentally behind my peers, and peers notice that sort of thing. My grades plummeted. That was just a symptom, the tip of the iceberg as it turns out. Looking back it almost seems like I spent as much time in the principal’s office for misbehavior as I did in the classroom. A bright but undisciplined kid who disrupted every teacher’s day. The silver lining was I learned that school principals are actually pretty nice people. That’s one of the many positive aspects of ADHD. Sometimes we see things that others miss entirely.

Fourth grade started what I will call the “labels” phase of my life. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. The pejorative labels we are all too familiar with. Lazy, irresponsible, immature, exasperating, disruptive. You know all about that phase, don’t you? Well deserved labels from an outsider’s perspective. I didn’t know any better, so I believed them. I’ll bet you did too.

The darker side arrived in sixth grade. It’s part of the ADHD journey for some. I won’t say much about that except to say out loud what many are uncomfortable giving voice to. ADHD kids are at risk from predators who cull their prey from the marginalized members of a herd. Some shadows last a lifetime. If you’re a member of that club too, know that you are not alone, forgiveness heals and you’re okay.

Some years later, graduating high school somewhere in the middle of the bottom twenty percent of my class, I had learned one overarching thing. I wasn’t as good as the others. I pretended to be, fooled many, but I knew I wasn’t.

Next, came the “who am I?” phase of my life. Like most ADHDers, I was smarter than my C- performance indicated. I aced the SAT’s, like 99th percentile aced. Being oppositional like many of you, I had something to prove so I applied to a major university with what seemed like impossibly high entrance requirements. I was granted passage into a much larger world. Something to feel good about and terrified about. I still did poorly grade-wise but I’d long ago become acquiescent to that persistent fact of my life. A dean let it slip that grades are only loosely correlated with intelligence. That’s cool. I found hope in that. What he didn’t say was that conscientiousness (not intelligence) is the most important personality factor in both good grades and success. Well, that sucks, but we play the hand we’re dealt, don’t we?

Then came the roller coaster years. The incubator of resilience.  Success followed by failure. Rinse, wash, and repeat. I think the conviction my father instilled in me, that none of this was anyone’s fault but my own has kept me fully out of the “poor me, I’m a victim” neighborhood. That can be harsh but it’s a source of strength as well. We are not victims unless we choose to be. 

Next came one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. Who would have thought a diagnosis for a (so called) mental disorder could be interpreted as a gift? We’re oblivious, until we’re not. It was an explanation for an inexplicable past. It was a clear light leading out of a tunnel I scarcely realized I was in. You mean I’m not nuts? Not “lazy, stupid or crazy” as the book title goes? Yet another world opened up. A whole new tribe who had been there all along. You guys!

I’ve had the honor of well over twenty years of volunteer work for CHADD and had conversations with perhaps a couple thousand ADHDers like you and me.  Self discovery years.  Now I’m doing a few things with ADDA.  Home, it turns out.  I know what the doctors say and I don’t dispute the facts.  But my opinion? ADHD is neither a deficit nor a disorder. It’s a neurobiological brain function difference. A rose with thorns, if you will.

So, what does a financial education platform like Rena-Fi have to do with ADHD and what does “my story” have to do with anything?  Statistics point out that 61% of us have serious financial issues; that’s four times the general population rate. It’s not because we can’t balance a checkbook.  I head up Rena-Fi.  Rena-Fi’s sole mission is to empower those who thirst for a better life through financial literacy.

Everything in my life has conspired to plant me here, at this desk, at this time. Don’t let the thorns keep you from enjoying the rose that is your life. I’m so looking forward to meeting you all in our classes and events.

It's Only ADHD...

July 2020

“I don’t need medication; it’s only ADHD.” – Seriously? Don’t Ever Say that to Me.

To begin, ADHD can only be diagnosed by a medical professional … and that’s not me. I make no claims in that direction. I AM, however, the parent of four daughters, two of whom have ADHD.  I was diagnosed with ADHD about twenty years ago.  I have also been engaged with CHADD’s Northern California chapter as their Regional Coordinator and serve on the CHADD National Board of Directors.  As such, I’ve had interactions with thousands of people with ADHD over the past couple of decades.

