Why Tips and Tricks Fail

Many Sizes, Many Solutions
(and w-a-y too many books!)

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In support of The Challenges Inventory™ Series

Cartoon graphic of a male presenter pointing to a chart with the heading, The Solution• Here’s a helpful hint!
• Hey, this will fix it!
• Read THIS particular book.
• Use THAT particular system 

It wouldn’t be a problem if you’d only DO IT . . .
• THIS way
• THAT way
• Some OTHER way
— and follow directions this time! —


AND THEN, when you still have your problem, it’s YOUR fault because you didn’t do it “right” —

  • You didn’t do it long enough . . .
  • You didn’t want to badly enough . . .
  • You didn’t align your thoughts with your actions . . .
  • You didn’t say “mother-may-I, pretty-please” before you started!!


Every single one of us is different!

There IS *no* magic list of solutions that will work for everyone — or ANYONE, really (other than the person who made up the list.)

Even seminars and books and websites and blogs that attempt to categorize tips by types (learning styles, Meyers-Briggs, and so on) miss as much as they catch in terms of being right on target for each of the individuals in their groupings.

We always have to pick through *ALL* of the helpful hints from others, taking what works and leaving the rest behind.  We also have to find ways to keep from personalizing the comments of the “well-meaning helpfuls” who honestly believe that because something works for THEM it would work for you if only you just “did it right.”

Before it will work for YOU, you have to know how YOU work.

My suggestion to those of you who are frustrated attempting to get from understanding WHY you’re a messy, for example, to a place of lasting change would be to *start* with books that are more oriented to some underlying theories than a book that is, effectively, a lists of tips and tricks.

(Cindy Glovinsky’s “Making Peace with the Things in Your Life” is a good place to start for disorganization, for example; some of the many free articles based on some of my upcoming eBooks -links below- are another good place to help figure out how to drive the brain you were born with, in a number of areas.)

Using “organization” as an example, once you have an idea of what underlies your very own organizational struggles, pick up 3-5 of the “Do This” books. Make notes about what makes the most sense to you, then try a few tips and tricks to separate what sounds good from “what works good” for your particular messes and styles of [dis]organization.

Pay attention to the way in which the methods that work tend to “clump.” (BUY as many of those 3-5 books as you can afford so you can highlight – more likely you will actually do that – and a book is easier to find than a note!)

Once you know more about what’s likely to work for *you,* you’ll have a MUCH better idea of the OTHER tips and tricks books that will be helpful.

AS ALWAYS, take what works and throw the rest in the garbage!  If it doesn’t make innate sense at first blush, trying harder is not going to make it easier.  You CAN trust your inner geiger counter once you understand how your very own brain files things.

What to say to THEM

As an answer to those people who can’t help but chime in with their “Just do this, Dummy” tips and tricks, memorize the following phrase and say it with as much of a smile as you can manage through clenched teeth:

“Thank you for sharing.”


The E-books in the Optimal Functioning Series™

For your convenience, the links below take you to a blogroll of the articles in each category – with just enough overlap that you will be able to find what you were looking for.  

Remember, once you click the link, to scroll down for other articles listed in the category.  

I’ve given you enough of the article to make a good guess about whether the content is what you were hoping to find.  At the bottom of each article preview is a link to “read more of this article.” Click it to read the entire article.

IMPORTANT: Since the newest article will always be listed first, and some articles are listed in several categories, don’t assume the lists are identical just because the first thing you see looks identical

1. The ADD Lens™
2. The Challenges Inventory™
3. Rewrite your Owners Manual™

NINE Individual Challenges Modules:

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

15 Responses to Why Tips and Tricks Fail

  1. Pingback: Get Off That Couch. Get Going. Part 1. – The Militant Negro™

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  7. Barbara Foster says:

    Hi Madelyn: I love your website and posts to the AD/HD Coaches Linkedin group. And I agree with you that Cindy Lovinsky’s book is spot on.

    I would like to put in a plug for the Myers Briggs, however, which I feel can be useful in understanding our styles and behaviors. For instance, I’m an “N” Intuitive, and believe that many ADDers are as well. Intuitives see the big picture, but have difficulties dealing with the details. To me, that explains why I look at a messy room or messy desk and become overwhelmed. It’s hard for me to focus on just small piece of the room or the desk to start cleaning up.

    The problem with the MBTI is that is is quite complex, and most people are exposed to it in short 1-2 hour workshops and don’t have a real understanding of the assessment.


    • Thanks for visiting (and commenting!), Barbara – especially since your comment was favorable 🙂 ).

      RE: Myers Briggs
      BEFORE I reply in a manner that seems to be saying something I’m NOT, let me say that, in my opinion, there IS a lot of value in understanding the underlying principles of the MBTI. I have been working on (and setting aside) an MBTI article because it is a complicated one – and longer than usual, even for ME!

