A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

THE JOURNEY



I saw the former Formula One World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart being interviewed on TV the other night. And it turns out that, like a lot of other successful people, he's dyslexic.

That has always puzzled me a little bit...

I mean, if dyslexia is so injurious to the learning process, how come there are so many successful people who seem to suffer from it? I mean, while 'word blindness' wouldn't necessarily hold back the likes of Sir Jackie or Jamie Oliver in their chosen fields of endeavour, the cases of other dyslexics like Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Michael Farraday, Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Ben Elton and W B Yeats, are much less easy to explain away.

I used to put it down to drive... that the 'disability' had given these people a determination to prove themselves. I used to think that they had triumphed through adversity, and succeeded in spite of the problem. But something Jackie Stewart said, made me think again.

He explained that although it's over 30 years since he raced there, he can vividly remember and accurately recall every last inch of the Nurburgring race track in Germany. Now that track is almost 13 miles long and has over 140 corners, and yet Stewart still knows the exact braking points for every one of them.

Can you imagine ever being able to do that?

I read quite recently, that before children learn to read and write, they have far better memories than after they've mastered the tasks. Why’s that then? Well the obvious explanation is necessity. If you can't write anything down and read it later, the only place to store the information is in your head! Or maybe, the process of learning to read and write, causes a change in the way the separate areas of the brain communicate with each other.

Either way, there could be a clue here to explain
the success of dyslexics...

It seems that by some naturally occurring process, their brains just work in a different way to those of other people. The inability to read and write well, is automatically compensated for by the ability to do other things to a far higher degree. Much like how blind folk make the best piano tuners with their compensated highly acute sense of hearing. And memory may be just one of a whole range of technical, spatial and creative skills which dyslexics possess in over-abundance.

And this seems like a pretty good trade off.

Because people like Einstein, Farraday, Richard Branson and Jackie Stewart, may have been successful, not in spite of dyslexia, but rather, because of it. The 'disability' either precipitated or accompanied a much broader variation in cerebral function - one which seems to have massive positive benefits.

But here's what's important and interesting...

For every Thomas Edison, Ben Elton or Walt Disney, who harness the positive aspects of the way their brain works, there are countless thousands of others who give up on achieving anything worthwhile because they are dyslexic, and therefore disadvantaged.

And this really doesn't make sense...

After all, being able to read and write is a fairly mundane sort of skill, isn't it? My 6-year-old could do it. Most people can do it. It's not such a big deal. And skills that are in plentiful supply like this, tend to have a low monetary value placed on them by society. Any of us can easily find somebody who can read or write something for us...

However, finding someone who can explain the universe
is a little more tricky.

But the very fact that they can't do this one mundane thing very well, causes a lot of dyslexic people to give up on doing anything at all.

Now I'm laying this at the door of the individual, and that's not really very fair. Go back just a handful of generations, and if you were dyslexic, nobody would have even known. Very few people could read and write anyway, and it wasn't a highly prized skill or a meaningful measure of 'worth' for most people. But today things are very different...

The ability to read and write well precludes any kind of
academic success, and anyone who isn't very good at it
attracts a negative label.

So it's hardly surprising that a lot of dyslexics simply give up before they've even started. Not only has nobody even bothered to explore the positive aspects of the way that they think, but the negative aspect is reinforced day after day, month after month, year after year.

The only people who discover and profit from the positive
aspect of the 'problem', are those who are strong enough
to do it for themselves...

And it's the same with most so-called disadvantages or disabilities (whether they be physical, practical, social or intellectual). There are two ways to go... confront and look for the positive, or capitulate and accept the negative.

This whole issue is in sharp focus for me, because every day I read about people who have given up on an idea, a dream or a goal, because they view some disadvantage or disability as an insurmountable barrier. It could be a physical barrier like an injury, a practical barrier like the absence of a particular skill, a social barrier like chronic shyness, or a cerebral barrier like the one imposed by dyslexia.

But whatever the barrier, the result is the
same... acceptance and capitulation.

But here's something else that's interesting... think of the most competent and able person you know, and the number of things that that person can't do will still greatly outnumber the things they can do. Can they speak Swahili for instance, or fly a helicopter or carry out open heart surgery or...? You get the idea. There are thousands of things which even the most able individual is incapable of doing...

But what's important is how they focus upon, and capitalise on, the things that they can do. And that seems to be the key, finding what you can do well, and then focusing and specialising on that. That doesn't mean ignoring a disadvantage or disability... rather it means recognising it for what it is.... just one more thing to be dealt with in the best way possible.

If you've ever felt that a disadvantage or disability was standing between you and success, then the following 4 step process might help:

1. Explore the positive aspects of your disadvantage or disability... there's always a flip side to most things, and like many dyslexics, you may find surprising advantages and abilities which come as part of a package with your weakness.

2. Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can't. As I've highlighted in previous blogs, the bulk of the spoils usually go to people who can do one thing brilliantly, rather than several things competently.

3. Decide what it is that you want to do, and which part of that you can do yourself, and which part you'll need help with.

4. Find someone who can partner you and compensate for your disadvantage or disability in weak areas. Chances are that you can do things they can't, so it's a perfectly fair trade off. And there’s nothing at all to be embarrassed about.

So many great scientific, literary, medical, and social advances would have never come about if their creators had simply focussed on their weaknesses. So many great entertainers and sportsmen would have never have even emerged if they'd capitulated to a 'disability'. So many of the great fortunes in history would never have been made, if those involved hadn't recognised the fact that even the most able, rarely have all the skills needed to reach a goal without help.

And it would be a real shame if you gave up on a goal or ambition simply because of a disadvantage which might quite easily be overcome and compensated for... or failing that, if you didn't replace that goal or ambition with one more in keeping with your skills, abilities and strengths.

I am writing all this today, because I too have now
come to this cross-road.

For years I have excelled in my own chosen fields and have done reasonably well with the choices I made. But with an ever ageing frame I now find I am becoming less and less capable and it was a recent shoulder injury that brought it fully home to me.

For the last two years now, I have struggled to keep up with ever increasing levels of pain and becoming less and less capable of sustaining my current abilities within the field of construction. So where do I go from here? Do I just cave and give up on all my goals dreams and ambitions or do I ‘pack up my troubles’ and simply move on?

While the last two years of my life may not have been the most productive in terms of actual physical output, they have nonetheless probably been the best two years of my life in respect to opening up new futures, creating new paths to follow and breaking new levels of achievement.

I mean, just two years ago, I could hardly even string a sentence together, never mind consider a whole new future in writing.

You see, rather than chose to let my ‘disabilities’ hold me back, I have allowed them to help me move forward. And despite all the pain and hardship they might have brought me, there’s a whole new world of opportunity that came along with the deal.

There is still a light at the end of the tunnel.


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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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