You might know will.i.am, the performer, producer and award-winning founder of the Black Eyed Peas, for his music. The hip-hop group has won eight Grammy awards.
But music is only one area in which will.i.am has made a mark. He has a company that creates tech gadgets. He’s an inventor. And he runs a foundation that provides education and college scholarships to low-income kids.
What fuels his many pursuits? According to will.i.am, having ADHD is a big factor.
“One thing I learned about ADHD is that it’s hard to keep your attention, and you can’t sit still and you’re always moving and thinking about a whole bunch of things. But those traits work well for me in studios and in meetings about creative ideas,” he has said.
But if ADHD has helped him with his musical creativity, will.i.am believes his music helps with his ADHD. It’s allowed him, as he puts it, to “keep my attention disorder in order.”
It’s also taught him a lifelong lesson: “For every obstacle, there’s some type of solution.”
Growing Up With ADHD, and Lots of Support
Born William James Adams in 1975, will.i.am was raised near Los Angeles by his mother. He remembers what it was like to have ADHD when he was a child. People told him he was “hyper.” But there was one voice constantly cheering him on, according to will.i.am: “My mom encouraged me in everything I did.”
His mother also helped keep him on track. She sent him to a charter high school and discouraged him from getting involved with local gangs. And she always supported his artistic pursuits. will.i.am was performing with a rap group by the eighth grade. It was the group that would evolve into the Black Eyed Peas.
will.i.am discovered early on the power music had to keep him focused. “It keeps my mind from wandering. I can stay in the music,” he has said. “Music brings control to my thoughts.”
Creativity and Passion in Many Directions
Music may help will.i.am focus his creative energy. But he still has plenty to spare.
In the last decade, he designed a watch that’s also a smartphone. He started a technology company called i.am+ and created a line of camera accessories for the iPhone.
And in 2009, he formed the i.am.angel Foundation. The foundation helps kids who lack resources realize their potential. It funds educational programs that focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). It prepares kids for college—and provides scholarships as well.
will.i.am speaks honestly about his goal of inspiring young people. “It’s just going to keep inspiring me back,” he explains.
“I want to do my part,” he adds. “I want to invest in America’s future.”
And he has a message for all young people: “I am here to let you know that you can be anything you want to be.”
If you think your child might have ADHD, there are steps you can take. If your child has already been diagnosed, get answers to questions you may have, including questions about ADHD medications. Also, learn about ADHD and emotions.
Any opinions or views of individuals featured on Understood.org are the sole responsibility of the individual, and do not necessarily reflect the views, values, opinions or beliefs of, and are not endorsed by, Understood.
Tell us what interests you
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.