Disabilities should not be seen as a personal weakness but as inspiration and strength to help individuals break free from the confines that prevent them from achieving their dreams.
This is how software engineer, and self-made social media icon, Michael Peres treats his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as he overcomes the limitations brought about by his disability.
He believes his ability to inspire others with similar disabilities to break away from the stigma keeps them from building a better future for themselves.
Being recognized today as a successful tech entrepreneur, mathematician and radio host, Peres has his own stories of struggle before achieving his current social status.
The 29 year-old Canadian native was diagnosed with ADHD and other learning disabilities aged nine.
Throughout his childhood years, Peres received tutoring in areas such as Mathematics and English literature through a program called JEM, which is designed to help children with learning disabilities. He was required to leave his regular classes to transfer to the program since learning in a regular classroom was difficult for his condition.
Peres also has to deal with the side effects of his medication – a 100mg extended-release Ritalin prescribed for juvenile ADHD— which according to him gave him heart palpitations, depression, a sense of constant coldness and erratic lapses in concentration.
However, at times when the drug worked, Peres recalled “feeling unstoppable” and being able to focus on goals he eventually achieved by developing his own unorthodox methods of functioning.
“I started to learn that instead of carving my personality to conform to systems that generally worked for others, I was exponentially better off when I engineered my own solutions to accommodate my ambitions,” he said.
Peres, who comes from a Jewish community in Montreal, Quebec, said it was difficult to relate to youngsters of his age, who are more inclined to Jewish studies, as he had a passion for secular related topics such as technology and science.
He used his bar mitzvah money to purchase equipment for multiple computers, including 20ft USB cables, which allowed him to place wireless keys on the roof of his house to connect him to the online world. This eventually became the foundation of everything he was passionate about at present.
Peres focused his high school years on building computers, where he learned by providing service for the technological needs of his school as well as the entire community.
He realized that his elementary and high school education was substantially lacking compared to his peers who completed a regular secular education.
Transitioning from an insufficient childhood education to a more complex college schooling became a challenging task, and going to class felt pointless at times as he could not focus or understand the lessons being discussed.
To cope with the difficulties, Peres engineered his own solutions using unconventional learning methods such as performing self-study in the library and only showing up to class for mid-term and final exams, learning from classmates’ notes to better understand classroom lessons and hiring a tutor to teach him necessary subjects like Calculus, Linear Algebra, Physics, and Java Programming.
“Learning entire courses on my own was tough at first. I lost easy points on exams when I focused my energy on topics the teacher instructed us to skip when studying for finals, or the exam questions carefully crafted by the teacher to reward those who attended class. But as time progressed, I’ve turned the art of self-learning into a science and I was excelling. This was a working strategy, especially as my STEM courses got more advanced and my professors had other academic priorities. Fellow colleagues would always complain how our professors weren’t teaching, but I didn’t need a good professor, I needed a clear course outline.”
As a result, he completed two college degrees -- Computer Science and Mathematics. As a kid, Peres needed private tutoring in English Literature and Mathematics. He hated Math when he was young, only to fall in love with it when he found his own niche way of working.
One benefit of setting forth this mindset of positivity, Peres said is that he was able to taper off his Ritalin intake as well as follow a life of fitness and health, himself transforming into an active gym goer and eco adventurer.
After college, Peres realized working in a corporate office would not fit his condition despite multiple job offers at reputable companies.
Contemplating on his passion for travel, Peres instead built two tech based companies — Hecto Fox and Hexa Tiger – which currently serves over 400 clients.
Peres knew that climbing the economic ladder within the framework of social norms is not designed for a person with ADHD so he devised his own work system to conform to his desire of “travelling the world” while doing the work he’s passionate about.
Dubbed as Breaking 9 To 5, it’s a system that provides a 10-step guide to breaking the 9 to 5 cycle. It follows Peres’ current lifestyle from building a company, travelling efficiently, to managing employees and dealing with clients online.
“I don’t completely understand why people need vacations, we shouldn’t spend one third of our life engaged in works we’re excited to run away from. Whatever your dreams might be, always make sure you’re not being paid to forget about them. If you feel your work life is not in sync with your aspirations, something as simple as taking a 6AM bus on a Monday morning might be all that’s needed to inspire a course correction. We all just want a happy and fulfilling life, and that goes hand-in-hand with a job that keeps us smiling.” Peres said.
Peres today is popularly known as “Mikey Peres” across many social media platforms. His Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts have generated an increasing number of active followers checking on his latest posts about technology, travel and educational resources.
Early this year, in collaboration with venture capitalist Ariana Desiree Thacker, Peres started sending out resources folders on Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), which quickly became viral with over 150,000 people initially asking for access through his website and LinkedIn account.
Aside from GMAT resources files, Peres is also giving away free access to Masters in Business Administration (MBA) Summaries, Top Credit Cards to use while travelling and Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
As part of his social responsibility efforts, Peres, now venturing into biomedical studies, is also giving free business consultations to start-ups and mentoring students of STEM-related fields.