Origional Atrical In Fortune Magazine [click]
FORTUNE examines business leaders
and artists who have gone beyond the limitations of dyslexia.
By Betsy Morris
Consider the following four dead-end
One was spanked by his teachers
for bad grades and a poor attitude. He dropped out of school
at 16. Another failed remedial English and came perilously close
to flunking out of college. The third feared he'd never make
it through school--and might not have without a tutor. The last
finally learned to read in third grade, devouring Marvel comics,
whose pictures provided clues to help him untangle the words.
These four losers are, respectively,
Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, John Chambers, and David Boies.
Billionaire Branson developed one of Britain's top brands with
Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic Airways. Schwab virtually
created the discount brokerage business. Chambers is CEO of Cisco.
Boies is a celebrated trial attorney, best known as the guy who
In one of the stranger bits of
business trivia, they have something in common: They are all
dyslexic. So is billionaire Craig McCaw, who pioneered the cellular
industry; John Reed, who led Citibank to the top of banking;
Donald Winkler, who until recently headed Ford Financial; Gaston
Caperton, former governor of West Virginia and now head of the
College Board; Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko's; Diane Swonk,
chief economist of Bank One. The list goes on (see table, Dyslexic
Achievers). Many of these adults seemed pretty hopeless as kids.
All have been wildly successful in business. Most have now begun
to talk about their dyslexia as a way to help children and parents
cope with a condition that is still widely misunderstood. "This
is very painful to talk about, even today," says Chambers.
"The only reason I am talking about it is 100% for the kids
and their parents."
What exactly is dyslexia? The
Everyman definition calls it a reading disorder in which people
jumble letters, confusing dog with god, say, or box with pox.
The exact cause is unclear; scientists believe it has to do with
the way a developing brain is wired. Difficulty reading, spelling,
and writing are typical symptoms. But dyslexia often comes with
one or more other learning problems as well, including trouble
with math, auditory processing, organizational skills, and memory.
No two dyslexics are alike--each has his own set of weaknesses
and strengths. About 5% to 6% of American public school children
have been diagnosed with a learning disability; 80% of the diagnoses...
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