Stepping over clean laundry, changing deadlines, waiting until the last minute. These can be aggravating to the outside observer. To people with ADHD it can be everyday life. Listen as Consumers Energy’s Karli McNeill talks about her journey navigating the way her brain works.
Bill Krieger: Hello everyone and welcome to “Me You Us” a wellbeing podcast. It’s another well?being Wednesday here at Consumers Energy. I’m your host, Bill Krieger.
Today, my guest is Karli McNeill. You may remember her from season 2, episode 2, when we talked about the parental leave policy here at Consumers Energy, or maybe it was season 2, episode 21 when we talked about coping mechanisms for anxiety.
If you have not listened to either one of those episodes, I would urge you to go back and check them out. For those of you who don’t know, Karli McNeill, Karli, if you’d introduce yourself, we’ll get the conversation started.
Karli McNeill: Hello, Bill. Thanks for having me again. This is awesome to be in person. Our other ones were virtual Teams. I’m excited to be on here for the third time in person. I’m Karli McNeil. I am a gas welding engineer for the gas side of our business here at Consumers Energy.
I am a mother of two boys. Malcolm’s three and a half now. A little bit more. He’ll be four in October. Mayer just turned two last month. They keep me super busy. I live with my partner, Trevor. We got married in 2016, but have been together for a long time, even before then.
Just working through life and dealing with all the different things that get thrown at me, whether it’s through me, through my kids, or through my husband. Just adjusting and keeping moving on as happily and fully functioning as we can. [laughs]
Bill: Good to know. Now, I do have to ask a question. I have three kids of my own. They’re all out of the house. I could never remember what was the delineating line between months and years. For a long time, “Oh, he’s 18 months. He’s 19 months.” Pretty soon, it was just years. I can’t even imagine going, “Oh, yeah, my daughter, she’s 144 months old.”
Bill: What was that line for you? When did you stop going by months to start going by years?
Karli: It’s different for my second kid than my first one. My first one, I started doing by halves. Once he hit two, I was like, “OK, two, two and a half. Three, three and a half.” Then with my younger one, I’m just like, “Oh, well, he was born in June,” or like, “He’ll be one in June.” Not even bothering to do the math.
Karli: It’s like my head. It’s funny how that’s how I asked people how old their kids are now as they’ve asked me how many months. I’m like, “Oh, when’s your birthday?” I affiliate milestones more with birthday, it will be as opposed to a month because it’s hard to remember all those numbers and all those milestones, right?
Bill: It is.
Karli: Just like, “When’s your birthday?”
Bill: Especially when you’re a busy parent.
Karli: Yeah. [laughs]
Bill: It’s hard to keep track of all. I have trouble sometimes keeping track of when birthdays are. That’s probably a whole different discussion for a long time, I would think.
In addition to keeping track of the birthdays or months or whatever it is, I noticed ?? in my family, I’m the middle kid ?? if you look at the scrapbooking that was done by my mother, the first child, my sister, that scrapbook is like volumes. It’s like the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Then you have me, and it’s thinned out a little bit. There’s not quite as many pictures. With my sister, you can flip through her book and watch her grow. That’s how many pictures were taken.
Bill: With me, it’s a few more…I think my brother’s book is a page long. As you get into parenting, you’re like, “Oh, I just…” I don’t know if you’re worn out. You don’t have time, but I did the same thing with all three of my kids if you look at their scrapbooks. You find yourself in that dilemma as well?
Karli: Yeah, I’m the youngest of four. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a baby book for me. I do have my hospital picture when I was first born, but definitely the same thing for my kids.
I struggled with my first son. I would do it in six?month batches where like, “OK, if I had a picture or if I had something from daycare, I would just throw it in a pile. Then, every six months, I would get a burst of hyper?focus and be able to do it for two straight days and finish it.”
My youngest son is currently just like…I bought the book, but he’s a name on it.
Karli: It’s sitting on the bookshelf with a pile of stuff from the past two years. One thing I’ve learned is that constant upkeep is not a strength of mine.
One thing that I’ve been doing or I did his first year was called one second every day, and it’s an app where you take a video. It’s literally one second of every day, and it’ll compile it into a video. You can do it for a whole year or every 30 days. Absolutely love it. That’s been our capturing of our kids and their moments and their smiles and silly giggles and favorite words in the time that they’re at.
I’ve also utilized…I think it’s called Chatbooks. It’ll pull from my camera roll. I just hit a button, and it’ll automatically be like, “Oh, you took a couple 100 pictures. These are the 30 best that our algorithm found. You want these ones?” and I’ll say yes.
It’ll print a book and mail it to me for one month out of the year. We’ve been doing that for the past couple of years, too. It’s an automated system for keeping track of our lives. A manual system of me doing it is a struggle. It’s a struggle for sure.
