When you meet him today, Canadian Michael Peres appears to be every bit the self-made man.
Having diversified mightily from his original calling as a software engineer, he manages hundreds of clients spread across two startups and a number of other projects. Nor is he any stranger to social presence, with tens of thousands of followers on social media—and he makes all of this happen while travelling the world.
However, his life wasn’t always so straightforward. Like so many talented, driven entrepreneurs, he had to learn to deal with adversity at a young age.
A native of Montreal, Michael was nine years old when he was diagnosed with ADHD, among other learning disabilities. Things which were simple for other kids presented difficulties; everyday tasks like eating and going to school seemed at times to be insurmountable.
To make matters worse, he had a complicated relationship with the medication which was prescribed to help alleviate the condition. Given 100mg of extended-release Ritalin - a drug of the stimulant class which is often prescribed for juvenile ADHD - he had to contend with side-effects most adults would struggle with such as heart palpitations, depression, zombie-like lapses and even a sense of constant coldness.
He recalls: “When it [Ritalin] worked, I felt unstoppable. I finally understood what it meant to focus and I had a goal, a target to aim for. I was determined to find a way to achieve that state without such a mental and physical cost.”
Michael’s life with ADHD has always been about overcoming the obstacles he was faced with, and it’s that seemingly bottomless well of persistence that has allowed him to become the successful businessman he is now.
Take his love for computers, for example. He had an extremely deep-rooted passion for computers, wires, and all things technological, but was faced with challenges in trying to explore that desire. Having grown up in a religious community, like-minded individuals were hard to find and even harder to connect with, leaving him without many stable avenues to pursue his passion.
Michael, who hails from Jewish roots, saved up his bar mitzvah money and used it to build eight computers, purchase eight 20-foot usb cables, and tape wireless keys to the roof of his house in order to get WIFI and connect with the world. This passion would come to serve as a foundation for everything he loved.
Later, he would find a way to make money in high school by building and repairing more than 200 computers a year and helping out the other members of his community.
Michael, now 29, felt like he was ‘light years’ behind his classmates when he left high school. Private tutoring, in maths and English literature, was a necessity, although it left him feeling embarrassed.
He said: “I remember starting college—I had to take Calculus when I could barely do algebra. On top of the learning disabilities, I found myself at a huge disadvantage. It could be so bad that it was useless to go to class.
“I had someone teach me everything: Calc 1, Calc 2, Physics, CS 101, and linear algebra: the works. I paid a price in some respect because I was missing points on some things the teacher expected us to know from class but this was an art I was quickly becoming good at. Soon enough, I was killing it all on my own. The biggest thing was that I was also determined to taper off of Ritalin, for good.”
Never Giving Up
Michael’s message is one of unending determination. The education system didn’t work for him, so he worked around it and when he was introduced to the TV show Entourage, it was just another piece of the puzzle falling into place.
“I was going to California,” he laughs, “I didn’t even know what that meant. I arrived at the airport and asked for the next flight to California, which turned out to be directly to San Diego. After paying for the ticket, I had $97 to my name. I spent some of it on the in-flight WiFi and searched through Facebook for a couch I could crash on.’
His advice to others?
“The person we know the least is ourselves,” he said. “I hated math, only to then later fall in love with it. I hated biology, and now I’m in love with that too. I’ve always known I was meant to work with computers, but for me, CS goes a lot further than modems and keyboards—it’s a powerful tool to effectively communicate with science.”
Michael, who is now fortunate to say he’s worked in a variety of places including Los Angeles, Hawaii and New York, wants people to be able to take some value from the struggles he’s been through into their own journey.
He said: “I care about offering value - not just flaunting my life. The real gem is, I was fortunate enough to discover what I love and to become completely addicted to the journey. That is why I’m working on a ten-step guide to breaking that 9-5 cycle. Whatever your background or the obstacles in your life, do what you love and what you’re passionate about - never give up.”
ADHD Awareness Month runs throughout the month of October.