Aron Croft appeared to have it all when he got into Harvard. But that was the beginning of his demise. He struggled nonstop for 15 years until he was broke, divorced, and earning minimum wage, failing out of his first 7 jobs and businesses. But after getting a Master's degree in Coaching Psychology and a diagnosis of Inattentive ADHD, his life changed. He built a successful Fortune 500 career consulting to companies such as Marriott, Deloitte, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, KPMG, and United Healthcare. He also got remarried, and most importantly, discovered how to get sh*t done with a neurodivergent brain. Now he’s on a mission to raise awareness about Inattentive ADHD, how it goes under the radar, and how to rebuild your life post-diagnosis. Today we learn how his ADHD diagnosis at 34 led him to recover from being broke, divorced, and earning minimum wage to a successful Fortune 500 career, and turned this Influencer’s side hustle into his full-time job… Enjoy!
In this episode Peter and Aron Croft discuss:
2:00 - Intro and welcome Aron!
3:14 - So you got into Harvard and things were going great- what happened?
4:28 - Ref: FTN “The One with the ADHD PhD, Featuring Rachel Cotton”
5:15 - How did you feel when things started going off the rails and you didn’t know why?
6:24 - What was it like when you finally got diagnosed; and the year prior when you rented half of a bed?
8:32 - And just when things were turning around with Aron’s new job…
9:42 - So how did you pull out of that situation? Ref: At the time of publishing Seinfeld is now on Netflix
13:58 - On those ‘waking up’ moments and for the first time realizing you’re not a total loser!
15:40 - So you get diagnosed and things begin changing- then what happened?
16:52 - When did you give up the Sweet Tarts and come to the epiphany that you were unfulfilled?
17:49 - On finding Dopamine via other sources
18:48 - See, podcasts ARE fun!
20:33 - What is it with TikTok anyway?!
21:03 - Thank you Aron! Guys, as always, we are here for you and we love what the responses and the notes that we get from you. So please continue to do that, tell us who you want to hear on the podcast, anything at all, we’d love to know. Leave us a review on any of the places you get your podcasts, and if you can ever, if you ever need our help, I'm www.petershankman.com and you can reach out anytime via firstname.lastname@example.org or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterNormal on all of the socials. It really helps when you drop us a review on iTunes and of course, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! As you know, the more reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Help us to show the world that ADHD is a gift, not a curse!
21:28 - Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits
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My name is Peter Shankman. You are listening to Faster Than Normal. I am thrilled that you're here. It is a great day outside, probably one of the last warm days we're going to have this year until like, I don't know, sometime in 2022, but it is a good day, there is good news on the horizon. Life is good. Everyone is happy. I'm happy. I hope you're happy.
So who do we have today? We have someone who was pretty happy. He got into Harvard and he's like, holy crap. I got into Harvard. I'm pretty sure he was happy then. But as he told me, when I talked to him about coming on the podcast, he said that was the beginning of his demise. After getting into Harvard, he proceeded the struggle nonstop for 15 years until he was broke, divorced, earning minimum wage bailing out of his first seven jobs and businesses. I'm talking about Aaron Croft. It is great to have him on the podcast because- after he got a master's degree in coaching psychology and a diagnosis of inattentive ADHD, his life changed.
He a built successful fortune 500 career consulting to companies such as Marriott, Deloitte Johnson, Johnson, McDonald's KPMG and healthcare. He got remarried. Most importantly, he discovered how to get shit done with a neurodivergent brain and now he's on a mission to raise awareness about Inattentive ADHD, how it goes under the radar and how to rebuild your life if you get a diagnosis of the same.
Peter. Thank you. It's so awesome to be here. And I do have to say that it's actually a really shitty day in Chicago. It's just been raining and everything.
