In May, Betsy Morris wrote a great article about famous dyslexic CEOs titled “Overcoming Dyslexic“. My favorite quote from her article is by Bill Dreyer, an inventor and biologist for Caltech “I think in 3-D Technicolor pictures instead of words.” Thinking in 3-D Technicolor is part of dyslexia’s hidden gift.
Today’s blog post is more personal than my past writings. I am dyslexic and until today only my family and friends knew this fact. For years, I wore a Scarlet D just like the CEOs mentioned in Morris’ article.
My mother taught AP / Honors high school English for thirty years. The irony of life can be bittersweet as my parents worked hard to hide the dyslexia that it took years for me to discover its hidden gift. I believe the mental prison my family built around dyslexia and the fear of what others might think did more harm than telling teachers, family and friends the truth. Employers can be different as there is still discrimination in the workplace.
The picture is a painting by my son, who is also dyslexic. We discuss dyslexia and spend little time hiding the fact. His entrepreneur spirit is strong and he is working on his second business, all his ventures have generated revenue.
Technology gives dyslexics the ability to participate on a level playing field. My son has a Kindle Fire and I have an iPad which makes reading and writing easier. I write more now than ever before because the iPad makes it is so easy to compose my thoughts. I am forever grateful to Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and all the great programmers at Google.
Dyslexia is simply a different programming design within the brain. Wiring everywhere, different path ways, circuits and mental duck tape. This programming design is amazingly fast, unique and fascinating; producing a constant flow of creative energy.
This past year, I discovered dyslexia hidden gift that Morris discusses and believe these traits are common among most dyslexics.
Unlimited Supply of Energy: Creative, Mental and Physical
Most dyslexics are Turbo Energizer Bunnies with an unlimited supply of energy. We are passionate and creative individuals with boundless energy for launching companies, creating new concepts, writing novels and screen plays, developing new programming code, composing music and painting. Thinking creatively is natural to us and hardwired into our dyslexic motherboard.
In grade school, I developed strong problem solving skills quickly to maintain my grades. I had to strategize and think differently to complete my work and not fall behind in class. Taking notes and writing on the board was a slow and painful process.
Problem solving has evolved into one of my favorite consulting services. I love the mental acrobatics required for problem solving and believe in developing simple effective methods rather than generating long drawn out processes.
One of my high school teachers said when you looked up the word “tenacity” in the dictionary Tiffany’s name is listed beside it. In college, I taped all my classes and would listen to the lectures over and over; this is how I wrote my class notes and studied for tests. By finals, I had the majority of the class notes and my professors’ lectures memorized. All my life I have refused to give up.
I learned to pivot in Kindergarten before Silicon Valley made the word cool. I believe all dyslexics learn to pivot at an early age. We have a deeper understanding of the concept and pivot more frequently than most people. I like the word pivot better than failure because failure carries mental baggage that prevents people from moving past the fear of failure.
A Few Thoughts on the Word “Failure”
When I was a high school junior, I registered for Intro Spanish knowing that I would probably fail the class at some point during the school year. My parents disagreed with my decision and I assured them I understood the consequences. At the end of the first semester, I took a W/F.
Did the F I received in Spanish have any bearing on my life now? No
Did the F prevent my acceptance into Texas A&M (BA) and later into SMU’s Graduate Business program (MBA)? No
Registering for Spanish in high school has been one of my best decisions. I realized my own internal strength which gave me confidence to take risks without the fear of failure.
Thomas Edison understood what failure meant, that failure is a process of elimination. If A and B do not work together then how about A and C? If one combination does not work; stop, reassess the situation and if needed pivot. By taking action each time you move forward until the right combination is discovered.
Being inventive goes back to the creativity aspect of dyslexia, we can invent just about anything out of foil, duck tape and cardboard. Dyslexics wrote the book on being inventive as it is in our programming. We see the world differently, thus giving us the ability to see pathways most people overlook.
Learned to Max Strengths Early
In grade school, I unconsciously started relying heavily on my strengths to counter the dyslexia. I realized early that I had the ability to memorize large amounts of data which later developed into a photographic memory.
I am unable to phonetically process the sounds of letters, thus I cannot sound out words. To learn my spelling words, I created unique sayings or tricks so I could memorize the pattern of letters associated with the word. By high school, I had a full tool kit that I used to navigate school and later college.
What most individuals take for granted can still be a struggle. I’ve become an obsessed spell checker and have more grammar books than a school teacher.
From years of keyboarding, my brain has learned to memorize the patterns of words which greatly improved my spelling. With this new pathway, I “see” the typing pattern when my son asks me how to spell a word.
Self-Reliant and Gratitude
In school, I learned to become my own advocate, focus on what mattered in the long run and that knowledge was power. I was fortunate to have several great mentors during school and college.
I believe the true blessing of dyslexia is gratitude. Dyslexics like myself, know just how hard we have to work to achieve success and how many pivots it took to achieve our goal.
Yet, through all the tribulations, my passion for learning grows each year and with technology dyslexia is becoming a smaller blip on my radar screen.
This blog is in Memory of my mother, who shared her passion for learning and reading with me.