It is important to obtain a proper diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional.  Other conditions can manifest similar symptoms, but have drastically different treatment recommendations.  Taking a stimulant medication for sleep apnea, for example, could make your problems exponentially worse.  Sleep apnea can look EXACTLY like ADHD to the untrained eye.

ADHD is not a psychiatric condition, though it is often complicated by a number of psychiatric conditions. It’s a neuro-developmental (physical) difference that is incurable but highly treatable.

Here are seven alternative (and sometimes comorbid) explanations that self-diagnosing individuals often miss:

  • Bipolar and Bipolar 2 disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Childhood trauma
  • Improper diet
  • Autism
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Boredom 

The point is … don’t self-diagnose.

I believe medication (stimulant and non-stimulant) represents only about 20% of ADHD remediation for most adults and maybe 65% in children. If you want to thrive, you must do the work which includes cognitive behavioral therapy, coaching, and other strategies. That’s the other 80%. But, the 20% is crucial.

Why the difference between adults and kids? Late diagnosed adults are not only dealing with ADHD, but they are dealing with the accumulated damage, baggage, and other consequences of living an untreated life.

If you or your child’s ADHD is mild and simply an annoyance, something that is not seriously impacting your lives, then this rant isn’t something you need to hear.  BUT if you’re one of the many people properly diagnosed with significant ADHD challenges, then please read on. Maybe it’s your child, maybe it’s you. If you’re resistant to the idea of using mainstream medication for any number of reasons, I’d suggest stepping back to see what’s real. The allure of well-marketed unproven alternatives is seductively appealing. 

You have diagnosed ADHD impairments. In the throes of pain and dysfunction you’ve shown up seeking help. Unchecked ADHD is ruining your life. Nothing you’ve done has made your life better, BUT you still look for alternatives to the mostly benign, rare, and temporary side effects of mainstream medications.

Yes, medication can cause temporary side effects and carries a rarely manifested risk of serious complications. 

Here are some of the serious and common risk factors you should be concerned with:

Unmedicated ADHD is positively correlated with the following:

  1.  With being a defendant in court. 
  2.  With going to prison and going back to prison. 
  3.  With living close to the poverty line. 
  4.  With having outstanding parking tickets and traffic violations. 
  5.  With paying two, three … sometimes 10 times the initial value of those tickets in  additional penalties.  
  6.  With being injured in a car wreck that the ADHD person caused. 
  7.  With having few if any real friends. 
  8.  With feeling isolated.
  9.  With having so much clutter and debris in the house that the ADHD person becomes too ashamed to invite anyone in. 
  10.  With toxic and life diminishing levels of chronic shame.
  11.  With becoming homeless.
  12.  With being in the same dead-end job for years. 
  13.  With getting fired or laid off.
  14.  With being unemployed, underemployed, and/or being in a “bad fit” job.
  15.  With elevated rates of foreclosure, eviction, and auto repossession.
  16.  With having a stack of unopened nasty letters from the IRS. 
  17.  With disease exacerbated by chronic financial stress.
  18.  With obesity and most of its related negative health consequences.. 
  19.  With chronically over committing and under achieving. 
  20.  With failing in school … especially college. 
  21.  With living on poor quality food to the point of damaging their health. 
  22.  With not seeing a doctor for years. 
  23.  With neglecting common sense health care practices
  24.  With engaging in risky behaviors:  Substance abuse, DUI, and rock climbing beyond     their skill set.
  25.  With engaging in other risky behaviors ranging from unprotected sex, to drivng recklessly, to road rage.
  26.  With not taking prescribed medication for other physical ailments.
  27.  With getting divorced. 
  28.  With having utilities cut off for nonpayment.  
  29.  With having utilities repeatedly interrupted for nonpayment.
  30.  With being up to their neck in debt. 
  31.  With sleep disturbances. 
  32.  With worsened anxiety, anger management, and depressive issues. 
  33.  With earning 25% less over the course of their lives.
  34.  With losing copious amounts of money to the “ADHD tax.”

