Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary: Having Dyslexia is a ‘Superpower’ in Business
Do you find it interesting that most of the successful businessmen are or were dyslexic? From Henry Ford (Ford Motors) to Bill Hewlett (Hp computers) to Steve Jobs (Apple Inc.) to Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Group) to all the three hosts of Shark Tank (Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John): they were all diagnosed with it. The list is endless.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a mental condition that is characterized by having trouble with reading despite the fact that one has normal intelligence. It is also known as reading disorder, and it affects different people to varying degrees. The problems encountered by dyslexic individuals include difficulties in reading quickly, spelling words, writing, pronouncing words when reading them aloud, and understanding what one reads. These problems are commonly first detected in school. You then ask yourself why people having dyslexia are great achievers in life.
Benefits of Dyslexia
According to Kevin O’Leary, the reasons why people with dyslexia are successful in business and in life, despite the condition, is that they have the ability to read backwards, read upside down, or even read in a mirror. Impressive, isn’t it? As a normal human being, can you read backwards faster, or even in a mirror or even upside down just like a dyslexic person? Of course, it is very hard. The above qualities of people with dyslexia are what makes them confident. Confidence is a very crucial determinant of a person’s success.
David Neeleman, the CEO of JetBlue Airlines, and also a good friend of O’Leary’s, encourages individuals with dyslexia to use their difference in learning as an ‘asset’ in their pursuit of professional qualifications. In as much as you may feel like your self-esteem is affected by your condition in one way or another, you should not let that hinder your chances of achieving success at work and also in life. The struggle involved in ensuring that a tainted self-esteem is not a hindrance to achieving success is what simply makes dyslexic individuals achieve success in business. As a matter of fact, dyslexia just doesn’t hinder one’s chances of being successful in life and interestingly, there is no evidence in history to suggest that it does that according to O’Leary. He goes ahead to emphasize that it just affects maths and reading scores early on in life and that that is something you can get around with in life. He also encourages young children and adults to never give up and let dyslexia hold them back. Simply put, it is a gift!
You may probably want to know more about what it feels like to be a dyslexic child. Dyslexic children are usually socially immature and this often makes them behave awkwardly in social situations. They may also appear to be physically immature in comparison to their peers. As a result, the tendency for them to develop poor self-image and less peer acceptance is very high. What’s more, dyslexia often affects oral language. Finding the right words, stammering, pausing before answering direct and obvious questions are just some of the areas of oral language that are affected by dyslexia. This condition puts them at a disadvantage especially when they enter adolescence where language takes center stage in relationships with peers.
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Challenges and Benefits
Difficulty in reading social cues is also another area where many people having dyslexia suffer. In as much as they may be aware of personal distance necessary in any form of social interaction, they may still have difficulty in sticking to such awareness. These are just some of the negative conditions and challenges through which dyslexic children go through. It is interesting to note that the hard work involved in overcoming the challenges faced in such a tough environment is what, in one way or another, usually results in them becoming successful in business.
Take the interesting case of Sir Richard Branson, founder and CEO of the Virgin Atlantic Group, who dropped out of school at the tender age of 16. The major factor that led him to drop out of school was his dyslexia. However, this condition that hurt him academically, has helped him as he of built his business. It is fascinating to note that he would always ask that all of the marketing materials be read aloud to him. He also attributes his different way of thinking as helping him to be able to successfully build the Virgin Group. In his own words: ”My dyslexia guided the way we communicated with our customers.” Isn’t that interesting?
David O’Leary’s colleague in Shark Tank, Daymond John, also discovered that he was dyslexic while growing up. As a kid, he usually excelled in maths and science but was always scoring low grades in anything that involved extensive reading and writing. His school managed to diagnose him with a general ‘learning disability’, since back then it lacked information on dyslexia. To make matters more confusing, his parents strongly believed that his bad language was the result of his attitude. He decided to come up with his own solution to his dyslexia problem by enrolling in the business co-op program. This led him to understand how much business was being done and, with that he found his passion in business where he often used his love for numbers to create something. In 1992, he established FUBU, one of the most successful clothing lines. Despite still having difficulties in reading and writing as he continued to develop as an entrepreneur, he realized that his mind was highly visual. He had the ability to map out business plans in his head. Isn’t that awesome? Learning that he was dyslexic also allowed him to let go of the shame he once had.
The bottom line is that entrepreneurs having dyslexia can develop the ability to focus on the task at hand in order for them to be able to benefit from their condition. Staying focused during the challenging times and also on the goals one is trying to achieve in his/her business is very important in ensuring one gets over dyslexia. So are you still wondering why having dyslexia is a ‘superpower’ in business?