So, uh, probably that means it'll hit us probably in about 24 hours, 20, 36 hours. That's usually how it happens so we will enjoy it while we have it. But I have no doubt that later in the week, we'll be crap on a stick, anyway. Good to have you here, man. It is great to finally talk to you. I know your story. Um, so you grew up, you weren't diagnosed and you're just like, Hey, going through life and you wind up getting into Harvard and you're like, man, I'm the shit. And then you, in fact, as the announcer would say, in fact he was not the shit. Tell us what happened.
Yeah. I mean, I had, I was a really just naturally good test taker. I had this great support structure growing up. Like, I mean, I had parents that were pushing me. I had older sisters who paved the way for me in school and built a good reputation with teachers and I just had really smart, ambitious friends that would invite me to study with them and that sort of thing. And you know, all those factors converged and I pulled off, you know, an amazing heist of sorts and somehow managed to graduate number one in my high school class, get into Harvard like woo hoo! My life is set like que que the trumpets and, uh, yeah, it turned, it turns out it wasn't. When I got to Harvard, the wheels just fell off. Lack of structure. And honestly Peter, you know, what I used to get through high school was just massive amounts of procrastination followed by minor heart attacks, followed by getting my work done. And by the time I got to Harvard, you know, I had freedom for the first time in my life. I was like, I don't, I'm done with that. I don't want to do that.
What I find interesting is that you're not the first person. Uh, on this podcast, who's gotten into Harvard and realized holy crap, nothing is working. Um, we actually had someone, uh, several years ago named Rachel Cotton. Uh, she was doing her PhD at Harvard and, uh, she had been, she got through undergrad and her graduate degree by uh, mainlining Adderall and no.. no not Adderall, NoDoze and mainlining, uh, uh, caffeine pills. And, you know, she finally had good healthcare at Harvard and she went to it for physical induction and the doctor asked if there’s anything else there's anything else they should know and she goes, yeah. I drink about, you know, 14 cups of coffee a day, and take about nine, nine NoDoze. Um, and she just said it nonchalantly and the doctor goes to that's that's, that's, that's probably not normal. And that was the beginning of her diagnosis. So there's something about Harvard, but, um, you know, so you get into it and, and shit starts going off the rails and talk to us about how you must've felt, because I'm assuming much like I did when things would go off the rails for me, you know, it's obviously 100% entirely my fault. I'm the fuck up. It's obviously there's nothing else that could be wrong with it. It's totally me. Um, how could I be such a horrible.
100%. Yeah. I mean, I feel like you just put my brain on loud speaker there, Peter, so thank you for that. Yeah, no, I completely, I mean, so I didn't get diagnosed until my mid thirties. And so this is all like under the radar, undiagnosed and you know, the only explanation that I had was the one that my mom had, which was Aron thinks you better than everyone, that he doesn't have to play by the rules. And he's just lazy and, you know, it's sorta like, well, I'm cutting all these corners and I'm getting away with these last minute saves, like, I guess she's right. And I mean, you know, to this day, I'm still piecing back together my self image and self confidence from all those years of misinformation.
What was it like when, tell us about the, the, sort of the great reveal moment when you finally got diagnosed and, you know, you'd been gone for 15 years how, and if I get diagnosed, like, holy shit, there's a name for this and it starts to make sense.
Yeah, totally. Um, let me, let me tell you that. And let me just tell you, uh, what happened about a few months before that, just to get an idea of kinda where, how we got here, because when we go from Harvard we sort of have to paint the real picture. So, uh, A year before I'm diagnosed. Uh, I, I've got all of my possessions, all my belongings in a few suitcases and my wife's just basically kicked me out of the house. So we're getting divorced and I'm broke and I'm earning minimum wage. So anyway, so I'm carrying my two suitcases up the stairs of this shared house, uh, that I'm now going to share with four other acquaintances and I'm in, I'm in the room and I'm unpacking my stuff in the closet. And then Billy this 26 year old tech support agent from Vietnam comes and flops down on my king size bed. Kind of starteling me and I'm like, Hey, Billy, what's up, you know, but he looks really comfortable and that's when it hits me. He hasn't flopped down on his, on my king size bed.
He's flopped down on his half of OUR king size bed because renting half of a bed was all that I could afford at that point in my life.