Bill: It’s good that you can recognize that in yourself. Otherwise, it would be even more of a struggle to try and make it happen even when it couldn’t. For the audience, I did mention that you’ve been on a few times.
I think the first time you came on, we talked about the parental leave policy. Some great changes going on here at Consumers Energy. How that’s had some wonderful, positive impacts on the lives of all workers. I’ve watched it unfold with many of our co?workers who have had children. Mother, father, birthing parent, non?birthing parent, partner, however you describe it, it impacts everyone.
It was just an amazing thing that that team did. I just want to say I’ve been watching it.
Bill: Some great things have come from that. It’s very much appreciated.
Karli: Thank you, Bill. No, it’s been great to hear about it and see people taking it. It’ll pop up in meetings, where I don’t say anything about my involvement with it sometimes. Somebody else was like, “Oh, Karli did that.” She was a big part in that. Being able to converse with people about how it has paid off.
On the flip side, also talking with people on some of the tougher parts, where if it is your department where people are taking off time, the challenges that come with that. We have systems in place that can help with that. The good thing with pregnancy is that you do have a good amount of time to prepare for somebody to be off. [laughs]
It takes a little bit more work sometimes from other people, but it does pay off for everyone.
Bill: Yes. We use that as a model to help change our paid military leave policy as well.
Karli: Wow. That’s awesome.
Bill: We’re able to take care of our reservists and guardsmen in a different way than we did before by following the path that your team put out there for us.
Bill: Appreciate that work. Then I know shortly after that…Probably not shortly after that. A while after that, we talked about coping mechanisms and anxiety. I thought it was a great conversation and discussion. I, myself, have a great deal of anxiety. I have PTSD. My daughter also struggles with anxiety.
Some of the things that we talked about during that were very familiar to me. I know it opened up a lot of eyes to our co?workers and got a lot of great feedback from it. Again, thank you for being able to share all that.
Karli: [laughs] I’m so glad. It helps me to process my own stuff. When we recorded that, I was thinking a lot about how my normal self?care routine. How a lot of that went out the window when the pandemic hit. When I struggled, it’s like, “I can’t do self?care right now. I’m just trying to hang in there.” It transferred into a lot of coping mechanisms.
Once I started reflecting on, “Gosh, these coping mechanisms I’ve normally had aren’t working,” or the self?care things that I used to do weren’t benefiting me as much as they did. Reflecting on, why aren’t these working anymore? Led me to ask more from my therapist, ask more about my doctor. [laughs]
The TikTok algorithm is scary. [laughs] I know there’s a lot in the terms and conditions about, “Oh, man, this is taking a lot of information.” The algorithm actually led to different TikToks showing up on my For You page and led me to explore the possibility of having ADHD.
Symptoms of that were playing into why my coping mechanisms weren’t being as effective anymore. They didn’t work for my mind anymore in the way that they used to with all the changes. Now adding a second kid in there, a kid that has some medical challenges ?? he has a lot of allergies, food allergies, and skin issues ?? that is just a whole another layer of work [laughs] added to parenthood.
Thinking through that and realizing, “Oh, man, this ADHD has been there the whole time. I’ve just been able to manage it and work through it.” I wish I had known sooner, but I’m glad that I know now.
Bill: Do you want to back up a little bit? It’s interesting to me that you talk about the algorithm on TikTok led you to this.
Bill: What I find mostly with social media, and I’m seeing this with some very close family, is it tends to tear people apart. I haven’t found a lot of great, helpful tips and tricks from social media.
I think it has a purpose, and I use it for certain purposes, but I certainly don’t use it to try and make inroads with my relatives because it really doesn’t work. Something I had not considered was what you just talked about, was it could lead to the discovery of something that you didn’t know about yourself.
Let’s talk about ADHD. Let’s talk about you. Looking at TikTok ?? I don’t know if you’re like me, but I don’t know what happens with TikTok ?? it’s terrible.
I will sit there and go, “Oh, I have five minutes before something’s coming up, and I’m on TikTok,” and then it’s 20 minutes, goes by. It’s a crazy thing because I’m not usually easily distracted, but TikTok does that to me. The same thing with reels in…
Bill: …Instagram, but those are a lot of TikTok videos, anyway. I think it’s the same thing. What happens? You’re getting this feed for you from TikTok. What kind of TikToks are you getting?
Karli: The last podcast one of the tips that I talked about is cleansing your social media. If you’re going to be on your phone or if you’re going to be looking at the stuff consuming it, get rid of anything that gives you negative thoughts.
If something makes you feel bad about yourself, just stop following that person. I was doing that a lot, hitting unfollow, unfollow, and I think that gave more space to see different things.
One thing that I noticed was people talking about different symptoms. For example, one was a woman talking about her morning routine. Normally, it’s like you see influencers having very nicely put?together aesthetic videos of my hot coffee, sitting on the porch, watching the birds, and doing my journaling in gratitude. I would try so hard to do that, and it never worked for me.
