PAP 170: Finding Success with ADHD, with Isaac Eaves
Finding Success with ADHD
with Isaac Eaves
Success with ADHD is absolutely possible, though that can be hard to hope for while watching your child struggle in school. That’s why I love to share ADHD success stories with you. In this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast, I talk with successful ADHD entrepreneur, Isaac Eaves, about how he attained success by creating habits and routines that helped him focus, reframing struggles and making them his superpowers, and taking one step at a time toward his goal.
Resources in this Episode
NOTE: Some of the resources below may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.
After college, I built a start up, which we shut down after ~8 months. Then I worked as a product manager for 1.5 years at Workday. January 2022 I left my job at Workday, and started building Joon with my 2 co-founders full-time. It uses a game to motivate kids with ADHD to do productive activities in real-life (like schoolwork, exercise, chores, and daily responsibilities). We’ve grown from 0->2K paid subscribers in the past 3 months, and have raised $2.1M in venture capital (backed by Y Combinator).
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Isaac Eaves 0:03
You'll be more successful if you actually are doing something you're interested in. Right. And so I think it leads to people with ADHD more often than not actually doing things they're interested in. And when you have ADHD and it's something you're interested in, the focus problems go away. People with ADHD tend to be able to hyper focus on things that they're interested in, which then itself becomes a power
Penny Williams 0:27
Welcome to The Parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD a Holic and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started.
Welcome back to The Parenting ADHD Podcast. I'm really excited today to talk to Isaac Eaves, who is an adult with ADHD, about his story and how he found success and adulthood. And kind of the journey to get there, I think is going to be a really powerful conversation for parents who are listening today. Welcome to the podcast. Isaac, will you start by introducing yourself? Just let everybody know who you are and what you do?
Isaac Eaves 1:25
Yeah, sure. Thanks for the introduction. I'm Isaac. I'm a co founder of a startup called Joon and we're building an app to help parents with ADHD kids.
Penny Williams 1:33
Short and sweet. So where do you want to start? Why don't you start with a little bit about your story and your background? And maybe what brought you to creating an app to help kids with ADHD?
Isaac Eaves 1:45
Yeah, sure. Yeah, quick background, I was raised kind of in a rural area of Virginia, when I was younger, I was diagnosed with ADHD, stick around when I was six, probably a very strong combined like inattentive and hyperactive. So I was not very interested in school was dirt biking, a bunch playing outside playing with friends, and playing a lot of computer games and video games as a kid, I think my parents definitely struggle to manage it. Especially I would just get in trouble in class a lot. But I was able to stay by in school a bit, not really, like do my homework or be that consistent, but still do decently well. And so, I remember my parents deciding not to go to medication route, just because I was doing okay, in school. But it was, I think definitely tougher for my parents. And that kind of was pretty consistent through elementary, middle school, high school, a big part of my childhood was exploring, and also playing a ton of video games. And I think we see that too, now with kids at maybe even higher rates. But it was something I was super interested in and started kind of exploring different things there. So I was playing Minecraft as well. And I started building Minecraft servers in middle school, which was pretty exciting for me. And it was something I was super interested in. And it was it was always a struggle to with my parents and managing, my video game habits, but also seeing that it was something I was interested in and excited about. Yeah, in high school, I, it was it was similar, still not caring too much about school and doing things I was just interested in still doing okay, in school.
And I'd say it was probably around my senior year of high school where I kind of personally realized, I should probably figure out what I want to do. That was like, a little bit late. At that point, I hadn't even applied to some I'm in California. And so we have the University of California system. And I didn't apply to those schools only because I didn't want to write the essay. Right. And that's like, that's where I was at that age. And, yeah, it was like at a senior year where I realized I should figure out what I should be doing. And I ended up going down to Community College in Santa Barbara, and started doing well there. Because I, I was actually motivated to transfer to a four year university. And so I was motivated to do well. And so I ended up transferring to Berkeley and studied computer science and business as a double major, and graduated in 2018. Nice, but yeah, I'd say like, I imagine this is something parents experience now that it probably from my parent's perspective wasn't looking great. Because I wasn't caring too much about school. I was doing things I was just interested in. I was hanging out with friends. I was skipping classes getting in trouble, but did end up working out in my perspective.