That's that's, that's only a bump. It was, it was such a wake-up call, right.
Did he at least smell good?
I mean, you know, I mean, I think it was, uh, I think it was, uh, Obsession, you know by CK, it was pretty, pretty delightful, you know, it's kinda musky. Uh, and yeah, so anyway, so of course the, the heart attack of that experience got me into action. I got a better job. And then. And then from that better job, which I only was at for seven months, I was able to move into a new company and get a raise. And I'm like, oh, this is great. Like I've, you know, I've rebuilt my life, blah, blah, blah. And anyway, so I'm three months into that job and it's all like high fives and backslaps everyone loves Aron and, uh, then history repeats itself. All of a sudden I got a call from my manager saying the client doesn't like your work. They think that it's subpar and you need to stay late for every night this week and maybe every night next week, if you don't get it done and redo all the work you've done the last few months. And you know, it doesn't mean you can't get done everything else you have to get done this week and you can't charge, you know, bill the time to the client more or anything. And like, Peter, I literally just freak out. Like, I mean, I'm thinking like I'm already, I mean, I'm already taking NoDoz and you know, I'm already at the edge of, at the edge of my bandwidth. Like I don't have another gear to stay late, you know, and redo work that I've already done in addition to a full day job. Like no way.
And, uh, yeah, go ahead. No, this is what happens. So, so you're sitting there in the, you know, probably like deer in the headlights type thing. W what was the next step?
Total, total deer in the headlights. And like, you know, like people say, like, when you die, like your whole life flashes in front of your eyes, there's something in slow motion. Like for me, It was kind of flashing in front of my eyes at that point, because what I was seeing was this whole image of rebuilding my life was going to be gone. At that point I was effectively a 34 year old divorce, a living with my mom. It wasn't technically living with my mom because it was living with my mom's sister, but it’s basically the same thing.
And I'm reminded of the Seinfeld episode where, uh, you know, George, is that when we look to you should go talk to her. Yeah. Because balding middle-aged men with no job who live with their parents have a really good success rate there,
Love it, love it. Right. And those, and you can't see this at home, but Peter and I are chatting and I've got the nice bald round dome. And, but what he said is totally true. I'll, uh, George Costanza. And so anyway, like I see my life, I see my life just falling apart for my eyes. I freak out and a friend had mentioned his ADHD and Adderall. He mentioned that socially, like going out drinking, but all I knew because I'd never tried Adderall even really paid any attention to it. But. He said it helped him stay up late to go out drinking. So I'm like, dude, I need to stay up late for this like thing! Or I'm going to get fired and live in my mom's sister's house.
That's how Pfizer originally marketed Adderall is. “Hey, here's the stay up late going out, drinking a drug, right?” Yeah. I totally can imagine. I can totally imagine him saying that. And that's what, what you glom on. So I totally get.
Yeah. And like, exactly. And, uh, and then, yeah, so, so anyway, so I get to work that Monday and like, I go through the day and then kind of midday, cause that was sort of the, the advice that I got like that I could take it and it would get me through the night or through like, you know, staying until 9:00 PM or 8:00 PM. So about mid day I take it anyway, I walk around like I walk around and just kill some time and I come back and I sit down at my laptop. And, you know, it's like in a conference room because I'm a consultant. There's like other people and distractions. And I'm like, of course, working on some super boring shit, like PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets. And, uh, I sit down, I do some work like for a few minutes and then I look off and I look back at my boring stuff and I keep working on it. And then I look away for a little bit. Like, a minute. And then I look back and I keep working. I was like, holy crap. I'm working on this thing without stopping, even though it's not exciting and interesting, like.. is this book people have been talking about this whole time when they've said, Aron, just sit down and work on it!?!
You had the Bradley Cooper NZT moment in Limitless, where he sits, where he takes the pill. He sits down, everything becomes clear and in color.
Like, it was literally as if like you'd given a blind person site and it was like, it was like, oh, this is what purple looks like. Like I didn't realize whatever I was everyone was talking about.
