Lucy Hobbs, creative director, and founder of The Future is ND is extra rare. She has ADHD. Fitting in is a challenge. Rare Access at D&AD taught her how to smooth out the rocky bits in the career path ahead of her.
Who am I and what makes me Rare?
Hello, I’m Lucy – a freelance creative director and founder of The Future is ND – a platform that champions and celebrates neurodiversity in the creative and tech industries.
You wouldn’t know what makes me Rare by looking because what makes me different is hidden. I have ADHD, which doesn’t mean I’m a hyperactive naughty boy from a council estate as the usual stereotype goes, it means that I was born with a neurological difference which can make it hard to fit into this one-size-fits-all world made for the “neurotypical” majority. Fortunately, my resilience, terrible memory for failure and hyperactive creative brain have helped me have a fairly successful, if not rocky career, for the last two decades.
I was identified as having ADHD some 12 years ago, as a fair number of adults from my generation have been. It’s not that there is an epidemic as some may think. These differences have always been there, but they are more recognised and understood nowadays. (Although there is still a very long way to go). When I was assessed, I discovered from an IQ cognitive test called The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale that I had a “spiky profile”. My processing and perceptual organisation skills were in the superior range spiking right up north, while my working memory, particularly my auditory memory fell far down south, completely off the scale. There was only 0.07 in the control group that presented like me, which makes me pretty rare.
Thank you Rare Team for selecting me, it’s exactly the boost I needed
Last week I was one of 5 Rare delegates chosen for “unprecedented access” to the D&AD festival – to shadow the judges, attend the awards ceremony, take a one-day Leadership Fundamentals workshop, gain a mentor and stay at The Ace Hotel. Rare Access, sponsored by Google, AKQA and the Sweetshop, brings minorities into the fold and offers the kind of experiences, insights, and networks that can propel careers.
This exciting opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’d had a quiet couple of months freelance-wise and was putting all my energy into making things happen around the ND platform, which was frustrating at times especially when being asked to work for free. So I was feeling low, drained and broke.
I was hugely grateful for my new adventure, which was exactly the dopamine hit I needed to get through to the other side and keep pushing on. *ADHD brains lack dopamine and novelty raises dopamine levels. Newness is a huge natural high to the ADHD brain.
So thanks Rare Team. I love you ALL, you absolute SAVIOURS!
What I learned on from Rare Access
This is tricky as I have the worst memory and reading back my notes now I can hardly understand my scrawled writing, or recall what I was thinking at the time. It will all, of course, come back to me at 3am the night after the deadline for this blog, like a hurricane of amazing insights and ideas just when I don’t need them.
So I’ll keep it short (not always easy for an unfiltered ADHD mind. You’ve had a lucky escape this time!).
4 Lessons from the Rare Leadership Fundamentals one-dayer
- Lesson 1 – Nadya Powell – Co-Founder Utopia
To have values. Mine were; authentic, empathetic and human.
- Lesson 2 – Nadya Powell (again. She’s good)
To have a purpose. Mine was:
I want to create a world where neurodiversity is understood and accepted.
- Lesson 3 – Lucy Jameson – Co-Founder Uncommon
We are at our most creative when we are in the shit
- Lesson 4 – Albert Einstein (he wasn’t there of course but I can’t remember who quoted him)
A person who has never made a mistake has never done anything new
So, in short, I learned to arm myself with values and a purpose, get “in the shit” and make lots of mistakes. The last two I’m very good at already, so I was already half winning.
D&AD Festivities – My Five Best
There was so much to see at the festival which was a dizzying whirlwind of ideas, insights, and opinion, which for the unfiltered ADHD brain quite overwhelming and painful at times. So I’ll just talk about what stayed with me, rather than attempt to decipher my notes.
Project 84 Male Suicide Awareness – adam&eveDDB
This brilliant and haunting work was discussed on the Judges Insight – Being Human Panel. It excelled at raising awareness of male suicide so much so that a Minister for Suicide was appointed following the campaign. You can’t get more effective than that.
How To Hack Your Fear – Hilary Gallo
This is the workshop I want to do next. I’m certainly not biased, as Hilary is a fellow Utopian – but I love the idea of a team writing down their deepest fears on post-its and sticking them on the Fear Wall to discuss and realise that fears are all made up and the only thing holding us back.
Second Shot Coffee
This coffee shop, founded by Julius Ibrahim, brings people together to tackle homelessness “one espresso at a time”. The initiative is truly transformative in the way that it trains, employs and supports people affected by homelessness. I hope to see more businesses like this in the future using the power of social enterprise to create a better and more sustainable world.
Overall, I felt very drawn to the work that connects on a human level and aims to make the world a better place. I also loved the two Black Pencil winners, Project Revoice, and Xbox Adaptive Controller. The first gives a voice to those who don’t have one, and the second allows disabled people to enjoy the Xbox in the same way as able-bodied people already do. This is the kind of work that sends tingles up my spine and makes me want to stay in this industry and do better.
On the fringes
Some of the most interesting insights were not gained from the talks on the stages, but from the unplanned conversations that happened around the edges. Like the time I got to have an off the cuff heart to heart with the lovely Amy Snow at The Groucho, and when I got to sit with my dear friend, Sulaiman Khan, in his hotel room, just the two of us chatting about what really makes us tick.
A new friendship
One of the things that I can properly take away from this experience is my new friend and mentor, Selma Nicholls, founder of Looks Like Me – a diverse talent and casting agency. I’m not always good at asking for help or connecting as many don’t easily “get” me, so this new official alliance is very much welcome. Our first conversation revealed that we have much more in common than we first thought, so I’m really looking forward to more conversations into 2020.
Thank you, Sweetshop
This is the first blog I’ve ever written. It’s been one of those things on my to-do list that I have been procrastinating about for a fair while. So thank you Sweetshop, for the opportunity to share my experience, and again to the brilliant Rare Access team for their hard work and dedication, and to all the unusual minds from whom I was fortunate to hear so many different perspectives.
And well done me for finding my blog voice at last.