There’s this one video of a woman going through, going to brush her teeth, and then seeing a smudge on the mirror, so she reached down to get the cleaner to clean it, and then saw something else that led her down a different track.
Then, her kid woke up, so she had to do that. It was just a complete trail of things that she ended up doing. At the end, she’s like, “Oh, man, I never brushed my teeth,” and that’s where it started.
The comments was one of my side effects of ADHD or something like, “Oh, my gosh. I never thought of that before it.” I have family members that were diagnosed with ADHD when they were in elementary school. My nephew’s like tend to be boys. That’s been how I was always exposed to it. It was like, “Oh, it’s for little boys, basically.”
To be introduced to something in a way that was like, “Oh, I feel that every morning,” just opened the door of taking away the stereotypes that were built upon how I was exposed, growing up, and just building that wall down so that it could see something could be different.
Bill: I think it’s easy to be a little dismissive when people say, “Oh, I have ADHD,” because it’s almost like a tagline to, “I screwed something up. Oh, that’s my ADHD. That’s my OCD.” We almost use it as a descriptive word for things that we’ve messed up when it’s really a medical challenge or a psychological challenge.
I’m very mindful of saying, “Oh, that’s crazy. Your things are crazy,” because crazy is just not the right word to use. You could say things are in disarray, or it’s really chaotic, or something like that.
I’ve even heard people who are in a situation, where they’ve had a struggle, and they’ll say, “Oh, well, you know, that’s going to give me PTSD.” No, it’s really not. Perhaps, you don’t understand. I think we do the same thing with a lot of these words that we’ve used in the past as descriptors.
You started seeing this on TikTok, and I think it’s a great example of how I found a smudge on the mirror and forgot to brush my teeth, and all of these other things happen. I’ve watched those things unfold myself. What did you do from there?
Karli: After I started seeing that, I had decided to pursue my CWI, certified welding inspectors certification, for work. It was a one?week seminar, eight hours a day, pretty intense studying active learning time, and I just struggled. I didn’t have a great time in college. I would not choose to go back if I had the option. [laughs]
Bill: It’s a good thing you did because you’re here doing what you’re doing now, but I get it. I get it.
Karli: It was very hard for me to the point where my GPA got so bad, that there was a possibility of consumers not hiring me full time because my GPA wasn’t good. Having those feelings come back and just the negative self?talk, the doubt, the imposter syndrome, coming flooding back and just being like, “There’s no way I can pass this. I can’t even sit here and listen to the instructor.”
In college, I thought it was just like, “Oh, I didn’t grow up in a great school district. I didn’t have AP classes. I didn’t have college credit going into it so that’s why I’m struggling so hard,” but the reality is like, “Oh, man, this ADHD has those struggles that I’ve been experiencing for a long time.”
That got me to actually like, “OK, let me sit down, write down all these symptoms.” A lot of them, honestly, I thought were anxiety driven because I have been diagnosed with a panic disorder since 2016. Had generalized anxiety disorder since 2011. Postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression, and a lot of the symptoms that I was writing down used to be chalked up to anxiety.
My anxiety was very well managed at that point. I had my self?care routine down, coping mechanisms. Once I started going down to an anxiety spiral leading into a panic attack, I could manage it and bring myself back.
Part of the thing was like, “Why do I have so much anxiety about this exam now?” I thought I was doing good, and now I’m not. Really, pursuing the ADHD because the seed had been planted of, maybe, this could apply, writing it all down, taking it to my therapist who was basically like, “Man, this does sound…This tracks with ADHD.”
She’s like, “I’m not a specialist in ADHD. That’s not my wheelhouse,” but this place referred me somewhere else that does specialize in a woman with concurrent diagnoses. Multiple mental health diagnoses, that’s their strong suit, and that’s what they work in.
I met with her. It was a virtual appointment. She went through the…I forget what DSM stands for, but it’s like a medical diagnosis tool or whatever. Basically going through the questions for that for ADHD, and it fits. Started pursuing like, “OK, here’s some different means that you can do, different coping strategies, different ways to help control or not control,” because my ADHD isn’t something I have to control or keep in check. I have to manage my brain differently to get the best out of it.
If I’m constantly trying to make myself operate in a way that everybody else does, I’m not going to get the best of me. If I work in a way that fuels my brain and allows me to work to my best ability and not in a box set somebody else thinks they should, if I give myself that room, then I can do great things.
Having that diagnosis has allowed me to be a lot nicer to myself. Whereas before struggling in that class, it’s just like the things I was saying to myself, I would never say to a friend, right?
Karli: To myself, it’s hard to get out of that hole. Once you’re like, “Man, you’re just lazy. Why aren’t you studying right now, or why can’t you just be motivated to get up and do work? You’re lacking self?discipline. You’re lacking motivation.” It’s just like I would never say that to a friend, so I shouldn’t be saying that to myself.