That is spectacular, but it's entirely true. Everyone who's been there has had that. I call it that Limitless moment. If you haven't seen this film, dude, go out this afternoon, stop what you're doing and go see this film. He literally, he takes his pill of NZT, which gives him quote, unquote access to the other 90% of his brain. And, and he there's the scene. It's a stairway scene. He walks in the stairway and it goes from black and white drab to super high Def color where every single sound like the ticking of a bicycle, he hears the ticking of the wheel of greatness every day. And he's like, I get it. Right. And, and, and the, the landlord lady who is like, who's like on his ass to pay the rent, you know, five minutes later, he's sleeping with her. Right. It's just. That thing where he's just like, everything makes sense now. Yeah. We've all had that!
Right. Exactly. And if you, if you take Peter's suggestion and you go and see the movie, uh, I also look like Bradley Cooper- so that's like a bonus as well.
Hey, I'll, I'll, I'll sure, why not?
Don't don't look at the show notes! [And you’re totally reading the show notes now aren’t you- Aron’s picture is on the main page ;)]
But you know, it's, it's funny because those moments, everyone talks about this one, right. And he talks about the sort of those, those Zen moments, those wake up moments. I think the thing that people don't mention the most about those moments is that it's the wake up call is not only, wow- look at all this shit I can DO, but also holy crap, I'm not the complete loser that I thought I was.
Wow. So, you know, what's amazing about that, Peter, um, is.. I only came to that realization like a week or two ago, because I was putting together this like nine minute TED talk that ADDA is putting out, uh, next month as part of ADHD awareness month. And that literally is the theme of my talk, but I didn't make that connection until I wrote it. And you just like, I should have been just talking to you because you just said it so perfectly clearly.
We've all been there man. That's, you know, that literally comes from years of, I remember, you know, back in high school, I remember back in college, like my fourth day of my freshman year, I said something stupid. And I, you know, my, my social acuity didn't kick in and I said something stupid. And I know that's it, I just fucked up 4 years. I remember, I remember screwing up four years ago. I think I was just stood up for his college and it, it, it, why am I just so different? Why am I such a loser? Why am I, and, and. It's amazing how you, how you see that. Um, in people who haven't been diagnosed and they get diagnosed, they under, it's not even so much the diagnosis, you break your leg, you have a, you have a bone sticking on your leg. You pretty much know you've broken your leg. This isn't, this is a secret, this is a secret disease. Right? And so you, you get diagnosed for the first time. You understand it, right. You didn't have a bone sticking out of your brain. You couldn't tell that there was something wrong with you. That could be fixed. So that's it's yeah, it's a massive wake up call. So, all right. So you're diagnosed things, start changing. Now what.
Uh, yeah, so then, then I live happily ever after, and shit just works perfectly. Um, no. So then, then I get medication and it's like a game changer, right? Right, so I go and get diagnosed. The week, like as soon as after, as I could, and then I get medications, it’s a game-changer and I go from being an under performer where to like an average and then an above average performer a nd I was like, this is great. Um, and it was really the first time in my adult life that I performed in any meaningful capacity, because as you said, I failed out of my first seven jobs in businesses and it was just like shit show after shit show. And, uh, so I then did what any responsible 34 year old does that's living on his own? I got home from work every day, broke out the weed, played video games and ate freaking sour patch, kids and sweet tarts like every effing day.
I love it. How'd you come out of that?
Uh, well, it was about a few years later and I was like, crap. This, this like hedonic pleasure of doing all that isn’t fulfilling. Like, yes, I enjoy it in the moment, but it's also, it's also not making me happy, deep down and you know, my social relationships weren't thriving because of it. Um, and. You know, I also wasn't achieving my fullest potential, you know, like Abraham Maslow, ‘what one can be one must be’. And that was creating like an internal lack of fulfillment and dissonance. So I finally just said that, Hey, maybe holding down a job, isn't my biggest achievement that I can have in life. Maybe I could have something bigger and do something more and make a bigger impact. And so that for me, I finally said, okay, I stopped finding dopamine in those artificial pleasures, if you will. And I started discovering, I could find dopamine through achieving personally meaningful goals and striving to be better, and to constantly improve myself.
