The good news/bad news about not understanding rules

The list of rules is longI was thinking today about the good news/bad news of not understanding ‘rules.’  Obviously, because every aspect of our lives – from communication, to relationships, to putting on socks, to travel, to work issues – is dominated by rules (unconscious or otherwise), this lack of understanding has definitely been a major influencer in my life.

Do you want the good news first or the bad news? I think I’ll begin with the bad news, so I can spend more time on the good.

Let’s start with my baseline ‘givens.’ I have a form of Asperger’s that was diagnosed just recently. As a result, I don’t understand conventional rules, but when they are pointed out to me,  I have a highly tuned capability to quickly learn the behavior and adopt the rule, with an 85% competence, albeit with a few quirks that apparently make me charming.

So here’s the bad news: because my responses haven’t always followed expected or socially acceptable responses, I have seemed obnoxious, pushy, narcissistic and inappropriate (I often hear things differently than the way they were intended).  I have misunderstood social cues in situations that have caused me to lose high dollar amounts (millions) of  business, not to mention losing friends and lovers, and certainly having problems in school and family (these were the days when ‘Asperger’s’ hadn’t been invented and I was just a problem child).

Now that I have been diagnosed (I was finally diagnosed at 61, although had many many years of therapy to learn how to ‘behave.’), I tell people early in conversations what to expect, and it is rarely a problem, best I can tell.

The worse news is that I spent much of my life living with a severe identity issue, thinking I was a ‘bad’ person, and ‘socially unfit’ . For decades I watched in confusion and pain as well-meaning people gave me funny looks and walked away, not understanding what I said or did to make that happen.

With lots of coaching from a specialist in the field (she even followed me at parties and whispered the words I should use as responses) I’ve more recently learned how to relate differently. And thankfully, enough people find my presence pleasing so I have as much of a social life as I would like (although like most Aspies, I tend to stay alone a lot).

The bad news sounds horrific, right? But the good news is so  dramatically wonderful to me that it makes the bad almost bearable:

  1. I don’t understand the normal chain of events that conventional thinking takes, making it p0ossible to make up my own way of perceiving what’s happening or what should happen.
  2. I don’t understand conventional thinking so my brain has total freedom and possibility – and I take risks that most people wouldn’t, but don’t seem like risks to me.
  3. I am able to mentally pursue all options, as there is no box to go out of.
  4. I think in systems – people systems, relationship systems, communication systems, corporate systems, decision-making systems – and easily understand what is going on with very little data needed.
  5. I have especially clear visions of what needs to get done, and I have faulty clarity in recognizing things that are attempting to stop me (hence my ‘ability’ to be persistent).
  6. I see/hear/feel a very wide range of possibilities that apparently go far beyond what normal brains conceive, making it possible for me to invent, design, create new ideas, and new technology, and new programs, and and and…
  7. I can figure out how to fix systems stuff (i.e. relationships, corporate problems, stuck/bad decision making, thinking, etc) very easily by pinpointing where the problem is (again, with very little data) and knowing the most appropriate fix.

So the good news is that I can invent, create, fix, support, find problem areas in moments, when others would need days/weeks/months to find them- all with a minimum of effort. In fact, I can tell there is a problem area before anyone else knows of it, and I can understand the sort of  ‘fix’ necessary. Great for consulting jobs, hell on relationships. Great for inventing new models, harder to find folks who understand the need for them.

In business, my clients love my odd capability:  I find errors before folks realize there is a problem, I am able to notice problems with normally used methods (i.e. sales, coaching, negotiating, marketing automation, etc) and quickly design new models to fix the gaps. I have developed models and technology decades before they are even thought about in the mainstream (obviously that’s a good news/bad news discussion as well), and eventually find the visionaries who have been seeking solutions.

Over all, without my curious capability, I would never have become the success I have become, or changed the world in all the ways I”ve changed it.  I would never have taken the risks I’ve taken, or been as outspoken in the important ways I have – and have started businesses, developed learning methods, started non-profits, written visionary books, developed new technology (I have several patents), developed new ways to train that cause core change.

I’ve personally trained over 20,000 people. I’ve personally gotten over 10,000 kids on the proper meds and hopefully able to walk again. I’ve made a difference by thinking without rules. And my ability to not understand conventional norms have made it possible for me to push the envelope enough to force change to happen.

Don’t get me wrong: next lifetime I hope I’ll be normal….. or.. maybe I don’t.


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