“At school, I found reading and writing hard. Back then, dyslexia wasn’t understood and my teachers just thought I was lazy. So I taught myself to learn things by heart. Now I have a very good memory and it has become one of my best tools in business.”
Those comments by entrepreneur Richard Branson are from his new book Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons In Life.
In his earlier autobiography Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way, Branson notes that it wasn’t easy: “I was trouble – and always in trouble. Aged eight I still couldn’t read. In fact, I was dyslexic and short-sighted… Even when I could see, the letters and numbers made no sense at all.”
Many other highly talented and accomplished people also have experienced various learning differences including dyslexia.
Actor and producer Henry Winkler has said about his early life and being dyslexic: “School was this immovable object. I was told I wasn’t living up to my potential, that I was stupid. My parents, being short Germans, were convinced I was merely lazy.
“So I was grounded for most of my life. I did not see the moon during my junior year. When you are in the bottom of the class, you’re constantly feeling less-than. You’re always working overtime to achieve some sort of normalcy or cool factor, which I had none of.”
But being an adult and dyslexic can bring real advantages.
In his article The Abilities of Those with Reading Disabilities: Focusing on the Talents of People with Dyslexia, Thomas G. West includes material on Nicholas Negroponte, the dyslexic founder of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and talks about the fact that “One of the advantages that many dyslexics seem to have in the world of business (as well as science and technology) is the high value placed on innovative solutions to difficult problems..
“Part of Don Winkler’s dyslexia is his propensity to perceive everything in reverse. Yet this same propensity seems to have contributed directly and indirectly to his ability to see novel solutions.
“Banc One had hired Winkler to run a “sleepy” consumer lending affiliate called Finance One. According to a Wall Street Journal columnist, “… Seeing things backward yielded deep insights… Winkler now instructs colleagues in ‘breakthrough thinking’ with backwardness at its heart.”
Tom West “suggests that left-hemisphere deficiencies, such as dyslexia, are fundamentally linked to right-hemisphere strengths, such as visual thinking, spatial ability, pattern recognition, problem solving, heightened intuition and creativity,” according to Linda Kreger Silverman [of the Gifted Development Center] – referring to West’s book: In the Mind’s Eye: Visual Thinkers, Gifted People With Dyslexia and Other Learning Difficulties, Computer Images and the Ironies of Creativity.
Erin Brockovich – acclaimed for her legal research and skillful advocacy in the Hinkley, California vs PG&E lawsuit featured in the movie about her, explained, “I can still go through all 634 plaintiffs. I learned to do that because of my dyslexia. I had no real coping skills; I could not read and comprehend in my brain the way a lot of you do.
“So I learned most of everything in my life by memorization, and it paid off for me in Hinkley. I’ve been able to read documents and I scan, and I know what I’m looking for – I operate off a hunch.
“I can be on page 550 and stop and go, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not what they said on page 69,’ and go back and find the exact thing, because as I’m scanning, I’m memorizing.”
More on dyslexia, autism, visual-spatial learning etc on the page: Learning differences.
Article publié pour la première fois le 07/09/2007