My Life as an ADD Adult

Living with ADD was challenging BEFORE I knew I had it, now I'm working on strategies to strengthen my weaknesses while bolstering my strengths. Creating structure and systems like WNW is a core method.

My Life as an ADD Adult
What it feels like to be an adult with attention deficit disorder

It was only recently when my adult children got themselves diagnosed and discovered they had ADD that I took the plunge myself and discovered what I considered my charming "quirks" were really aspects of attention deficit disorder.

How I experience ADD

For me there is not one behavior, but a collection of behaviors that have colored my life. Here are the most prevalent.

  • Impulsiveness especially buying, food, and other short-term activities.
  • Forgetful, absentmindedness
  • Don't trust my ability to estimate time.
  • Fear of not having stimulation - I always need to be doing something.
  • Intensity.
  • Long winded, jumping conversations.
  • Lethargy and extreme hyper-focus.
  • Chaos is the rule, I can't clean my office.

Now, I have positive sides as well. You can be ADD and be very high achieving. I'm universally seen as creative. (I have 11 patents, so yeah, objectively I'm smart AND innovative). I'm endlessly curious and I learn things to a high degree of proficiency fast.

However, what if I could keep the best parts and ditch the annoying parts? To do that, I would need to understand what it is that makes me behave the way I do.

What is it?

One thing I learned from Gabor Matรฉ's excellent book Scattered Minds is that Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is not really a disorder, but rather an under-development of certain neural networks in a specific part of the brain.

75% of the average human brain developed after a child is born. The executive functions, the most human part of a human brain reside in the Pre-frontal cortex. There is a very special part called the Orbital Frontal Cortex (OFC) - that sits just above and behind the right eye. This little ball of gray matter, that would be the size of a napkin if you unfolded the whole thing, binds together a shocking amount of our behavior.

Underdevelopment of the OFC is most responsible for ADD.

Why It Matters:

Saying ADD is a disorder is like saying someone who is out of shape has Muscular Deficit Disorder (MDD). What pill would you prescribe for a person with MDD? And we do actually prescribe things for people working out! But we tend to think of those as foods, like macro-nutrients, protein powders, pre-work out stimulators and post work out recovery drinks. But we see those as dietary adjustments, not medical interventions.

For ADD, we do resort to pharmacological interventions. Two categories of drugs help provide symptom relief for some people. The two categories are:

  1. Methylphenidate-based medications like Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana (patch), Metadate, Quillivant XR.
  2. Amphetamine-based medications Like Adderall, Adderall XR, Vyvanse, Dexedrine, Evekeo.

But what if the drugs are not the only solution? What if there are other ways to develop the OFC? In other words, can we strengthen our brains to alleviate ADD?

How To:

Many high functioning adults with ADD have found ways to self-manage and self-medicate. But it also turns out, that the human brain remains remarkably pliable even later in life. We can form new neural connections, we can strengthen our OFC. But we can also use Strategies and practices to provide external support, like wearing glasses to correct vision, ADD adults can use tools to adjust for our endless distractions.

I realize now that my Where Not What System, is one such tool I use to manage my underdeveloped OFC. Here is a list of 12 things you can begin to work on that will help you gain more balance and harmony if you, like me suffer form ADD.

  1. Self-Awareness and Acceptance
  2. Seek Understanding, Not Blame
  3. Create Structure
  4. Emotional Regulation
  5. Mindfulness and Meditation
  6. Exercise and Gut health
  7. Diet and Nutrition
  8. Professional Support
  9. Social Support
  10. Focus on Strength
  11. Mind Body Techniques
  12. Educate your environment

I highlighted create structure because that has become my forte. How to organize my time, actions, and information to mitigate distracted forgetting.

However, I would say that fortunately, through my membership in the Entrepreneurs Organization, I found Social Support, and over the last 10 years I have learned to engage in most of these strategies. That is, one reason I started to develop my note taking system. I knew what I was learning was helping me, but I needed a better way to put it into practice and to avoid "catastrophic forgetting." For me, what I call catastrophic forgetting is the tendency some entrepreneurs have of jumping from one idea to the next with total disregard for what I had just learned. Some employees call this, "book of the month (or week)". I did not want to behave like a butterfly flitting from idea to idea, or a drunken monkey swinging from branch to branch in frantic fashion.

I wanted to institute real, long-term, sustainable change. WNW allowed me to integrate new information into a consistent pattern of continuous improvement because I could relate new information to existing positive habits. Learning enhanced and refined what I knew, it rarely replaced it, and never wholesale. Some ideas evolved over time as better information became available, but learning this way made me more consistent and helped me develop momentum.

For example, my morning routine - structure - has allowed me to post continuously on social media for 3 years. I have also read my daily devotional for 840 consecutive days - according to my Kindle.


If you feel (or fear) that you suffer from ADD/ADHD as an adult, there are solutions you can find outside of medicine to improve the quality of your life. You can develop and improve the underdeveloped parts of your brain that may be holding you back from being who you could be and want to be.

Go Deeper: