Meet Duane Gordon - President of ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Association)
Updated: May 27, 2021
Duane Gordon has been President of ADDA since 2016 and has been working in the ADHD community for over 20 years.
Despite his struggles with ADHD, he earned his business degree from the Collège Militaire Royal and led a successful career as an executive in hi-tech consulting.
Duane understands the devastating impact of untreated adult ADHD. It's his life mission to build awareness and knowledge around it.
Today Dwellingright founder, Miriam Rapaport-Hindin, sat down with Duane Gordon to ask him a few questions we've always wanted to ask. We got some incredibly insightful answers.
Duane was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult
The diagnosis changed his life, and he was able to turn his career around as a result
He believes in creating bulletproof systems, routines and habits to manage himself and his teams
Curious about what else he had to say? Check out the 15 minute interview and transcript below 👏🏽.
Duane Gordon on getting diagnosed with adult ADHD, and how creating systems make all the difference.
Miriam: Can you share with us how you came to know that you had ADHD?
Duane: It's a quite common story, almost a cliché, really, for people of my generation.
My daughter was diagnosed when she started school. She was just new to school and really struggling. We were actually lucky because many women with ADHD are not diagnosed because they tend to be quiet and not cause trouble. ADHD was kind of known as a condition amongst young boys, with their behavior being rambunctious, their classically getting into trouble. It was known as more of a "trouble-makers" sort of condition.
My daughter was luckily one of those very hyperactive ADHDers, and so she was identified early. When she was diagnosed, we'd never heard of it and didn't know anything about it. So, we started reading up on the books available.
I think there were maybe two books written at the time. So, we read everything. As we were reading, my wife and I realized that it may describe my daughter, but it certainly also described me and answered a lot of questions. So, that's where I discovered my ADHD - through my daughter's diagnosis. It's very hereditary, so there was a good chance that one of the parents had it. I was the best candidate.
Miriam: How did it affect your life? Did you make any changes in your life after?
Duane: Oh, my goodness. I made changes. I'm still making changes.
Let's see, how did it affect my life? So, there are a million different ways that ADHD affects your life, but they're all different for everybody. We like to say that once you've met one adult with ADHD, you've met one adult with ADHD, because we're all unique.
We all have all of these symptoms and the symptoms have some commonality, but growing up, you develop different strengths, and you develop different coping mechanisms, so that as you're living with ADHD, you have different resources to pull from. You also face different challenges from one another - you're each in a different career, you're each in a different stage of your life. There are all kinds of things that affect how ADHD affects your life.
For me, some of the things that I was coping with was a poor memory. My working memory is probably about that big (*makes small gesture). I struggle to look at a phone number and then turn and dial it. I just can't hold an entire phone number in my head at the same time. Thank goodness for cell phones now where nobody has to remember numbers anymore.
Another area that I struggle with is time management and time blindness. It's a complete nightmare for me. I was always late for stuff, forgetting stuff, my job was a nightmare, anything to do with details. And this was a recurring pattern. I would often have a job, do well at it, get promoted and as soon as I got promoted and I was a manager, I would get fired.
I would lose that job because of the paperwork. You know, managing all of the details of everybody else's schedules and all of that stuff was just a... it was a nightmare for me. I remember being promoted into a project manager position. I delivered my first project a month past the deadline and at twice the budget that had been intended. That wasn't a great career builder.
So those were really the areas where I struggled. Plus, like for many ADHDers, the social skills, being able to talk to people, saying inappropriate things, just the whole social element were a challenge as well. We sometimes struggle with social skills because we don't read the social cues. Some of us can say whatever comes into our head, whether it's appropriate or not. That type of thing happens. So those were some of the issues that I was facing.
And so, the changes that I made in my life...
Well, the first thing that I did, was, like most of us, get medication. I thought that if I just take medication, it will solve this problem and I'll be on with my life. I thought - 'There is a medication for it, so there must be a cure.'
Turns out there is medication, and I take medication, but it's not a cure. We have a saying that pills don't teach skills.
A lot of people compare it to glasses when you need glasses. Once you get glasses, you can see well enough to read, but if you have never learned to read, they don't really help that much on that front. They don't give you the ability to read. Just so taking medication is not a solution for your ADHD. It's just going to be a tool that will help you then learn and implement the skills that you'll need to survive.
I had to work a lot on systems, routines and habits. I knew that I couldn't remember anything. I really couldn't count on my memory for pretty much anything. So, I developed ways of either turning everything into a routine, a list or a habit that I could do without thinking about it.
