Why Learning Disabilities Are An Entrepreneurial Superpower

The business world just might be the place where kids with learning disabilities and dyslexia thrive!

People with learning disabilities and dyslexia are provingto the world that having them is not a limiting factor in becoming an entrepreneurbut in fact, showing that it can be an incredible source of power over peoplethat don’t have learning disabilities when it comes to running a business.

Honesty, dyslexia and the learning disabilities don’t retard the ability to learn, it just makes the traditional tools and methods of learning in school useless. Actually the phrase “learning disability” is wrongfully used because kids with learning disabilities can actually learn quite well, it’s just that you are not speaking their language. When I was a kid, I didn’t have dyslexia but I was told that I did have some form of a learning disability. To explain it better what it was like for me- was like trying to learn French from a teacher that was speaking Spanish, or trying to draw a beautiful picture with my left hand each day I was in school and getting graded on the quality of the work. If the teacher would have just done it the way I learned, I would have mastered the material.

So how are learning disabilities a superpower for the futureentrepreneur? The number one fear of all new business owners is the fear offailing and losing it all and going broke. The kid that has struggled with alearning disability has known failure their whole life and has been self-conditionedto react to it in a productive way or has developed a proactive way ofpreparing for it with built in contingencies. This has allowed them to tap intothe survival side of the human brain from a very young age and has done it veryproficiently with a painful amount of peer pressure and public display. Takefor example reading out loud in elementary school in front of all yourclassmates. I call this “childhood waterboarding.” When the teacher would haveall of us read aloud a paragraph from a book I was terrified but then I wouldgo into preparation mode right away. I would count how many kids were left untilit was my turn to read then I would count paragraphs in the book to the one thatwas most likely for me to have to read aloud. Then I would silently scan the paragraphlooking for all the words I would have to sound-out and I would learn them veryfast so they wouldn’t stump me when it was my turn. Just for good due diligenceI would also read the one above it and below it just in case the teacherspattern of who was reading next was off.

Kids that read proficiently can just do it without preparationand cunning planning but if you task them with something they don’t know, itwill throw off their game because they are used to it being easy. When everythingis hard from reading aloud to doing math problems on the board in front of theclass, the kids with learning disabilities begin to find ways to compensate forwhat they lack and they do this from a very young age and without coaching oreven knowing they are doing it. This is an incredibly valuable skill that willproduce fruit for the rest of their life.

Now fast forward to adulthood and put those same two peoplein the free market and let them compete against each other. Now the tables haveturned and the learning disabilities have faded away because there are no rulesor structured procedures to follow anymore. Unlike school where you are taughtthe lessons and then given the test, real life and business becomes just theopposite and the test you haven’t studied for comes first. You take the test andfail miserably and then the lesson begins. Who will have the stamina to fail thetest of life and business and then learn from it and keep going? My money is onthe one that has been doing it that way since they were in grade school!

You see this all the time, the really smart guy that gotgood grades starts a business but within 3 years is belly-up and at the sametime some college dropout hits it big with a unicorn company worth billions!You sit and wonder how the smart guy failed and how the dropout succeeded andthink that the dropout just got lucky. But here’s the real truth, the dropoutis just used to the failure that comes from starting a new business and hasbecome resilient to it by a lifetime of sheer practice and repetition. I have alwayssaid that the only thing that a self-made millionaire is, is a person with areally good idea and an unbending resilience to failure! That’s it, that’s allthey are!

Chet Holes writes in his bestselling book, The Ultimate Sales Machine, that he teaches the people who work in his sales department to prepare for being told “no” by new customers 8-12 times. When one of his crack sales staff is trying to sell you something, they already know that you are going to tell them no, 12 times and they have completely strategized for that very situation before your first encounter. How do you beat or compete against someone like that or how do you resist them as the potential customer? They more than likely will win your business if for nothing else, just to get them to go away. And they don’t mind if you think they are being a pest, it’s just business!

Kids with learning disabilities have this same resilience to being told: “no or you didn’t do that right” and they have strategized to compensate for it only they didn’t have to learn it as an adult. The other thing that LD kids have figured out is how to use their resources in an effective way. I used to use other kid’s notes or assign a smart kid in our school to do the writing when we were in groups. Today I do the same thing only now I hire those same smart kids to be employees in my companies! “I’m not jealous of smart people, I find a way to hire them!” I can’t do nearly everything my companies do but I hire people that can! You don’t know Thomas Edison’s name because he was a brilliant inventor, you know him because he was a brilliant strategist! Edison was a businessman with little to no education. He would have the ideas but he hired smart people to do all the technical stuff and the research. Same with Andrew Carnegie, he knew nothing about steel production but knew people who did, and hired them.

The other advantage that the LD and dyslexia kids have, – theyhave a great story of reaching success. Today, core storylines of startup are becomingbrutally effective sales strategies. Think about the kinds of business you wantto give your money to. The one where everything was easy and you just expected themto be successful or the one that he or she had to struggle, hustle and had towork harder than anyone else to get there…? That’s what I thought! We all lovea great story and we like giving our money to the ones that worked the hardest.

As you can see just by my writing and all the spelling and grammatical errors even in this short article that I too, still suffer the LD side of my brain. I am reminded of it every day as I post these articles and get busted by the grammar police! But the one thing I have learned from a life time of being laughed and snickered at for my LD is that I still love to write and I will continue to do it because my resilience to the failures of writing has led me to have co-written two published business books, been featured on the front page of the Washington Post and have had countless interviews with business bloggers and journalist. I have started 3 different successful businesses that I still own and operate and I make more money than most people I have ever known. Ironically, I have “learned” that having a learning disability may have just been the greatest talent I have ever had! It’s simply a gift that was cloaked in failures. When I flunked out of college, I had no idea that (what at the time looked like a bleak situation) was in reality, a king’s ransom!

Daniel J Bockman                                       

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