Knowing that I have ADHD allows me to be like, “OK, how can I do this differently to get the results that I need? Do I have to do the specific worksheet, or do I need to know the information for the test?” It might look different how I do, but it’s been a life?changing diagnosis. I think the biggest difference is that I’m a lot nicer to myself.
Bill: That’s so important because self?talk can drive your behaviors. If we go back and you talk about, “This doesn’t work for me. It works for everybody else, but it doesn’t work for me, so how can I make this work for me?”
I can speak for a friend of mine who was diagnosed late in life. This person actually ended up losing their job, because they knew they had ADHD, but they didn’t ask for help. They didn’t ask for some accommodations that would have made him very successful. Part of this, they may not have even known to ask and didn’t realize that this was impacting him.
As they moved on in life, they realized that “Oh, I work better in a cubicle by myself and not with a whole bunch of people around me because now I’m distracted.” I work better in this style than in that style. It’ll be very, very successful just by being honest with the people around them and honest with themselves.
The negative self?talk is something I’ve really noticed is it’s, “Oh, I’m stupid,” or “Oh, I’m lazy.” That’s not it. It’s more like, “Oh, I’m different. How do I do this differently?”
Bill: Have you taken the test yet? I got to ask.
Karli: Yeah, so that was a year ago, and I am officially CWI. I have my stamp and everything. I am certified to inspect welds and determine if they pass or fail our visual inspection standards. That’s not necessarily within the scope of the work that I do. We hire specific weld inspectors on our job sites, and that is all they focus on. That is what they do.
The purpose of me having it is for when we’re writing our standards and our procedures, and really just holding the program accountable. I want to hold the same certifications, that why I’m accountable for, also does.
Bill: It gives you a better understanding of what you’re talking about. It’s one thing to read in a book, something to really have that end up understanding
Karli: I am not a learn?from?reading type of person either. [laughs] I need to like apply it somehow, see it in action, and then read about it to do full circle stuff. Yes, officially a CWI, and it’s just that additional factor of like, “OK, I know what I’m doing.” [laughs] I passed the test the first go round, which is a three?part test, three, two?hour exam, so six hours of testing. It’s pretty intense.
I think it was the test is on a Saturday. On Thursday was when I wrote down all of my symptoms and how I thought they’re tied into ADHD. I’m like, “Is this a notebook? Nope, this isn’t the notebook that has it all in there. Oh, yes, it is. There it is.”
Karli: You see there, it goes like…Working memory is very hard.
Karli: June 22nd, 2021, 9:30 AM on Tuesday, because that’s at the top. It has all of my symptoms here that I thought applied, and I showed this to my therapist. [laughs]
Bill: The audience cannot see this.
Bill: This is a very long list. I got to tell you, Karli, it’s really neatly written out. It’s a small print, and it’s a very long list. I think that if you took a checklist, which is the sounds like what your therapist say, you took a checklist and you bounce it off all these things you’ve written down, you check a lot of boxes when it comes to ADHD.
Karli: Yes. One thing is like having a constant stream of thoughts in my head. How I explained it, I have a bunch of bees just buzzing in my head. Sometimes, they’re angry. That’s when I’m in my sensory overload and used to just lash out.
Especially to my kids, and they didn’t deserve it. They’re just being loud, obnoxious children with the TV on and asking me to do something. Then my husband comes in and is asking me something, and then my phone goes off. I actually stopped wearing my Apple watch because it was just adding fuel to the fire. [laughs]
Bill: Let’s talk about that. As I was sitting here, I have all these electronic devices around me. I’ve got everything turned off, except the recording device. I’m looking at my Apple watch, and I’m putting it on silent mode, and Karli says, “I don’t wear one of those anymore.”
Bill: What’s with the Apple Watch, and why don’t you wear one anymore?
Karli: Any notification that would come to me, I would take a look at it, and then go to my phone. Once I got to my phone, I would read the text. Sometimes, it would be like, “Oh, I have to look this up, or I have to go to my calendar.”
I’d go to my calendar. See something else that popped up today that I’m like, “Oh man, I kind of forgot about that.” Then I send a message to somebody else.
Then I go to Facebook. I’m like, “Oh, I’m on my phone. I may, as well, check this anyways.” Then just get lost, and might see a Facebook, and I’m like, “Oh, I check Facebook. I got to check TikTok too.”
In my head, I batch?analyze things, where it’s like I can’t just go to Facebook. I do like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok. Then I check my email. It’s a mini system. If I do just one, I’m going to be thinking about it, and it’s going to bother me for a really long time. Just like this batch analysis of things, which now that I know that I can use it to my advantage.
Anyways, example, I started talking about why I don’t wear my Apple Watch, and here I am talking about social media. [laughs]
Bill: This is a great example because anyone who has not sat down and had a conversation with someone that has ADHD may not understand how the conversation goes. I do this almost on a daily basis, so I totally got it.