Penny Williams 4:44
Because you found that you could be interested in a job or a career. Right. It seems like you had motivation once you found that area of interest that you wanted to keep pursuing.
Isaac Eaves 4:59
Yeah, yeah. I think like, so when I was in middle school and I was starting, like, building those Minecraft servers, I was making money off of it. And that, in a way excited me as a middle schooler. Yeah. And then in high school, I started doing these like small business things where I was like, I was selling energy drinks to my friends, which the school did not like. But it was this kind of empowering thing where I was, like, cool, I can make something people want. And then I can do it on my own time. And like it's something I like and enjoy. And so I think, in my senior year, the latter half of my senior year of high school, I was thinking, Okay, I like doing these kinds of small businesses or starting something that was exciting for me, what does this look like as like a career. And so all I had at that point in my mind was okay, I want to start a business someday, I didn't really know the path to get there. But I was like, I probably should go to a university or go to a school and to get an education in it. And so that was definitely the motivation. But that was like, purely, I was like, Okay, I need to build a skill, start a business, I don't know what that means. But I'll go to community college do well, and then transfer to Berkeley and study business. And then once I transfer to Berkeley, it's still that same simple idea of someday I want to start a business and I started taking, I took like, one computer science class was like, okay, maybe I want to do like a technology business. And I end up just really liking it. It was to me like puzzle solving, in a way computer science, you just problem solving, and that really excited and interested in me. And so I ended up adding it as a major. And then that kind of led to having that skill set of this business computer science background to think about starting a business or startup someday.
Penny Williams 6:42
Yeah, two things that struck me. One is that you were motivated by your own goal, to go to college, not by the idea that society or our parents have that we need to go to college, I think that's really important. That's a really valuable insight for parents, is that the ADHD brain is motivated by interest, and not necessarily by importance. And if you do struggle with school at all, it's really hard to think about doing more school voluntarily, I think for a lot of our kids, and we have to be able to connect it to what is their goal? What do they want to do? And does that require more education? And seeing that connection for yourself, brings that motivation, right?
Isaac Eaves 7:31
Exactly. That's 100%. You know, my parents were constantly telling me it was always this like battle where they're trying to get me to care more about school, they're telling me I need to go to college. My dad always wanted me to be an engineer, because he came from an engineering background. You know, it didn't mean much to me, I was like, I'm gonna do what I'm interested in. And it was finding that exactly that internal motivation, but actually lined up similar in a way to what they wanted, but it had to come from myself. Otherwise, it wasn't going to happen.
Penny Williams 8:02
Yeah, yeah. And I love that you took it in sort of steps that you went to community college first, that that felt like maybe a doable next step to you at that time, or a good sort of bridge to university?
Isaac Eaves 8:19
No, yeah, it definitely was. And I think it's amazing, most states in the US have that system set up, and they helped you line up the transfer program. And that was super helpful for me. And I liked what you commented on about doing it from my internal motivation, and not because it's kind of like the system that that is, it's this expectation that you do, it becomes a strength when it's more internally driven. Because when you're following this other path, it's not yours. I think you see that very often now, like everybody is following the set path for external reasons, because that's what they're told they're supposed to do. They're going in high school, getting good grades, going to a good university, and then getting a job in a highly regarded field, because that's what they think they should do. And then a couple years later, they realize, Wait, this isn't what I want, personally. And so I think like fostering that intrinsic motivation to find out what somebody is interested in is like the best and most important thing you can do, because if you follow a different path, somebody else's path or an external path, it most likely won't end up being the thing you actually want.
