Conquering dyslexia: These success stories are a testament to the human spirit

By Tarun Mittal

colorful dyslexic art

Dyslexia is a cognitive disorder that causes difficulty with reading despite normal intelligence. People with the condition are often tagged as ‘lazy’ and ‘dumb’, especially in their formative years when they struggle to keep up with their peers. But dyslexic people are often better at certain things compared to others. Visual and spatial reasoning, curiosity, creativity, awareness, and reasoning are some of the many positive traits attributed to those with dyslexia. If presented with an opportunity to groom these abilities, dyslexic people can lead normal lives, even run multi-million dollar enterprises.

Here are six such dyslexic people who overcame their learning disability and became some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs: 

Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, the creator of the Virgin Group of companies, is a business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, who struggled with dyslexia as a child at a time when the condition was hardly recognized. However, he now credits it as his greatest business advantage. Due to his difficulty in reading and writing, Branson says that he became a proficient delegator and manager, and learned how to communicate effectively. He also supports several organizations that are increasing awareness about dyslexia and helping those with the condition achieve their potential.

Ben Foss

Ben Foss, the holder of a dual-degree in business and law from Stanford, is a dyslexic who once relied on his mother to read out his school textbooks to him. After graduating from university, he was hired by Intel where he developed the Intel Reader — a software that takes photos of text and converts it into sound bites. Foss, now an author, activist, and entrepreneur then created Headstrong Nation — an organization that helps people with dyslexia understand and adapt to their condition. He also works with dyslexic entrepreneurs, working in businesses ranging from cyber security to biofuels.

Tommy Hilfiger

Renowned fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger realized he had dyslexia late in life, having spent his school days thinking that he was “just one of the dumb ones”. He developed an interest in running a clothing retail business and soon after that, he began designing clothes himself. Hilfiger credits his dyslexia and lack of a college education as the reasons behind his unique creativity, that allowed him to stand out among his designer peers.

Ingvar Kamprad

Ingvar Kamprad is an entrepreneur and business magnate who is among the world’s richest people. The Swede made his billions as the founder of the famous furniture store IKEA. As someone struggling with dyslexia, Kamprad focused on maximising customer satisfaction while running his business. To this end, he offered free condiments to his customers, designed comfortable stores, and even tagged his products with visual codes and easy-to-remember names of famous locations instead of alpha-numeric codes.

Barbara Corcoran

Barbara Corcoran is a business mogul and venture capitalist who built a $5 billion real-estate empire from scratch. She realized that she was dyslexic in her 50s when her two-year-old son was diagnosed with the learning disability. Due to her cognitive condition, she was a poor performer in school and subsequently was insecure about not being smart. But that only drove her to be “more creative, more social and more competitive.” 

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab is the founder of The Charles Schwab Corporation — one of the largest banks and investment firms in the USA. He discovered he had dyslexia when he was 40-years-old, finally understanding why he struggled with school and college education. The billionaire investment banker is also a philanthropist who, with his wife Helen, started the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation in 1987, with the aim of providing quality education to disabled and underprivileged children.

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