Bill: To have the self?recognition to go, “Oh, look what I just did. I found a smudge on the mirror. I forgot to brush my teeth. This is exactly what we just did,” but it made sense as to why you don’t wear your Apple watch anymore.
Karli: Feeding into that batch?analysis type of stuff where to use it to my advantage. I know, “Oh my brain likes to work that way.” Before, when I would leave for work to go into the office, especially just being once or twice a week now, I would forget my badge or forget my house key or forget a different key or forget to take my medicine.
Now, I know like, “OK, to take my medicine, I have to eat.” I put my medicine where my coffee cup and bowls are. That way, when I open the door to go get something to make my food, I see my medicine right there, so I do it.
Also, right there, is where I keep my badge, where I keep my keys. Doesn’t make sense to keep your work badge with your dining sets, but it works for me, and that’s the way I’m going to do it.
I’m really good at losing my phones. I have two, one for work, one for personal. There’s a phone spot now where I hardly ever put my phone, and the phones back. My husband knows if he sees it in some random spot, he’s going to grab it and put it in my phone spot because he knows, in 10 minutes, I’m going to be stomping around the house. [inaudible 27:17] my phone.
Bill: Maybe, I’m mistaken. We may even accuse him of having to moot you for a ride. Is that something that might happen?
Bill: He sounds like a really nice guy, but that’s self?preservation. That’s what I think that’s all about.
Karli: [laughs] Because he knows things should go in its place. By designating a place, he knows where he can put it, and that’ll help me.
Whereas if he moves it to somewhere else, then I’m going to get mad because it’s not where I thought it was, and it’s not where it’s supposed to be. He’s like, “I was just trying to help.” Now, it’s building systems that work that everybody knows about. Just standard work but for my own life.
Bill: Let me ask you this, too, while I’m thinking about this. What about change? I know some folks, some friends who have ADHD changes very difficult. I might think, “Oh, I’m going to go buy a new car next week.” To me, that’s perfectly natural, but to them, it’s…
Karli: That’s big. [laughs]
Bill: Yeah, you have to talk through in. It can be frustrating if you’re not in their head. If you don’t understand what’s going on, you’re like, “I don’t understand why this is so difficult, right?
Bill: We’re just going to cancel the newspaper, or we’re just going to get a new car. Why is this so terrible?
Karli: You can’t just go doing things willy?nilly, Bill.
Karli: In my head, prioritization looks different. Canceling the newspaper is on par with canceling my existing car and getting a new one. Those are the same priority in my head, the same kind of change, and treated with the same system of analyzing it, thinking about it, thinking about the change.
It’s funny because if it’s a big sudden change, that has to happen like external things I have no control over. I’m really good at adjusting and adapting to that. Then some of the little things get on my nerves because I know it’s going to offset my entire day.
The prioritization works differently in my head. Knowing that now, instead of trying to force myself to be like, “Oh, man, I have to do X, Y, and Z for this change in one day.” Spraying it out, thinking about it for a couple of weeks, even though it might be a little change, helps me out a lot, and talking about it multiple times before I can actually do something about it.
It’s definitely interesting the way my brain works in difference to my husband’s. We’ve had a lot of learning together with the past year.
Bill: What advice would you give? Let’s say you’re married, and your partner has ADHD, and you don’t. It’s clearly time to buy a new car. “This car, the wheels are falling. I was tired.” How would you broach that subject in a way that wouldn’t cause ?? I don’t want to say a total blow?up argument ?? that wouldn’t cause an argument or wouldn’t cause stress for either one?
Karli: One thing that we have to do is set time to talk about a specific topic. He used to bring it up around dinnertime when I was an octopus with all eight hands trying to do something, and here, he is trying to take a ninth one, I’m like, “I do not have a hand to give you right now.” [laughs] It would always resolve in a bad conversation.
He’ll text me sometimes now. Even if he’s downstairs at his desk, and I’m upstairs, he would be like, “Hey, can we talk about this tonight or tomorrow,” setting aside a time.
That way, I’m like, “OK, we’re going to talk about this tomorrow. I can get all my knowledge I need to know going into the conversation. That way, I can present things as…
“This is information I still need. This is what I have instead of just like, ‘Duke it out right here, right now,’ without me knowing anything. I got to prepare myself going into it.” Just doing things spur the moment is tough because I struggle with sensory inputs.
I talked about the situation in the last podcast, where I thought it was just anxiety and motherhood of everybody needing you at 6:00 PM, but it wasn’t that. it was the different sounds. I only have two ears. I can’t handle four different sounds. I have earplugs now that I put in around that time when I’m struggling. That way, I can really focus on one thing.
If something is really bothering me, like a tag on my shirt or something like that, knowing to just change your shirt instead of just suffering through and be like, “You should be able to get over this.” It’s like, “Well, no, your brain works different. You don’t have to just change things to get better.”