Penny Williams 9:25
Yeah, yeah. And I think we put so much pressure on kids as parents to follow those norms, partly out of our own fear, because we were taught that too, right? This is not a new thing. For generations, we've been told at school, you get good grades in high school, you go to a good university, you go to good university, and you have this great job and now you're successful. Like that's been the trajectory that we've been taught for a long time. And so, as a parent, we have to step back from that fear that if they don't follow that path that they can still succeed. But to your point, they have to be interested in that. And I think this is true for every single young adult, you should follow what you're interested in, not what somebody else says you should do. But it's, I think, even more crucial for kids who have ADHD, or maybe are on the spectrum to follow what they're interested in. Because if they don't, success is so much harder to come by. Right? If you're not interested, it's just drudgery, and your brain may not focus and you may lose interest, if you had any at all at the beginning, and then that just makes it hard to get things done and do them well. Right. Yeah. 100%, I think it's really important that we recognize that as parents. And so how did you once you graduated from college? How did you decide where you were gonna go from there?
Isaac Eaves 10:53
Yeah, well, I had learned a bit more through junior and senior year just interacting with people that were in the startup space or starting their own businesses. And it was mainly then thinking about, okay, what are the skills that I would need, I mean, directly after college, I tried doing a startup with one of my current co founders now, which was like an amazing learning experience, but didn't end up working out until we did that for about eight months, I had student loans of pay, which was one thing and I was like, Okay, we I need to get a job that's that I like that's going to build these skills, to then later think about doing a startup again. And so the the job for me that I found that I was super interested in is a role called product management, which kind of combines a bunch of different things you work with, like the engineering team, you work with design, you work with marketing, and sales, and you kind of get to own a piece of a company's product. And to me, that was something that was going to have a lot of overlap with this longer term goal of doing a startup. And so I did that for about a year and a half, before starting Joon. But it was always centered around that. That idea of, started very high level of starting a business. And then as I started learning more through school and figuring out what that meant, it was more about, okay, what are the specific skills that I would want. And then that was what drove my interest in a certain career from there.
Penny Williams 12:14
Yeah. And I'm hearing that you really looked at things as a journey that you weren't going to be able to go from, here's my idea, and I'm going to jump in and make it happen. You saw that there were steps to it, and there was skill building to it, and that you could do things in a particular order to build to that ultimate goal that you had, which I think can be hard for a lot of people with ADHD. So often, it's now not now and I need to get there quickly. Like a lot of people with ADHD they move fast, right. And they, especially people with combined type are the hyperactive type. And so it can be hard to kind of pull back I think and look at things as steps. And that there's a journey to get to where you want to go. Yeah. Did you find that easy? Was that easy for you? Or did you really have to sort of work at that?
Isaac Eaves 13:09
Absolutely. Not easy? No, it was like, always back home on even like, when I started my job within like, a month or two, I was like, I'm gonna quit and do a startup now. I think it was always like a practice of discipline and like self discipline, which is like one of the hardest, yeah, probably one of the hard things to start managing, but you get better at it. I think as you get older as a kid, I you know, I had like not, and I would just be completely impulsive and do whatever I wanted. Yeah. But I had started building these like habits and routines. During college that I probably leaned on a lot. Like I started making sure I was I had a very consistent routine every day where I would exercise, meditate, read, and then I was intermittent fasting, because I found that that would make me focus better.
So I started building this kind of foundational routine and set of habits that I think really helped build that general discipline to stay consistent. Because yeah, it was even in college. It was part of this longer term plan that I still had that that same like impulsiveness, where I was like, I don't want to do this work right now. And so it took, I think a lot of these habits and routines to really like power through that and build that discipline over time. But it definitely is hard with your mind that is always let's just do the thing now. Right? That was Yeah, I had maybe talk to any of my friends while I was working at this company. They hear me just be like a month in and saying like, it's kind of boring. I will do a startup and then they tell me like do just stick it out. But I yeah, I would build that discipline. And I made sure I I stuck it out. But not easy. And I think you know having the right habits and routines really helps kind of build that that discipline. But that is essential to stick on the path.
