Dr. John Kruse: “Identify what you like doing and that which rejuvenates you rather than depletes you”

There are benefits to the world for reframing old problems in new ways and for perceiving problems that others don’t even recognize yet. For me it is worth investing in being a thought leader because I feel an obligation to leave the world a better place than the condition I found it in. Each person […]

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There are benefits to the world for reframing old problems in new ways and for perceiving problems that others don’t even recognize yet. For me it is worth investing in being a thought leader because I feel an obligation to leave the world a better place than the condition I found it in. Each person has their own motivations and their own experiences of what might be satisfying.

As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Kruse, M.D., Ph.D., is a neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and author of the book “Recognizing Adult ADHD: What Donald Trump Can Teach Us About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” With 25 years of psychiatry experience, Dr. Kruse specializes in treating adults with ADHD. For more information, please visit www.drjohnkruse.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Dr. Kruse! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

One of the first patients referred to me as I was starting my psychiatry practice was Frank, a 42-year-old man who acted like an 8-year-old boy with ADHD. (Frank is not his real name, but given his severe ADHD, he was always frank.) His previous psychiatrist had made no progress with him despite six years of weekly therapy. The university clinic evaluated Frank and said that it looked like he had ADHD, but that didn’t exist in adults. After a few weeks of convincing myself that no other condition could explain all of Frank’s symptoms, I realized I had to start educating myself about ADHD in adults. Having a Ph.D. in neuroscience helped. This experience taught me to be wary of the claims of experts, especially when contradicted by what my own eyes were seeing.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I’m an authority on thought leadership because I have been thinking for five decades about what makes each of us different and have used my training in neuroscience and psychiatry to examine why some people excel and transform the societal forces that constrain most humans.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I met with Frank for an hour every week for more than twenty years. Before I worked with him he had been on numerous psychiatric medications, with horrible results, because he had been incorrectly diagnosed. After months of working with me he understood enough about his ADHD and trusted me enough to try Ritalin. This medication helped him to be more organized, more attentive, more able to complete tasks, and even improved his mood. Every week I checked with him regarding how consistently he was taking his medication, and he would reply that he knew that he had “missed a few days.” We worked on behavioral approaches and cognitive tricks to help him remember to take it daily. Despite all of our efforts, Frank would refill his monthly prescription not once a month, not every two months, not every four months….. but every thirteen months — and this continued over a span of many years. This meant that he took the medication only about once every two weeks! Half the time when he reported he had “missed a few days” he hadn’t even taken it once during that week! This really highlighted how powerfully disruptive severe ADHD could be in someone’s life, and how Frank’s intelligence and my monitoring and encouragement of him were insufficient to create the structure and support he needed to succeed in this realm.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made was thinking that if I had good ideas and could articulate them clearly, publishing agents and editors would show interest. I wrote my book, then I learned that publishers wanted to see a twenty-page book proposal, so I shrank the book down to that format. I then realized that they didn’t even want to see that, they wanted a one-page query letter, so I had to distill the book even further. And even then an agent who professed to be looking for books on how cutting-edge neuroscience can improve our world was more interested in a guy pushing a series on how to survive the zombie apocalypse than in my work. The publishing world also told me that nobody wanted more books on Trump — and since then at least twenty books featuring the president have made the best-seller lists. So I learned to listen to readers instead of to the gatekeepers of the publishing world.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

Typical leaders compel through their actions or their positions in places of authority. Thought leaders lead by seeing clearly or deeply what lies ahead of the current zeitgeist and outline a pathway for others to follow. Influencers just get others to pay attention to or imitate them regardless of whether they are doing anything particularly innovative, iconoclastic, or even sensible.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

There are benefits to the world for reframing old problems in new ways and for perceiving problems that others don’t even recognize yet. For me it is worth investing in being a thought leader because I feel an obligation to leave the world a better place than the condition I found it in. Each person has their own motivations and their own experiences of what might be satisfying.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

By being ahead of the curve you have an opportunity to find markets that others haven’t even imagined.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

One has to be open to new experiences, new viewpoints, and new formulations, rather than accepting tired old dogmas and conceptualizations. With my work using Donald Trump’s ADHD to promote societal awareness about ADHD, I had to contend with the ethical constraint that psychiatrists aren’t supposed to talk about the mental health of public figures without personal evaluation and that individual’s consent (called the Goldwater Rule). The unexamined dogma here was that an in-person evaluation does deliver the best information — but we know that people with ADHD are notoriously bad self-observers and historians (problems common with a number of mental illnesses) and furthermore, the criteria for ADHD are expressed purely in terms of observable behaviors — so the public record provides a greater repository of relevant behavior than does any individual assessment. Being open to new possibilities allowed me to look at unexamined, untrue assumptions underlying our old standard.