His knowledge of what my environment is like and how conducive it will be to different conversations has helped us a lot. Sometimes it’s a conversation that can’t wait. When that happens, I know that I need to do what I need to do to get things better.
Maybe, we’re going to bust the tablet sound and give it to the kids. That way, I can turn off the TV. I can turn off the music. I can turn these other toys off that keep making noise. I’m going to give them their headphones.
That way, “OK, that’s one limiting factor. Let’s put the dog outside, so he’s not barking at me for dinner.” Figuring out like, “OK, if this has to happen now, what can I do to get the best out of me?”
Bill: This is interesting to me. Just last week, I was having this conversation with someone who has a small child. They had friends over. There’s this toy that just kept making this noise. It kept making this noise. Finally, her guest was like, “Is that not bogging you? She said, “What? I don’t even hear it.”
Bill: It’s almost like the opposite. You get to the point where you just tune things out in the same way. It’s like white noise after a while, but it sounds like it’s the exact opposite for you like that one tuning, that one noise, that thing’s going out the window at some point.
Karli: [laughs] I am terrible at laundry. If I throw a load in, it will sit wet in the washer for three days. Then you got to wash it again, and then it will sit in there for another couple days. That’s completely the responsibility of my husband, is laundry. I’m still responsible for putting my clothes away.
Sometimes, he’ll fold on. If he folds them, he puts them in the basket. He’s got to put it right in the way of where I walk to get to my closet. If it’s not in the way, if it’s not bothering me, I’m not going to do anything about it. He’s got to make it real inconvenient for me to do something about it.
Sometimes, it’ll sit there for a couple of days. I’ll just get used to stepping over the basket. It’s like that toy that’s there making noise bothering everyone else, and I’ll just get used to it. Then I’ll take it and dump it out on top of the bed.
Whereas you got to put this laundry away in order to sleep, so it’s the escalation of inconvenience as one of the motivators for me of like, “No, something’s got to be bothering me to do something about it.”
That comes into play with work deadlines. If I’ve got a presentation in three months, I’m not going to do anything about it until two weeks before. It gets tough if you have a deliverable to somebody that wants to know updates, where they’re like, every two weeks, “OK can I see it? How’s it going? What’s this like? What’s this like?”
I have an outline. I have what images I want to use. I have what bullet points I want in my head. I like physically cannot do it until the urgency is there to do it. That means two weeks before the presentation is when I will get it in PowerPoint form.
For some people, that’s hard. Doing that evaluation of like, “Does this person just need the end result or do they really need the updates?” Sometimes, they don’t need the updates. It’s like, “OK, get out of my way. I’ll have it to you. Just trust me on this.” Sometimes, you got to work a little harder to build that trust, but it’s different.
If you have a presentation that goes to the board of directors, yes, you need to have those updates months in advance. If it’s just something else that you don’t really need those updates, I’m not going to get you those updates. Sorry.
Bill: Let’s go back a moment, too. I want to talk about this thing with the laundry.
Bill: I’m listening to this podcast, and I’m hearing you talk about this laundry thing. It would be very easy for me to say, “Really?” That just sounds like Karli’s being mean and lazy.
Bill: Anyone that knows you, knows that that’s not who you are. “I don’t think you have a mean bone in your body.”
Bill: “I think you could probably pull out the mom car when you need to and make it work, but I don’t see you doing these things just to irritate the living heck out of your husband. I see it as this is who you are.”
It sounds like he understands that. Probably took a while for him to understand that, I would imagine. The same thing at work, it’s not about being getting your way and doing it how Karli wants to do it. It’s about saying, “Is this necessary? If it’s not necessary, can we not do it? If it is necessary, I will make it work.” That’s just common sense whether you have ADHD or not, right?
Bill: If we talk about waste elimination and some other things, we should be evaluating whatever we do and go, “Do we really need to do this, because if we don’t, let’s stop doing it.”
We had this conversation during a planning meeting one time. We’re talking about projects that people weren’t willing to kill. We came up with the term zombie projects.
Bill: There’s these projects walking around, OEP, because no one has it in them to just get rid of these projects because someone’s invested in them. I see that the same way is, “If we don’t need to do it, let’s not do it.”
That’s not because Karli is difficult to work with. It’s because if it doesn’t make sense, why are we doing it, anyway?” You just have a situation where you’re going to go, “Look, this is my capacity.”
Karli: One thing that I’ve gotten really good at is documenting my reasons why because I would love to just go off and be like, “No, not doing this. No, thank you. No, thanks for your thoughts. No, I will not do that.” Just telling people no will not work. [laughs]
[laughs] I just had a conversation with my husband about this yesterday, like, “If I have an idea, don’t just tell me no, because that makes me feel terrible. I can’t have good ideas. Can we at least like just talk through it before you say no?”