Penny Williams 14:59
Yeah, I love that you brought up routines and that specifically, your routines were built around what you found was really helpful to you, like you got to know yourself and what you needed. And then you were able to build routines and habits around that. And I think that that too, can be really hard for neurodivergent people to do to be able to do something that maybe isn't the most fun. But you know that it's the right thing for you, right? A lot of people don't find exercise fun, they would rather just skip it, but knowing that it really helped you was, I guess, somewhat motivating, right? To help you to make that a habit?
Isaac Eaves 15:42
Oh, definitely. I know, it's specific for me, but I think it's pretty common. And I have a lot of friends with ADHD now, just and we all basically rely on exercising a bunch to get our mind to a place where we're kind of contentment focused. Yeah. And so I think realizing that early on in college and seeing that, when I exercise the bunch in the morning, and maybe even twice a day, I was always feeling much more clear headed and focused. And, and then seeing that that's like something I needed to do. No matter what. Yeah, so yeah, it was really motivated by, by that and less about, it's nice to it's also leads to being healthier, but it was like seeing that this is something I needed to operate at my highest capacity.
Penny Williams 16:25
Yeah, you saw results from it. And were able to link that together, which is amazing. And I was thinking to as you were describing, like your early jobs, my son is 19. And he just got his first job several months ago, and was really excited, and then quickly, very bored. And just didn't want to go anymore. Because it wasn't interesting enough, it didn't use any sort of brain power. But he actually was able to say, I need to stay six months, so that it's a good reference, without any prodding for me, which was amazing, is not typical for him. It just showed maturity, and that he's learning and finding his way and he's finding what is important. So he was able to say, this is important enough that I have to override that impulse to just quit and do something else. And stick with it. And I think you sharing that, and me sharing that from my own experience, too, is really helpful to parents to hear. Because when you have that kid in elementary school or middle school, who just keeps giving up on things, right is never really sticking with anything you worry about their future. And what your story illustrates is that it comes at some point, right? When you combine the interest you combine seeing results with things, you combine maturity and just getting older and working on your own goals toward your own goals. All of that starts to help to work together to help you succeed, right in your own way.
Isaac Eaves 18:08
Yeah, yeah. And I think it's like the reframing there is definitely to think about how that can be such a superpower too. Because if you don't have ADHD, it's much easier to do something that you're not interested in and stick to it with ADHD becomes a huge struggle. And so being somebody that's going to do something that you're interested in and probably not do something you're not interested in will most likely mean that you'll be more successful if you actually are doing something you're interested in. Yeah, right. And so I think it leads to people with ADHD more often than not actually doing things they're interested in. And when you have ADHD at something you're interested in the focus problems go away. People with ADHD tend to be able to, as you know, like, hyper focus on things that they're interested in. Yeah. Which then itself becomes, yeah, power, right. And so I think that is a bit of a reframing it. And it requires the balance as well, just like you're saying, realizing that you can't leave your job after a month, because even if you're not interested in it, that you should stick it out for six months, but it's good to realize that, no, I'm not interested in this, because that's a good thing that you don't stick it out too long that right because then you end up doing something you don't like,
Penny Williams 19:19
Yeah, and we've just kind of used that as a learning experience. You know, we talked about the fact that, okay, now you know, what you find boring. Now, you can take some things off the list, you're not interested in things that require sort of this menial thing that doesn't require you using your brain, right? He needs more challenge and more interest, rather than just doing menial tasks. And so we're like, okay, now you've learned something from this, and you gained your first job experience and you know, you look at the positives. And that too, is reframing as you're saying. I'm just thinking about to like for parents of younger kids, you can reframe hyper focus. Maybe they're hyper focused on video games or playing more games than you would like. But that can be used for something else later on something positive, right? And so that's reframing. That's exactly what you're talking about, as we're looking at things that may be a struggle when our kids are younger, but reframing it as well, later on, maybe they can harness this and use it as a superpower or use it to their benefit. It can be a skill that is desirable later that not everybody can really hyper focus, right like that intensity, that maybe would be really great in some different areas in some different jobs or careers. It's really powerful for parents to think about that. When your kids are younger. You know, it gives you more of that optimism for success as well.
