From Overlooked to Valued: Josie Peterson’s Journey to Feeling Heard and Thriving

From Overlooked to Valued: Josie Peterson’s Journey to Feeling Heard and Thriving

In a world where neurodivergent individuals often feel misunderstood or marginalized, one entrepreneur has turned her personal challenges into strengths. Meet Josie Peterson, Founder & CEO at The Ambitious Assistant and advocate for neurodivergent empowerment. In this exclusive Q&A, Josie shares candid insights into her journey with ADHD, how it has shaped her career path, and the role models who have inspired her along the way.

How has being neurodivergent made your life difficult and how have you used it to your advantage?

Having ADHD means that I have an interest-based nervous system instead of an important-based nervous system, and that has caused me untold grief not only in life, but also in building a business. Not all aspects of building a business are interesting to me - and yet they’re absolutely necessary things that need to be done if I want my business to be successful. I am extremely passionate about my business, but things like marketing feel awkward to me, and therefore I don’t have much interest in that department. I can only imagine how this business might’ve grown if I could do more of the things I’m definitely not interested in.

It impacted my personal life by ultimately making me feel alienated from most people. I always felt like I was “too much”, so I shoved my talkativeness, my openness, and my friendliness down deep and was just quiet instead. I lived like that for so long that I’m still trying to let those aspects of my personality run free again.

That being said, it’s very much to my advantage to have experienced those struggles because it allows me to sincerely relate to what my clients are going through. That connection, that ability to understand, empathize, and relate has allowed me to view things through their eyes and therefore allows me to better help them. When someone comes to us looking for a virtual assistant, feeling heard and understood has made all the difference in whether or not they choose to work with us.

How did being neurodivergent influence how you chose your career path, and what made you choose it?

In the years before I knew I was neurodivergent, I simply did not fit in at my corporate job. I could be “too much”, too loud, too enthusiastic, too everything. It made me feel really small, and as if I simply did not have the capability to be anything more in my life. That made me unbelievably sad to think of. I thought I had no way to improve my life. It took an extremely unfair review one year for me to get angry enough to even imagine doing something on my own.

I was actually diagnosed with ADHD right at  the beginning of building my business. I knew I wanted to take my 27 years of experience as an administrative professional and use it to build my own business, but I didn’t know who specifically it was that I wanted to work with.

Once I was diagnosed, I dove into all things ADHD and neurodivergence with a passion I’d never had before. My life made sense for the first time in 50 years. The more I learned about ADHD specifically, the more I realized that these were exactly the people I wanted to work with. They were my tribe! If I could help even one other person avoid feeling that sense of inadequacy that I’d felt, then it would be worth it.

Were there any role models or people who inspired you and gave you hope, and made you feel positive about being neurodivergent, before you looked at it positively? 

Working with Stephanie Galindo and Christian Ehmen through coaching, I not only began to accept the fact that I was neurodivergent and there was nothing wrong with that, but I also began to embrace it whole-heartedly. I’m actually quite proud to say I belong in the neurodivergent community. There are too many people on social media to count who have inspired me, but there are definitely specific people like Jesse Anderson who wrote the book Extra Focus. I’ve also been inspired by famous people with ADHD who have succeeded in life and who are open about their ADHD, like Michael Phelps.

Was there something someone said or did that helped you become what you are today?

Ari Scott said, “The world is not designed for the ADHD mind, but the ADHD mind is designed to change the world.” That hit me like a ton of bricks. We have so many gifts, if we take the time to discover them - creativity, passion, justice sensitivity (which I think is amazing!), and the ability to hyper-focus being just a few. That quote inspired me, and along with a serious passion and drive are what allowed me to create this business that I love with all my heart. I knew absolutely nothing about starting a business, but that hyper-focus came into play as I researched all the things I needed to do to start and run a successful business. My passion allowed me to move past the imposter syndrome which was saying to me, “Who are you to do anything successful?”

The principles brought to my attention by my coaches allowed me to recognize that it wasn’t simply that I didn’t fit in this world, it was that I was simply different and that I had my own unique gifts and strengths. I’ve learned how to work with those strengths and I love it. I still can’t believe that I’ve achieved even the level of success that I have, but I’m out to change the world and have no plans to stop.

What advice would you give to neurodivergent people?

First and foremost, you’re not alone. It’s easy to isolate yourself when you feel different from everyone else. I would encourage them to seek out groups in similar situations, resources to learn more about your neurodiversity, and friends who would support you.

Second, I would tell them to embrace what makes you unique. It’s so easy to focus on all the challenges and struggles that come with being neurodivergent in a neurotypical world, but there are such unique gifts that also come with it. If one can learn about, then lean into their strengths, it makes navigating the world that much better.

About the Author:

John Stanton

John Stanton graduated from Emerson College with a bachelor’s degree in film production. He is passionate about helping individuals maximize their neurodivergent potential and transform it into a “superpower.” Additionally, he is interested in the education field's adoption of new teaching methods that cater to unconventional learners. In his free time, John enjoys hiking, reading, and getting out on the water.

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