Dyslexia … The relentless struggle to success.
I have been dyslexic for nearly 37 years. Thought I probably was dyslexia for nearly 10 and diagnosed for nearly 3.
The last few months have been really busy and I have achieved many great things, people look on the outside and see I have trained for and run a marathon. I have set up a company. I have taken a masters level module in exam access… On the surface it all looks spectacular, on the surface people think I am wonderful, but the truth is I am not. I am no different from anyone else in the world. I am not special or more capable than the person next to me.
What people don’t see, are the set backs, knock downs and mistakes. The sleepless nights, stressed out conversations, pain, hurt, exhaustion and relentless determination to succeed. The hard work and mistakes that are naturally made as part of success. This got me thinking do people choose to only see the success? Or is it that they genuinely don’t know what it takes to be successful? Do we only measure a person by the things they achieve? If we are and do, then something is very wrong.
We should surely be looking behind the success and measuring the effort people put in too… When we take the time to look behind the success we see the effort and grit that is expelled. Behind success there is never a fairytale, there is ALWAYS failure of some kind and often from failure comes the drive to succeed. It’s not about the failure though, is it? It’s about how we manage, cope with and deal with failure. The true measure of success is surely not success itself but determination, resilience and desire to achieve?
I often ask myself the question if I had known I was dyslexic would I have achieved all I have? Would it have been a barrier that even if I didn’t put in the way, teachers who taught me put in the way? Not knowing I had a barrier to knock down may have helped me as I didn’t see obstacles, I just saw my end goal. This does not mean that dyslexia did not take its toll on me because it seriously did. In fact I spent most of my life feeling like the underdog and most of my life living with fear of failure and most of my life not really sure if I had properly understood anything because I often had different answers and as a result the majority of my life, until recently, feeling unintelligent and a fraud. Whilst on the surface I managed to achieve academically to a professional level, I did not get away unscathed. The impact that the pressure I placed on myself to succeed against the odds was at huge detriment to my confidence, self esteem and ultimately my mental health.
Until I got my diagnosis. Getting my diagnosis made me stronger because it gave me permission to make mistakes and learn from these. It gave me permission to find it difficult to spell, not an excuse but a genuine reason for why I couldn’t remember things I thought I had learnt. Understanding my diagnosis made me see I was battling in the wrong direction and getting hung up on things which didn’t really matter. I was wasting too much time, energy and effort on the mistakes and things which were going wrong.
I am so determined to be successful that I keep driving myself forward. Quitting has never been an option for me. I do still experience failure often and regularly. In Fact last night I received the feedback from my latest assignment and whilst not a fail, it has to be resubmitted. In years gone by I would have thought that I hadn’t worked hard enough, that perhaps I wasn’t really capable. I no longer think like that. I’m confident I couldn’t have worked harder, I did the best I could and the feedback given is to improve me and make me the best version of myself I can be.
I recently sent out my first lot of invoices to school… I made an error on 2 out of 30… I felt stupid for the smallest of moments. I then put it into perspective. The learning curve I have encountered over the lat few months with the company is steep and there will be errors and there will be set backs and that’s ok. Rome wasn’t built in a day and there is a reason for that! We all make mistakes but it’s how we bounce back from them that matters and how we move forward that makes us successful.
I have come to discover that my learning style actually is to take big risks… Going to university was a big risk. My A level results were not that good really, B, C and E! But somehow I got through. Running the marathon was a big risk, but I started from what I knew and built on it. Seeking new information and advice and support as I needed it throughout my training programme. Setting up the company was a big risk. My biggest difficulty associated with dyslexia is comprehension and processing information. For ages I tried to read about setting up a company and just couldn’t get my head round it. For a long time this was the barrier to me starting out. Until I realised I just had to do it and I would work it out on the way. I have a great accountant who offers support and advice on the technical side and I am learning and improving myself and knowledge all of the time.
My learning style is to use what I know to work out the stuff I don’t, when you take a risk and put yourself out there you have to use other peoples knowledge and expertise, it forces you to solve problems you would normally run from and it forces you to move your thinking forward.
Running the marathon for me was not the success. The training and believing in myself, finding out how much people loved me by supporting me was the success and the achievement. Crossing the finishing line was just proving I could do it. Setting up the company, the daily running and it evolving into a sustainable and impactful service is the success, not the fact that I am a director of it and own it. Both successes are not fixed moments in time but require continuous effort, determination and new learning but no one notices this and I think this is the bit that actually matters and makes it successful!
I have come to realise people don’t actually care about failure, infact unless they are directly affected they probably won’t even notice. People do notice success though and this is the crazy thing as without the failure and mistakes success wouldn’t actually happen so how do we shift the mindset? Dyslexia is just one challenge but everyone faces challenges at some point in their lives. We need to stop putting so much emphasis on achievement and start valuing the journey we take to get there as this is surely a much better measure of success and this is the bit that matters? This is also the bit people with dyslexia are really good at… We are used to working hard and we are used to the battle, growthmindset is in our make up, that doesn’t mean it’s easy, but everyone faces challenges and the real measure of success is how you work your way through them!
Author of ‘Don’t forget to smile… a memoir uncovering the hidden difficulties of dyslexia.’ Available on Amazon