      So I’ll try my best to sum up a FEW points in this comment.

      I’ve never been a big Myers Briggs supporter for a number of reasons, beginning with EXACTLY the reason you state — most people won’t take the time to understand the complexities! Astrology is a good analogy for my point here. If you understand the entire system before “use,” that’s one thing. If you try to run your life in response to whatever some columnist writes under your “sun sign,” that’s another.

      So if I were to attribute some of my ADD characteristics to the fact that I “am” a Sag (i.e., Sun in Sagittarius), I’d be misleading almost everyone (even if my points were, for the most part, accurate). Even WORSE, my fear is that everybody would jump on the “short course in Sun Signs for ADD” bandwagon pulled by whoever got there first with the best marketing campaign, quoting something I said (out of context) as marketing fodder. NOT playing!!

      Another thing fueling my reluctance is that the “MBTI people” seem to have little understanding of ADD and Executive Functioning Disorders, so they don’t distinguish their “types” very well for those of us who are in the EFD camp. A great many ADDers agonize over this “test” (not a big ADD strength anyway, test taking) – and questions are answered in a fashion that, in my opinion, pushes them into the wrong category.

      Intro/Extro-verts, FOR EXAMPLE: NOBODY would agree that I am now or have ever been an introvert. HOWEVER, as an ADDer, “getting my energy” from connection can’t be an all on/all off – or even “primarily” – deal. “Stimulation threshold” and “overwhelm” *must* be factored in – and they don’t seem to get that AT ALL. (I distinguish myself, btw, as an “ADD E”)

      Here’s the main reason why I don’t do more with the Myers Briggs: for ADDers, type is not stable. Yep. The idea that, regardless of when you take it, your type remains the same is foundational. Not so with a great many ADDers. In FACT, many of us tend to be all over the map, depending on when we take it (possibly due to the way the types are distinguished, but my inkling is that there is more to it as well).

      Years ago I met a woman who was getting her doctorate investigating that very thing, attempting to come up with “an ADD-valid MBTI.” In one of my blue-million moves I lost her contacts, so I have no idea how that developed, nor was I able to converse with her about points above, but until ADD is address by the MBTI folks to my satisfaction, I’m reluctant to recommend it for ADDers. But I will always be open to the conversation, time permitting.


      • Barbara says:

        Hi Madelyn: Re: MBTI and ADD

        Kathleen Nadeau in her book “ADD in the Workplace” states that there is an important distinction between “preferences” (which is what the MBTI measures) and behavior patterns (associated with ADD)…they are 2 different animals.

        Any MBTI practitioner should make that distinction, and also indicate that MBTI types are never to be construed as a complete explanation for how we behave or what motivates us. Type is just one piece of a bigger picture.

        I like how Nadeau connects MBTI types with ADD. She says that when personality preferences are consistent with certain ADD traits, there can be an intensification of both. A person who is ADD and N (Intuitive) may get lost in a sea of ideas, while an S (Sensor) may be drowning in a sea of details.

        However, I agree that ADDers can be very inconsistent, and it may be difficult to actually determine their true MBTI type. Nadeau’s book devotes quite a bit of space to personalty type in combination with ADD in the workplace, and I do feel that it can be helpful for some ADD folk!


  8. You’re right on target, I think, to offer suggestions on how to use self-help books. I especially appreciate that you are recommending going for books with underlying theories vs. those that just list tips and tricks. I take a similar approach as you suggest in my own work — I want folks to understand the “why” and not just the “what” so that they can be better decison-makers for their own live

    I focus on workplace issues (http://www.leadingconsciously.com) and personal productivity — getting organized — is high on my list of things to talk about. Glad to have found your website. You make it fun as well as informative!


    • I’m so pleased you enjoyed this post – and thanks for taking the time to comment. I plan to expand the Organizing section in posts to come, so if you have more to share from the “why” perspective, I’d be honored to have you “guest blog” here.

      Coaches (or parents, and anyone else interested in Conscious Leadership): if you want a feel-good read, check out Jean’s blog. I’ve just begun to explore her site myself, but I can say already that, while her articles are focused on workplace issues, her thinking is personally relevant and her site has an extremely “personal” feel to it. Well worth your time.


  9. Lazaro Samick says:

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my website thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m attempting to find things to enhance my web site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!


    • Take TWO – don’t know where my last reply went. grrrrrr!

      ANYWAY, Akismet marked you as spam, and your site seems to be down – so I have deleted the link to your site, just in case. If this is legit, get back in touch when your site’s back up and I’ll fix –if it’s not, you’ll be blocked & tossed in the trash with the rest of the spam.

      RE: “I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!” — As long as you acknowledge the source, please DO. A link back would be appreciated too! (and if you let me know what you grabbed, I’ll link the content to YOUR site under “related posts.”)


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