One has to think clearly, which requires a deep and thorough investigation of your own approach and of whatever older attitudes oppose your innovations so that you develop an understanding from multiple angles of how your ideas improve upon the old standards or how they fall short. Some initial insights aren’t correct with further inspection, or can’t be operationalized in the current world. For my book on Trump and ADHD, I had to learn how the Goldwater Rule arose, including the political, social, ethical and professional rationale for it, in order to demonstrate the parts of it that no longer fit our current world and before I could proclaim that “Mr. Trump’s ADHD throws cold water on the Goldwater Rule.”

One has to be strong and persistent in arguing one’s case, because those who have flourished under entrenched frameworks have an incentive to perpetuate them, and many people are unwilling to examine their own assumptions and biases. An understanding that ADHD drives much of Mr. Trump’s behavior will help many with undiagnosed ADHD detect the source of their own difficulties, and also enables us to comprehend and deal with the current president. Nevertheless, I have had to counter resistance from organized psychiatry, ADHD communities (who feel that Trump tarnishes ADHD), the political right (who feel that any mental health commentary stigmatizes the president), and even some on the left (who feel that any ADHD diagnosis lets him off the hook for his bad behavior). Having good ideas, and having accurate ideas, isn’t enough. You have to persevere in order to make others aware of your viewpoint and to convince those who are open to it.

If one isn’t finding some amount of fun and joy in the endeavor, one won’t be able to sustain the effort. Even if one feels righteous about their cause, anger only carries one so far. For me, finding delight and humor in writing about a topic helps lighten the burden and makes it a pleasure to continue. Earlier this year, I discovered many individuals who think that Mr. Trump snorts Adderall and this practice causes much of his aberrant behavior, rather than understanding that when he takes stimulant medications he decreases many of his problematic ADHD symptoms. I concluded a rather arid discussion of my viewpoint with “rather than riffing on his sniffing we should be supporting his snorting.” Although I really believe that snorting stimulants pose risks that orally ingesting them minimizes, the silly, rapping rhyme got the point across more effectively as well as delighting people.

For me the open-clear-strong-fun approach is a self-reinforcing mantra. In some ways it breaks down into constituent parts what some get out of chanting the Hindu “om.” The more open we are the more likely we are to find intelligent, lucid ways to experience and express our insight. The clearer we are in expressing our thoughts and feelings, the better aligned we are to apply effort to our tasks. The more strongly we apply our mind and body to our efforts the more likely they are to lead to joy. And if we are having fun, then we are most likely to let down our guards and be open to new understandings, continuing the cycle. I actually developed this word cycle when I was using self-imagery and hypnosis to counter asthma-induced airway closure. And it worked — my open-clear-strong-fun approach to inspiring was inspiring!

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Michael Pollan has been a leader in the locavore movement and more recently has written a provocative book on mind-altering substances. He not only brings interesting and innovative stances to his topics, he researches his ideas thoroughly, immerses himself in his topics and themes, shares his experiences with readers, and leverages his conclusions to advocate for societal change.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

Thought leader remains adequately descriptive and meaningful to me; if others object they may use or coin their own terms.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Identify what you like doing and that which rejuvenates you rather than depletes you. If your work is rejuvenating then you don’t need to worry about how much or how exclusively you are working on it.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like us to use our growing understanding of the diversity of how different brains operate and the growing powers of artificial intelligence to devise activities / social roles for each individual that we currently consider to have mental illness so that every person can live a life that truly contributes to our world, that feels fulfilling to themselves, and that our society respects.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

All Generalizations Are False — it sounds grand and somewhat innocuous and bland, but if accurate it must be false because it is a generalization, so… I like how the quirky paradoxical commentary reminds me to question whatever rules others decree. Specifically, this generalization helped me to come out in a homophobic world, and to learn to embrace myself for who I am, not for what others might assume they know about me.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I guess I would put Michael Pollan at the top because both the discussion and the food would be likely to be interesting and memorable.

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