I know that I have to give extend that grace to other people. It’s not just a no. It’s not worth my time. It’s just that there’s more value doing it a different way. Documenting and showing that, why is there a better way to do it or why this isn’t necessary? [laughs]
Bill: There’s lots of ways to do things. Sometimes, there isn’t just one right way to do it. However, sometimes we have to be respectable to people we work with and we work for. This may be their process as well. When you have competing processes, it’s always good to sit down and talk through it and find a way to compromise to make those things work.
Karli: If somebody tells me like, “Hey, I need you to do this, through X, Y, and Z,” I’m going to be mad. [laughs] No, you’re not giving me the space to do it, how I want to do it. Yeah, you’ll get it, but it won’t be great. It’ll just be good. [laughs]
Whereas if you tell me your vision, tell me what has to happen, tell me what your ideas are, tell me what your non?negotiables are and I can work with that. I can do something great with that. I might challenge you a little bit on your non?negotiables and see what we can do.
Just giving that space for someone to be great. That’s not an ADHD thing. That’s for everybody. I think that people are so quick to choose what is the path of least resistance for them. They forget about that path might look very different for somebody else.
I used to think less of myself because I just struggled with other people’s paths of least resistance, and now I know that mine is just different, so really figuring out who is going to be doing the work and what does their path of least resistance look like.
Bill: If we go back, if we think about it for the longest time, we always looked at the golden rule. Treat people how we would like to be treated. Really, we’ve elevated to this platinum rule. It says, treat people how they would like to be treated.
At the point in time, we’re at in society right now, it almost feels like many times it’s a right and wrong and not just different. Your way may be 180 degrees out of sync with my way. Neither way is right. Neither is wrong. They’re just different ways to accomplish the same goal.
Gosh, what if we could get to the point where we go you’re not wrong, and I’m not right. We’re just different in how we view this. How can we come together of that?
Karli: One thing that has been very, very eye?opening in different people’s paths and how they do things is parenting. Oh, my gosh. Trying to get a three?and?a?half?year?old to do anything is really hard. My three?and?a?half?year?old and my husband clash heads sometimes.
Then, we noticed that my three?and?a?half?year?old is showing some habits that I typically do or trains of thought or actions, so like, “Oh, maybe he’ll have ADHD diagnosis in the future. Maybe, he won’t, and it’s just like learned habits from being right and how I behave.” Parenting is a really easy way to hold up a mirror and be like, “How flexible am I to the way other people do things?”
Karli: It’s an extreme mirror, but it’s a mirror nonetheless of, “How can we do things to work for this tiny human that might not be the best way for me?” Practicing that agility in a way that’s…
It’s give and take. Sometimes, I’m doing it in a way that best serves peace. Sometimes, I really have to work hard to do it in a way that serves somebody else. Understanding that it’s not hard to because I am lazy because I’m incompetent. It’s hard because my brain works differently. That shift in thinking has been a huge gift over the past year.
Bill: It’s good to recognize and realize those things. When you talk about parenting, it’s funny to me, that I remember before I had children, I knew how you should raise a child. When I was in a restaurant, “Oh, my gosh, they should not allow this child. At least here’s what I would do.”
It’s a whole different ballgame when it’s you and it’s two or three kids. Both parents have worked very, very hard all day. Things are just not going right for anybody. That kids are tired or they’re fidgeting or whatever it is.
Bill: All of that stuff that you think you knew before you were a parent goes right out the window, and you realize you have to parent your children based on how they are, and that translates very well into supervision because you have to meet and treat people where they’re at.
Karli: That’s hard. Some people become a leader for a way that’s worked one way, and then realize that “Oh, man, the people in my team are very different from each other.” You have to meet people where they’re at. It’s hard work to be a leader because you really got to work to how your whole team is.
To get the best deliverables out of them, you have to cater to each individual person. If it’s too much work to cater to each individual person, you have to build a system that allows those people to be flexible in the work that they do. Managing like, “Do I need people to do this X, Y, Z way, or do I just need the end result, and everybody can do it how they work best?”
Bill: Some of this is managing up, too. If something’s not working for you, go to your supervisor and have that conversation, “Hey, I have these things going on in my life ?? whether it’s ADHD or it’s kids or whatever it is ?? that’s why this isn’t working for me. It’s not because I am pushing back against what you need to have done. This is why it’s not working for me,” because if they never know what you have going on, they can’t help you.
Karli: Right, exactly. My first supervisor that I told I have ADHD was like, “Oh, that’s interesting to know. My daughter also has it. OK, this is good information.” It empowered me to be comfortable with working the way that I want to work.
I gave my supervisor the knowledge of like, “Don’t tell me what to do.” [laughs] I say that to people in my personal life of like, “Karli, grabbed that for me.” I’m like, “Don’t tell me what to do. Just tell me what you need. I won’t get it for you.” [laughs]
Bill: Exactly. I want to go back to what you said, too, because in many cases, necessarily, this isn’t how you want to work. This just isn’t how you work. There’s a difference between just saying, “I don’t want to do this because I don’t want to do this,” and saying, “It’s not that I don’t want to do this. I can’t do it the way that you want me to do it, but I can do it this way.”
