When you think of Richard Branson what picture comes to mind? Billionaire? A man who had never to want for anything and will always have everything he wants. A real successful person who had a fantastic start in life. Probably somebody who was born with a sliver spoon in his mouth! So what makes this highly successful individual unique?
So you can imagine my amazement when I discovered that like Henry Winkler, Tom Cruise, Whoopie Goldberg, Albert Einstein ,Thomas Edison and Richard Branson were or are all dyslexic.
The labelling at school for these brilliant entrepreneurs, inventors and actors was all about they will never amount to much.
How wrong could they be?
Succeed against the odds.
Here is the true meaning of the human spirit that can succeed against all odds. These famous people had the whole learning process stacked up against them. Not only was this an incredible hurdle to overcome. Their main barrier to success was the stigma that was attached to not being able to learn like everybody else. This negative ongoing programming in itself is almost destructive. If you have it thrust in your face every minute of your school life like a tag around you neck this would be virtually unberable.
Yet they prospered and thrived despite the education system and the negative programming.
Richard Branson talks about the nightmare of his educational life.
Richard Branson on his Dyslexia – A transcript from an interview Anderson Cooper had with Sir Richard Branson on CNN aired May 21, 2004.
COOPER: What do you think it is about your brain, about the way you process information and the way you see things that has made you successful?
RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, CEO VIRGIN: Well, I was as a child dyslexic, not badly dyslexic but dyslexic had quite a lot of problems in school.
COOPER: You didn’t graduate high school.
BRANSON: Yes, I mean my problems at school were such that I actually left school when I was 15 and there were some subjects that I just, you know, had a complete blank about. I mean (unintelligible) mathematics or I mean for instance for years I haven’t been able to work out the difference between gross and net. The reason that I think people who are dyslexic seem to exceed quite well in life, having had hell at school, is that you do simplify things.
COOPER: As a business leader you’re probably unconventional. You’re not sort of the traditional image people may have. Have you always been unconventional in the way you frame things, the way you look at things?
BRANSON: I suppose. I’ve been running my own businesses since I was 15 and therefore I’ve been able to dress as I feel comfortable, you know, I’ve managed to get a wonderful group of people around me and I don’t sit behind a desk all day. I get out and, you know, meet people and spend time with people, you know. So, I think what I’m, you know, quite good at doing is, you know, is creating — creating something which I’m proud of and the staff who work for me are proud of and then, you know, if you created the best then the figures hopefully, you know, you’ll be able to pay your bills and keep, you know, keep everybody in employment.
COOPER: I would imagine sort of when I envision your life, you know, you being on Blackberry’s and you being on e-mail and being wired and connected, I understand that is completely not true that you are actually only recently sort of using a cell phone. You don’t — you’re not addicted to a Blackberry.
BRANSON: I’m terrified that if I ever did get addicted to, you know, computers or Blackberry’s that, you know, they would crash on me and, you know, so, you know, I use a notebook I carry making lists of everything and I check them off.
COOPER: I read that you jot things on your hand. I was looking at your hands now.
BRANSON: Yes, I think actually I’ve just — anyway but yes, I mean anything urgent I write on the back of the hand but so, I mean I keep everything, you know, pretty simple.
COOPER: As for those who are listening who maybe their child is dyslexic or has some learning disability what is your message to them? I mean what’s your advice?
BRANSON: Obviously someone who’s dyslexic you’ve got to try to get them as much help as they can from, you know, the people at the schools and other people who are specializing in dyslexia. But, you know, in the end I think, you know, the chances are that they may well excel in other areas.
COOPER: Because you had dyslexia at a young age do you think you had to work harder than other people?
BRANSON: Yes, I certainly had to work, you know, to work enormously hard. I had to learn the art of delegation and not try to do everything myself and somehow, you know, somehow it worked out OK.
COOPER: It certainly seems to have. Richard Branson thanks very much.
Anderson Cooper, CNN, May 21, 2004
Finding a way to succeed
As Richard Branson alludes to here, to succeed a dyslexic person must discover their strengths and work out ways to use them to succeed.
The education system is making giant strides to address some of the needs dyslexic students have. Technology being at the forefront of making a dyslexic students life easier.
There are now more teachers who are familiar with a dyslexic students learning issues and are providing the help and support to enable these students to obtain a successful education.
Having said that for many thousands of dyslexic students becoming aware of the issues and getting help may be all too late.
How many Richard Branson succumbed to the all encompassing negative view of students with learning issues such as dyslexia. Keeping in mind that a student with dyslexia usually presents with average or above average capabilities. It is only the way they process information that hinders their progress through school.
Schools and their curriculum
Isn’t it about time that schools begin to acknowledge the incredible mind capacity that students have??
How can they get it so wrong to let such brilliant students suffer and have to succeed in spite of the cherished education of learning?
Do schools spend too much time worrying about a students score in mathematics, spelling and reading?
This excerpt taken from Being Dyslexic – Richard Branson really nails some of the deficiencies within our educational systems.
Richard didn’t breeze through school. It wasn’t just a challenge for him, it was a nightmare. His dyslexia embarrassed him as he had to memorize and recite word for word in public. He was sure he did terribly on the standard IQ tests…these are tests that measure abilities where he is weak. In the end, it was the tests that failed. They totally missed his ability and passion for sports. They had no means to identify ambition, the fire inside that drives people to find a path to success that zigzags around the maze of standard doors that won’t open. They never identified the most important talent of all. It’s the ability to connect with people, mind to mind, soul to soul. It’s that rare power to energize the ambitions of others so that they, too, rise to the level of their dreams.
How many students suffer similar fates and probably never have a chance to reach their true potential?
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It sounds like his school days were a living nightmare! It’s great to read his story and see how he came out on top 🙂 Finding our strengths is sometimes difficult, I mean, we tend to downsize our strengths and focus on what our weaknesses are. Or, we don’t recognize our weaknesses, therefore can’t improve on them. It takes balance of our attributes to make anything in life work positively. Great post!
It also takes a positive mindset to keep forging ahead. People can accept the negativity coming their way or they can turn it into a positive. Learning to turn lemons into lemonade is a great attribute to have. Richard Branson turned his need to simplify things so that he could understand them into a strength and used it when connecting with people to help them understand.
Very informative, my heart goes out to all the people with dyslexia, I’m betting these folks have a stronger, and more persistent way of doing all things in life. My hat goes off to Richard Branson for his determination, and positive outcome in life! I’m thinking Healthy Lifestyles Living could, within their site have something to offer dyslexia challenges in a big way. What do you think? It would be nice to make life easier for everyone!
Thanks for the comment Judy. We do really need to give people a chance rather than just labelling them. If only everybody could just get their heads around that we are all meant to shine. Supporting and inspiring each other rather than judging them will bring out their brilliance.