Growing up, “calm” was rarely used to describe me. Quite the opposite. I was hyperactive, always ready with a comment or a question, asked “why” probably 200 times a day. I had a constant goal of making people laugh, of being the class clown, of not being normal.

Years later of course, we all know that a lot of the way I acted back then was due to my (then unheard of) ADHD – But I believe it was also something more – I’d discovered at an early age what my talents were – I just wasn’t smart enough to understand how to use them to my advantage.

The “loud” kid isn’t loud just for the sake of hearing himself talk. He’s loud because his brain is racing a million miles an hour, and chances are, he’s already heard and comprehended what’s being taught, and is ready for more. But because he’s young, or foolish, or simply misunderstood, no one ever sits him down and gives him alternate ways to utilize his pent-up energy.

I remember my high school teacher Ms. Glassman – She took an interest in me my freshman year, and gave me a writing journal. Probably cost her $2.00 back then, but to me, it was the best gift in the world. I now had an outlet! Instead of spewing forth my ideas at inappropriate times, I could write them down anytime I wanted to! And write I did – For three years, that journal never left my side. Neither did the second journal I bought when I finished the first one, or the third, or fourth.

The loud kid immediately transformed – Sure, I still cracked jokes and got into occasional trouble, but more and more, I was learning who I wanted to be, and what talents I should nurture. Thanks to Ms. Glassman, I had an outlet to figure out what I was supposed to do. And it worked – Heck, I’m writing this on my way to the Philippines, where I’ve been invited to keynote. I spend the majority of my time on a stage or in front of a TV camera, and when I’m not doing that, I’m writing books and blog posts like this one – In other words, I discovered how to positively channel my energy.

Why do I bring this up? As an adult, I find that when I’m frustrated, or confused, or even angry, I revert back to writing. It’s on a laptop now, as opposed to a paper journal, but the feelings are the same – The relief, that feeling of control – Knowing I can put my thoughts down and I’ll be heard – Even if the only thing hearing me is my computer.

How can you transfer your pent-up ADD/ADHD energy into something useful? For me, it was writing. It still is, along with going for a run, lifting weights, or even cleaning my apartment for an hour. For others, it’s singing, or dancing, or cooking. What all these outlets have in common is this: They’re healthy outlets – They’re not destructive, and they accomplish the same thing as negative traits do, without any of the downsides.

I realize it now – When I was shouting out in class, I was hunting for that dopamine rush, but doing it the wrong way. It took a caring teacher and a pen to set me on the right track.

What’s your positive outlet?