Sir Richard Branson: ‘My Dyslexia Helped Me Excel’

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Here's a surprising plus.

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No-one can deny the genius of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, but you might be surprised to know that despite his string of business wins, there have been notable obstacles to his success dotted through his early life.

The mogul, who left school at 16, lives with dyslexia and during his misunderstood schooling years, says it was “treated as a handicap” by those around him.

“My teachers thought I was lazy and dumb, and I couldn’t keep up or fit in,” he wrote in The Sunday Times a few days ago.

But rather than consider its potential setbacks, Sir Richard has a different perspective on how his dyslexia has been an essential part of his accomplishments, especially once he started to go it alone.

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“Once freed from archaic schooling practices and preconceptions, my mind opened up,” he explains. “Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage: it helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems.”

“The reason why I think people who are dyslexic seem to do well in life, having struggled at school, is that we tend to simplify things.”

Insistent that despite his business empire, he’d “probably fail” any school exam even now, as his spelling, punctuation and grammar “isn’t great”, Sir Richard says that perceived differences in the ability to achieve is more a failing of our schooling system than anything.

“Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage: it helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems.”

“This isn’t how we’re expected to perform in the real world and it’s a crazy way of measuring children as successes or failures. These tests don’t measure the skills of reasoning and exploration we need for the world today; the same skills that have helped me build Virgin.”

And who can argue with a man worth more than US$5 billion?

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