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Global, independent and focused

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Osprey in flight amid blue sky to represent autistics taking flight

When I “came out” as autistic a few months ago, I was surprised by the warm reception I received on LinkedIn. It’s by far my most viewed post of all time, and I realized it could be a window into the neurodivergent world.

So I set out to learn: Who are these amazing people? How do they navigate life?

I clicked through to see the profiles of folks who interacted with my post, and what I discovered really excites me.

1. We’re global. This community of rockstars is represented across dozens of countries on just about every continent. We speak different languages but view life through similar lenses. The world feels much smaller than it did three months ago!

2. We run our own show. By far, the majority of people who engaged with my post operate their own businesses or work as independent contractors. I don’t know why this surprises me – I own a business too! And we do it for many of the same reasons, no doubt: too few workplaces can accommodate our needs for undisrupted, solitary focus time to do our best thinking and produce our best results.

3. Many of the rest are in academia. This makes so much sense because, ideally, academic roles give us more space to go deeper into a special interest than pretty much anywhere else in the economy. I’m sure there’s plenty of bureaucracy that distracts from the hoped-for level of focus, but it’s still one of the most fertile grounds for special interests. And we badly need our special interests! For many of us, they drive our life’s purpose and give it meaning.

My major takeaway is that the neurodivergent community is highly creative and adaptive. We aren’t likely to dwell long in professions where our differences aren’t appreciated or accommodated – if we don’t throw up our hands and quit, we will burn out and leave anyway before too long. (This I know from experience.)

Here’s the truth: We are resilient, and we know that no matter how scary it is to strike out and start our own business, or leave a job before we know where we’ll land next, nothing is truly scarier than losing ourselves through decades of masking, thereby living somebody else’s life instead of our own.

I love this neurodivergent community. I love its bravery, conviction and individuality. We are POWERFUL!

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