It’s the end of August, the end of summer. Time to return to school. Growing up, this weekend was always the worst weekend of the year for me.
For many kids, going back to school is a happy time. You get to see all your friends again and swap stories. Check out what’s cool this season. Try out for a new sport. But for me, the anxiety would build and build until I would literally throw up. The idea of facing yet another year of being taunted by other students made me sick with dread. Every time I was dragged from class to special reading sessions with tutors was another opportunity for them to devastate me.
In class, I used to hide and pray the teacher would not ask me to read out loud. By the time I got to high school, I had learned to cause diversions every time a teacher asked me a question. Knock all my books off my desk. Start coughing uncontrollably. The tactic would frustrate most teachers and they would just pass the question to the next student. When I think about it, I didn’t actually raise my hand once to answer a question in elementary, high school or college.
Why? I am dyslexic and I have ADD.
I was actually able to get into the British Columbia Institute of Technology by taking summer math classes over and over again until I was finally accepted. I will never forgot the first day of class there. Ninety students in our Mechanical Engineering Tech program were gathered in a hall. The Dean stood in front of us and said, “Take a look at the people sitting around you. By Christmas, 50% of you will be gone.” We all chuckled, thinking it was a joke. But I took him seriously: that familiar dread filled my stomach once again.
And he was correct. At Christmas, I was one of the 50% well on my way out the door. But I refused to be kicked out. I went to the Dean's office and asked him for a second chance. I proposed that he allow me to stay on two conditions: I take all the courses I had failed at night school, along with a full day course load, and I pass everything. He agreed.
I worked hard and wisely surrounded myself with friends who were willing to help me out. Eventually I graduated.
Living with dyslexia and ADD has been a huge struggle. But now, in my later years, I realize it is actually a gift. I am able to see special things others may not. Having been knocked down so often, I am able to push through where others may give up. I have learned to thrive on adrenaline. I have mastered how to hyper-focus.
Only recently I learned from my good friend and coach Kevin Lawrence that most of his high-level entrepreneurial clients around the world have either ADD or dyslexia. They are the most successful people he has ever met. Only later did I realize that Kevin also has ADD. We have decided to share a message with the world: people with ADD or dyslexia are gifted—not freaks. Some of the most amazing leaders and true world-changers share this gift. Together, we have formed an initiative called GIFTADD which shares success stories of those with ADD/dyslexia. Check out our website. Share it with anyone you know who may be similarly gifted.