My Frenemy, Dyslexia

It takes me double the amount of time to write an email. I re-read everything I write and never find all the errors. The numbers 6 and 9, along with the letters n and m, q and g and b and d all look the same to me. I switch words up constantly. It basically feels like my brain and my eyes aren’t aligned. When I read, I drift around or jump ahead, which means I have to re-read emails or chapters multiple times to understand them. These are all daily challenges for me.

Yep, I’m dyslexic. Over the years I have developed compensatory tricks for all of these spelling and phonetic issues. Clinically, I am a “working dyslexic,” which is a weird phrase, because I don’t know what else I would be. The nonprofit Child Mind Institute estimates that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, which means that over 40 million American adults are dyslexic, but only 2 million know it. Many people have learning disorders, but dyslexia has always been one of those mysterious ones, because it impacts every individual differently and everyone has different solutions.

As with any struggle, there are some positive points to acknowledge – qualities that have evolved from the scuffle to become superstar traits that are key for success. Although a learning disorder, I wanted to point out some of the advantages I have seen and notice in being dyslexic. For myself, I hope to embrace it and grow old with it. At one point in time, I wanted to conquer it, but I have come to realize that it is part of who I am, this daily frustration – it has become my “frenemy.” I wanted to acknowledge this learning disorder that myself and millions of individuals live with, but highlight some of the benefits I have noticed being nurtured from this daily struggle.

  1. Big picture thinking. Dyslexic brains are simply wired differently and literally think in alternative ways. Most dyslexics focus on the big picture first, then make connections externally, while also reflecting and internalizing the issue. They thrive on remembering experiences and stories, rather than abstractions. Personally, this creative thinking relates to the work I do at Momentum Solutions. I find myself building bridges between ideas, concepts and visuals, in order to align them and develop a stronger story or brand for our clients. Dyslexics thrive in complex situations because of their interconnected reasoning – their ability to view an issue from all angles and multiple perspectives, and to see the big picture.
  2. Solid work ethic. Most professionals working with adult dyslexia have worked through the variety of issues that developed in their adolescent years. They developed quick fixes on their own or found solutions through a supportive adult. Either way, the daily language and communication struggles most dyslexics go through, created a solid work ethic. The most common quality I have seen in the dyslexics I know is a strong drive - this sometimes unreasonable determination and confidence in the process and their solutions.
  3. Entrepreneurial spirit. Dyslexics typically follow their own path, not because they want to or because others tell them to, because that is what feels right. They lead with their strengths, learning how to deal with their issues, create solutions and push forward. Dyslexics and anyone who has grown up with a learning disorder learns from an early age how to solve problems and to creatively understand the barriers in front of them. This breeds an entrepreneurial spirit, which is why professionals with dyslexia are twice as likely to own two or more businesses (Cass Business School, London).
  4. Intuitive. Many times much of the advice I received from my parents, counselors or coaches growing up focused on intuition. For many dyslexics there is no “cure” or specific training or pill that can help them cope, nor is there one tactic that works for everyone, because in each person dyslexia takes a different form. Dyslexics learn to “listen to their gut,” to focus on what they know to be right and stick to their intuition. This intuitive strength allows an individual with dyslexia to be more confident in their profession, despite their daily challenges.
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