We often don't like the word "routine" or "habit" because it sounds boring, but it's a foolproof way of getting things done without forgetting about them. You know, I always use the joke that obviously habits are a very good thing because that's what prevents us from leaving the house in the morning naked. We have a habit of getting dressed before we go. And so, I applied that same thinking pretty much to everything else that I need to do.
I always look for the way that I can turn what I have to do into a habit, so that it can be repeated.
Everything else, I write down. I write it down all the time. People joke that if it's not in my agenda, I just won't do it. You know, I won't go to bed if it's not in my agenda that it's time to go to bed.
Since I can't rely on my memory for pretty much anything, I have systems in place that that help with that. And of course, every time that anything changes in the structure of my life, I need to adjust. For example, coming from the office home to work, was a change.
That required a huge adjustment in all of my routines and habits and scheduling and so on. And then when I stopped working and retired and had all that free time, well, that was a scary thing, too, because now all of a sudden, I don't have that structure.
There's constant tweaking of what works and what doesn't work so that you're accomplishing the things in your life that you need to get done. I hope I answered the question. That's how ADHD impacts me and that's what I've done to address the impact.
Miriam: That's incredibly insightful. One of the things that's been so wonderful on our end is getting to know ADDA and collaborating, seeing up-close the work that you do and the impact that you have.
I wanted to ask you for your insight on when we initially met, and you heard about what we're doing at Dwellingright.
How do you think that our tool can help people with ADHD? What did you see in this app that you think could be helpful?
Duane: What I really liked about the app and sort of the general approach to it, is that first of all, it addresses an area that there aren't solutions for, or at least none that I know of. There are probably not many apps that address the issues that your app addresses.
That is the ability to remember and remind us of all of the things that I can't create routines and habits around, which is an area that is very difficult for me. For example, to have a routine of getting the tires changed in the spring and then again in the fall - it just doesn't happen with enough frequency and I won't remember it.
Unless I figure out my own system for doing that, it just won't happen. The Dwellingright app is designed for exactly those types of things, the sort of one-off random things that are involved in being an adult.
I tried to get out of being an adult, but, apparently, I'm not allowed to do that. There's just stuff that you have to do that comes with that. And so, the tool is very useful for those types of things, you know, things that you have to remember, things that can be quite complex, where you can gather all those things altogether and have them all stored in the same place.
One of the challenges with many other tools and systems is they're designed to handle one type of information or one type of data. You can't do anything with one type of data. You need - Oh, I gotta get that file, plus I got to get that thing. There's also a form that I have to have and there's a website that I have to go to. And you need to be able to put all of that stuff together, which the Dwellingright app does very nicely.
Those are the things that I saw about it that are very interesting. That's why it piqued my interest.
Miriam: As a last question, can you share with us what your mission is, as CEO of ADDA, and for the organization as a whole?
Duane: My mission at ADDA is to empower the ADHD community. That includes the community at large, but also ADDA members and then all of the volunteers at various levels within the organization, to give them the tools, the information and the education that they need to thrive with ADHD in a neurotypical world.
My job is to empower them. It's not for me to come up with every solution. They often have great ideas for the solution. But my job is to empower them to put those solutions in place, to make those things happen and then to reach out to the world and share those resources so that adults with ADHD around the world can continue to thrive in a world that wasn't really designed for them.
And I don't know if I had mentioned this, but we really should clarify. We do this for adults with ADHD. We don't work with children. There's other organizations and many resources that do serve children. Our focus at ADDA is on adults with ADHD.
Miriam: You know, Duane, I've never been diagnosed with anything on the neurodiverse spectrum, and I say that in a super up-front way. I've plugged through life and certain things have been hard, though I've suspected harder than they should be, but ended well enough. I don't feel pressured to get a diagnosis, but just seeing how the neurodiverse community operates and thinks, resonates with me deeply. What you have shared is important and helpful, wherever people are on the neurodiversity spectrum, whether diagnosed or not. There's so much power in this community and the work that you do is really important.
Thank you so much, Duane. It's been fun, interesting and insightful talking to you. I'm excited for people to hear more about what ADDA does and just reiterating that it really is incredible to see the work that you guys do. Thank you so much for coming on today! On behalf of everyone who is neurodiverse, whether on paper or as someone who self identifies as such.
About Duane Gordon
Duane is tireless in building awareness of adult ADHD. With awareness and knowledge comes hope. Duane dedicates much of his time to ADDA and to mentoring other adults with ADHD. If you'd like to find out more about Duane and his work with ADDA, click here.
This interview was brought to you by Dwellingright, the app that helps you stay one step ahead in life. Download Dwellingright on iOS and Android today.