What happens when, uh, how many times have you had that moment where you're like, I can't believe I'm getting paid to get this high, essentially the high, the high being, what you love to do. Cause I come off the stage every day and I'd have to shake whenever I speak, as it was to shake my head and be like still, they still don't know. They still think that I'm, you know, I'm still getting paid for this crap. Unbelievable. I still get that.
I think, I think about that. I mean, I think of that in my coaching sessions with clients, like, I love to talk about this shit. Like, you want to talk about how to like improve your life and be productive or like strategy!? Like that is candy, even podcasts, right? Like, like, I mean, obviously I’m not getting paid directly on this, but, this is like the most fun thing in the world. I get to hang out with someone awesome, we get to talk about the shared interests, which, you know, we're both so passionate about and we had to make a difference, like, yeah, same. Yeah. Like you hit it. I love, I love how clearly, uh, and I don't mean this as a knock against anyone else I've talked to, but I feel like there's a clarity of not purpose, but a clarity of thinking, and how you've processed so much of this stuff. That is just a level above.
Thank you. I think a lot of it comes to comes to the point where you're just like, you know what? I know what works. I know what doesn't. I know how I got here. Fuck it. I'm just gonna, I'm gonna say how I feel. Um, tell us, I want to keep it to 20 minutes, I wanna be respectful of your time and the audience's time; cause it's been 20 minutes, you know, ADHD and all that. Um, how can people find more of you? Because there's a lot more that we will discuss next time I have you on but where can they find you? Where can they, where can they learn more about you? Because you have some interesting backstory and some interesting future story. And I think that our audience will want more of that. Tell us.
Yeah, absolutely. So, um, the future story stuff that Peter's referring to, just so we don't leave people with a complete view of me as a fuck up.
No, obviously I told you in the very beginning, you know, you're doing, you're doing fortune 500 coaching now you're doing tons of stuff, you know? So obviously you, you figured it out.
Okay. So then we don't, we don't need to go into it. So I would say then just, uh, just Google hidden ADHD. Uh, so the “hidden” is kind of like a nod to a bit of the inattentive going under the radar and you'll be able to find my TikTok with over a hundred thousand people and you'll be able to find my free downloads and stuff. I’ve got some cool ADHD one-on-one and productivity guides and stuff. Uh, so you can get all that. And, uh, I would love to connect with you.
Awesome Aron Croft yeah, his TikTok’s pretty off the charts you should definitely follow that. I'll give you that. I, you know, it's funny. I've been trying desperately. I tried to get into it, I just, I couldn't, I couldn't fall in love with it. I, I, I fell in love with Twitter. I fell in love with Facebook. I fell in love with Instagram. I couldn't, I still can't fall in love with TikTok, maybe because I know the company in China and I've been to their headquarters in China and it just scares me, but I just, I still can't fall in love with TikTok. I'm trying. I just can't make them a, B,
Maybe you can't. Maybe you can't have more than three loves, like maybe. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, like, you know, your heart's full.
My girlfriend would argue. I can have more than one, but no, I see where you're going with that. Um, all right, cool guys, you’ve been listening to Aron Croft! I love this guy who's shit is awesome. Definitely check him out. You've also been listening to Faster Than Normal. That's me. You know how to find me. I'm not going to waste your time. I'll be back next week with a new episode. My name is Peter Shankman. I appreciate you listening. I appreciate you taking 20 minutes of your day. I know that's a lot. And for those who actually listened to this on anything less than 1.25 times speed; you're my people. I thank you for that! See ya soon!
Credits: You've been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We're available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at www.FasterThanNormal.com I'm your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at petershankman.com and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you've heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were composed and produced by Steven Byrom who also produces this podcast, and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We'll see you next week.