Isaac Eaves 20:54
Right? I mean, ultimately, you want your kid to be happy. And I think if they're always doing things they're interested in that is what will lead to happiness, people that are falling paths that were pre set out for them. And they end up at this what is seemingly from like society, a top tier job, but actually, they're just super unhappy, because they're not actually interested in it. Yeah. And so it, it will I think, if they're doing things they're interested in, your child will end up being happy as an adult doing those things.
Penny Williams 21:25
Yeah, absolutely. I think we have to let our kids guide us with what they're interested in what they're passionate about, it will work out if we are able to do that. And for my son, higher education was not the right thing right after high school, he may do it at some point. And so we just are using the time for exploration, exploring interests, exploring different job opportunities or ideas. And that is letting him sort of lead the way and to figure out what is going to make him happy. Right. And that's the ultimate measure of success. I think you're so right about that. Do you want to talk a little bit about Joon, the app that you developed or CO developed? And how families and kids with ADHD are using that to further their successes in childhood? In the here and now?
Isaac Eaves 22:22
Yeah, sure. Yeah. I mean, so we started working on Joon. So I had left my job with my co founding team last January, so about a year and three months ago, but the idea really was kind of based on my past experiences, and also realizing how important like building the right habits and routines or to me. And so what we're doing with Joon is really trying to create this app that actually speaks more to the ADHD kid. And it's used as a tool by parents. But what it is, is almost a combination of a video game and a to do list. And so kids with ADHD will have their routines to do every day. And then it's combined with this game. And so in order to level up and take care of their pet in the game, they have to do these things in real life. The idea really is this kind of recognizing that kids with ADHD tend to be really interested in video games as kids. And so using that to actually help motivate them to do things in real life that they need to do to become more independent and responsible. And that's kind of the high level of it. And it is really just combination of seeing like the power of video games for kids. But to use that to help them actually engage more in the real world and do these things that they don't want to do by kind of providing this soft reward system around doing these tasks.
Penny Williams 23:41
I think it's a brilliant idea. It's something I can't tell you how much I wish was available when my son was younger, because we definitely struggled with getting things done, obviously, and for him, he has super weak executive functioning. And so we were always looking for ways to make getting things done more interesting. And you've really harnessed that interest in gaming. And I think to correct me if I'm wrong, but the power of gamification as well and we've seen a lot of that, in our culture, now we're seeing more and more things are sort of gamified because that works for us as humans.
Isaac Eaves 24:21
Yeah, it is really leaning into that just gamifying these real world to dues that when I was a kid, or even in college, I kind of created these artificial versions that were I would give myself if I tell myself if I do this, that I can do this, right. And that was a way of managing myself in my mind. And so we just thought, can we just make this much simpler, and just create this gamified product that does this and it makes it really easy to set up? But it is super powerful for people with you know, not just ADHD but any executive functioning issue that they're they're struggling with.
Penny Williams 24:59
Yeah, it's really exciting. I looked at it in somewhat detail before we started our conversation today. And it just looks really engaging for kids. And the outcomes for parents are very exciting. When you have a kid that really struggles to get things done, and you feel like you're always nagging, and our kids then shut down when we not great, we need to find ways to help them succeed, by taking ourselves out of the middle of it. So giving them the tools or the support, but not doing for them or not constantly reminding them. And that's what Joon will do is be able to have something that helps them succeed, without us being a constant sort of pressure point, really. And I think that that is really exciting for kids to not just we don't like nagging his parents, but kids don't like hearing it, of course, either. Right. And so it's, it's exciting for parents and the kids, because it can set them up to be successful, almost on their own obviously, parents are putting data in and setting things up. But we're more of a support role, which is what we really want to be in the end.
