When he was in high school in the late 1970s, John Leonard Hart III learned computer programming by pulling other students’ projects out of the trash during his lunch breaks. After graduating from college, he built a successful career, first working as a programmer in the financial and automotive industries, then as a consultant, pursuing innovation and business evolution.
Because of his neurodiversity, Hart went through a lot of difficult, even painful experiences that both helped and hurt his career. He chronicles the most significant and instructive of these in his book, Somewhere on the Spectrum… Once Upon a Business. It is primarily a lighthearted memoir in which the author candidly and wryly recounts his personal experience.
There is, however, another aspect to Somewhere on the Spectrum. It can inspire hope among neurodivergents just getting started in the programming industry by proving that both career success and happiness are possible. It can also be instructive to more neurotypical people because of its distinctive perspective on how neurodivergent people think and act in the workplace.
John advises “knowing thyself” in his book. This refers to your ability to read a room. Many people on the spectrum are actually quite adept at reading a room. However, if it’s too intense, they will often shut down. It can be difficult for them if people say the exact opposite of what is happening. For instance, people may say one thing while you see another. Or, instead of telling you the truth, individuals will sometimes say what they believe you want to hear. All of these can be tremendous challenges for a person on the Spectrum.
In his book, Hart tells how he never understood why managers insisted that people must fail in order to learn. He wondered if this meant that you must fail even at the expense of the business. If employees must learn from their mistakes, John has always felt that this statement doesn’t say much about them as workers. It’s like telling a young child that they must burn themselves in order to learn not to touch the stove. To John, that always seemed a little too severe.
John and many others with Aspergers find transitions in their surroundings challenging, which he claims is typical for those on the Autism Spectrum. Since changing from one thing to another can be quite stressful, he says that it is essential to plan ahead. He also says that controlling his environment also means engaging in physical activity, eating healthfully, and receiving adequate rest so that he can react as effectively as possible.
In his insightful biographical account, Hart provides a wealth of information about the difficulties faced by people on the autism spectrum. This incredibly imaginative narrative fairly transports the reader to the parallel world of those on the spectrum and gives them a taste of what it’s like. It’s certain that you won’t be burned, but you might discover things from this book that you weren’t expecting.
Hart’s narrative is an immensely compelling, frequently hilarious, and completely genuine glimpse at a person’s inner existence on the Autism Spectrum. An insightful look into what it is to be human, this moving account of one man’s battle to understand and be understood.