There’s a huge difference. Then I want the audience to really understand that sometimes, many times, pushback has nothing to do with will. It has to do with how you actually function and what you can do.
Karli: Everybody works up neurotransmitters, but with ADHD, they function differently. Science isn’t to the point where it knows exactly why, but it knows what can help, what different medicines can be prescribed.
It’s very literally physically different how and when people can execute tasks because a whole new world of terminology that I’m learning about executive dysfunction, habit stacking, dopamine, and it’s like this whole new world to learn. [laughs]
This mind I’ve been living with for the past 30 years has a whole new dictionary now. That matches a little bit better than what I’ve been working with the past 30 years. It’s interesting to figure out, “This works for me, and I’m not just being rude because I want to be selfish and do it my way. It’s very literally how I can get this done.”
For leaders that lead me, sometimes, it is a reflection of like, “OK, do I need this done this way, or do I need something done?” I might not be able to do it, check in at the timelines you think are appropriate and might look differently.
You mentioned my notebook earlier. If I have a presentation in three months, this 40 pages here, there’s probably some on page 5, page 10, page 17 that has notes about it, and all the content is here is just not going to look pretty and buttoned up until two days before it has to be.
There’s tools and tricks and knowledge now that goes into how to better motivate your brain when you’re not motivated by normal things. A paycheck can just motivate people to do stuff. Whereas me, it’s like, “OK, that’s the bare minimum he’s getting paid.” What else has to be there for me to do something and some of the core things, so there’s urgency?
That’s why I succeeded pretty well as a field leader with random things that would pop up. It’s like, “No, this has to get done right now because we’re operations. It has to get done.” When I worked with regulatory compliance and gassing emergencies, I really succeeded in there because it was urgency. We have to resolve this now.
Interest or passion is another big motivator of whether I will do something or not. It’s like if it’s something that I really care about. The parental leave business case, that was a year and a half project. I hardly spend that long of a time on one thing, but I cared so much about it. It kept me going and involved in the project for so long.
Competition, a big one. I was an athlete and was on the rowing team in college, but I never thought of myself as a competitive person. Two of my best friends, Kate and Erica, they actually work at the company to point it out to me a couple of years ago about how competitive I was.
I think I was talking about a work thing. I don’t know if it has to do with somewhat of the imposter syndrome of like, “I’m so different than other people that work in my specific department and even in the past departments,” where there is that level of competition there, but I’m not there to prove myself to anybody else but myself.
If my boss had said like, “I don’t think you can do it,” and I’m like, “OK, bye. I’m not going to do this for you if you already don’t think I can do it.” I’m going to do something that will benefit me and the people I care about.
The fourth one is novelty. Something new. Me and my sister will pick things up like a new hobby and just go all into it and absolutely love it. It goes in the interest and passion and that novelty, that combination of two motivating factors of why somebody can get into something and hyper?focus, very focused into it.
There are different aspects of building motivation and building fake motivation into something where if I have to do something at work, then I’ll figure out like, “OK, how can I turn this into a game of some sorts to give my brain some more motivation to get it done when I know it has to get done?”
Especially if I have to do something X, Y, and Z, how can I build other motivators and within that, so I can still get my brain want to do it. It’s very interesting to learn the different motivators to get somebody to get started at least.
Bill: This sounds like a lot of work working on yourself.
Karli: Yeah. [laughs]
Bill: It’s all very interesting. Currently, we’re coming up on the end of the podcast, but before we go, I wanted to give you the opportunity to leave the audience with a message. What would you like our audience to take away from our conversation today?
Karli: One thing that I want everyone to take away is taking extra steps, reflect on whether something is wrong or something is different.
Even if your first step is just taking an extra second and thinking about it, before you call someone out for doing something wrong, is it really wrong, or is it just different how you would do it? Even if you just start thinking about it, thinking about it more and more and more, it’ll slowly change how you respond to people, how you think things should get done.
My challenge is to, before you call someone out, just take a second and think, “Is this wrong, or is this just different?” and then figuring out if that’s OK. Does that work on yourself? We just talked about it’s really hard. [laughs] Figuring out that it’s OK to be different is really empowering.
I’m a lot nicer to myself about it. I’m hoping people listening can know that it’s OK to be different to operate differently. Sometimes, it takes more communication to let somebody know like, “No, I’m not just ignoring you. I’m just doing it my way.” You got to go about it the right way and communicate properly, but it’s OK to be different.
Bill: I like that. I think we can apply that to a lot of areas of our life, especially today. Thank you for that. Thank you for coming on. Again, always a pleasure to have you here on the podcast.
Karli: Thanks, Bill. Thanks for having me.