  35.  With retiring broke.
  36.  With experiencing higher rates of domestic abuse (both as victim and perpetrator).
  37.  And, with having a dramatically shortened life expectancy (11 – 18 years shorter).
  38.  Plus, with having a shortened “healthy life expectancy” as a percentage of their already shortened lives.

Here are some sobering “side effects” of NOT medicating kids and not providing a suitably adjusted living / social / school environment, of not providing a non-judgmental living environment, if you will.

Compared to their properly treated ADHD peers, untreated ADHD kids are likely to experience the following:

  1.  Earn and receive poorer grades – significantly poorer.
  2.  Suffer more emotional abuse at the hands of their classmates.
  3.  Get physically bullied more often.
  4.  Have fewer friends.
  5.  Are more likely to self-medicate with street drugs.
  6.  Become substance abusers and alcoholics more often.
  7.  Take foolish risks. 
  8.  Have more accidents.
  9.  Die in car accidents more often.
  10.  Spend more days in the hospital before the age of 18.
  11.  Are more likely to die before the age of 18.
  12.  Develop antisocial tendencies more often.
  13.  Get in trouble with the law more often.
  14.  Acquire more STD’s.
  15.  Fail to graduate high school in greater numbers.
  16.  Fail to make it to college more often. 
  17.  Fail to graduate college more often.
  18.  Internalize the negative judgments of peers, teachers, and authority figures.
  19.  Witness trauma more often.
  20.  Experience trauma more often.
  21.  Are marginalized more often resulting in a greater risk of being targeted and culled from the herd by a predator.
  22.  Are depressed more often. 
  23.  Are more prone to anxiety issues.
  24.  Attempt suicide more often.
  25.  Successfully commit suicide more often.

But hey … it’s just ADHD, right?

Every one of these negative impacts is a common and KNOWN (research based) RISK FACTOR of ADHD.  Every one of these outcomes can be significantly reduced by proper medication, hard work, and conscious action.  

The consequences of NOT utilizing research-proven medication and not attending to the self care necessary are probable, often devastating, and sometimes tragically unrecoverable. 

Now that you know the other side, do your homework. Be in the know and make an educated decision. 

 

 

ADHD: A Day in the Life

June 2020

“It’s 12:38 in the afternoon and I just put on my second shoe … “

That was an actual and true message I sent to my girlfriend across the country a few days ago.

I’d gotten up around 6:00 or 6:30, as per my usual.  Scattered, as per my usual.  Breakfast, a shower, my teeth … oh, and the work things I need to get to … and I need to get some exercise.  Breakfast?  I need to finish getting dressed.  I have several text messages to return, I’ll do that!  Where is the time going?  My desk is cluttered … AGAIN.  I need to work on that, but I REALLY need to go fix breakfast.  I’m determined.  I’m going to get a handle on the day.  One shoe?  Screw it!  Breakfast!  Now!

It’s on the stove.  I have a Zoom meeting in ten minutes.  My food won’t quite be done.  I’ll have to eat it cold.  What?  I only have one shoe on.  Got to get on Zoom.  I need a dress shirt.  I’ve got less than two minutes!  I hate being late.  

Handled it.  Zoom went well.  I always do well “live” and in person.  It’s what I do.  Crisis!  Without it would I get anything done?  Seriously, I’m afraid of the answer.  

I have so much work to catch up on.  So much.

My breakfast is cold.  I’m not even hungry anymore.  Exercise!  I’m going for a walk.  It’s 12:38 and I need my other shoe … 

I’m so in need of being understood.  I know what to do, but doing it … that’s the problem.  I know what people think.  I don’t need advice from those who think they know how to fix me.  I don’t know how to explain what seems inexplicable, even to me.  I don’t make excuses.  All I know is that with my ADHD tribe, I feel at home.  I’m at peace.  I feel accepted, connected and valued.  I feel healed and useful.  Better than any med, my brain settles into functional mode … and I’m okay.

Richard Webster, the author of this article, is CEO and founder of Rena-Fi, Inc. His opinions and viewpoints expressed do not necessarily reflect that of Rena-Fi, Inc.