Isaac Eaves 26:15
Yeah, I mean, what you're touching on is what started exciting us the most about what we were building, it was seeing that by adding this third party in the middle, yeah, it took away that need to nag. And now and constantly remind your kids the effect that had was it made parents feel like they could then focus more on the relationship and not on having to nag and nag your kids to do these things, which creates a negative conflict and in your parent child relationship. And so both the parent, and kids feel better about these things, because they don't have this conflict of the parent nagging, and then the kid getting upset, or the parent feels overbearing on them. And then kind of the second thing you touched on, is we see often that kids with ADHD can kind of feel not independent, and not responsible, because they're always having to be told to do these things. But we start seeing is that even though the parent is assigning these tasks, which we call quests in the game, they feel independent, because they get to manage it themselves, they see it, and then they build their own motivation, because they want to take care of their pet in the game and level up. And so they get to choose when and what to do from their to do list. And it starts making them feel more independent, which helps them with their competence. And that was something that was, I think, really big and exciting for us is seeing that not only is it kind of taking away this negative effect on the relationship with having a nagging remind, but also helping kids feel more confident and responsible and being able to manage themselves.
Penny Williams 27:53
Yeah, I love that. I'm glad you brought up the relationship to because really, the parent child relationship is the most important foundational piece to helping our kids succeed. And it's super, super valuable. And the fact that this helps to preserve that, or gives you the opportunity to have a maybe a more easygoing relationship where kids are open to coming to us about things because you know, when we nag them all the time, they don't want to, they don't want to be around us, right? They just want to do their own thing. And they stay away. And the relationship is so very important. So I love that there's a focus on that too, with the app and the tool that you've created. And we're gonna link up to Joon in the show notes for this episode, as well as their social media and other links where you can connect and learn more and certainly try out the app as well. All of that is in the show notes at parentingADHDand autism.com/170 for episode 170. And before we close, I would like to ask you for one action item that parents can do right now when they finished listening to this episode.
Isaac Eaves 29:15
Yeah, sure. One action item. Yeah, if you want to give the app a try, we'd love to hear any feedback that you might have on it. And I think yeah, like you mentioned, the link should be in the show notes. But we're right now super excited just to hear more and more about these experiences parents and kids are having and that really helps us continue to refine and develop Joon and so if it's something you think that might be interesting for you. Yeah, that'd be awesome if you tried it. And were extremely receptive of feedback. And so you could contact us and email me about anything that that either works well for you or doesn't.
Penny Williams 29:56
Awesome. I'm very excited about this tool. I know It's gonna help so many families. And I really appreciate you sharing your story because then also is very powerful to see that people who are neurodiverse can succeed. And that things I think, start to click into place as our kids grow and develop as well. So really, very thankful that you shared your story with everyone here today. And we will end the episode here. I'll see everyone next time.
Unknown Speaker 30:29
Thank you so much.
Penny Williams 30:31
Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching, and Mama retreats at parentingADHDandautism.com
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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This was a fantastically helpful and interesting podcast. Thank you so much, Penny and Isaac, for sharing this. As a parent, I’m always looking for success stories to inspire, and instil hope for the future. This podcast proves that so many of the challenges our young people face can be overcome with time, through identifying strengths and interests, and working with them as far as possible. Not an easy process, but a key priority to enable progress. Isaac, your story is wonderful, and you present it so engagingly. Penny, you so brilliantly identify so accurately the challenges and concerns for parents and neurodivergent young people, and provide amazing material to reflect this. Thank you for such informative and supportive podcasts!