Published May 3rd, 2014
I want to relate a personal story that I hope will enlighten and inspire others to think differently about disabilities.
But first, a confession: I have dyslexia.
Throughout my entire life, I have struggled with this reading and writing disorder, which has been a blessing and a curse. It was a curse in my early years when doctors, medical experts and teachers couldn't properly diagnose it and didn't even have a name for it.
It was a curse in grade school and high school when I was constantly teased because I didn't measure up to the other kids who could read fluently and breeze through their homework. As a teenager, my disability caused me no end of frustration, embarrassment and self-doubt.
But my dyslexia was also a blessing, and I'll get to that in a moment.
As a teenager, I knew that I had the capacity and desire to learn: I was a resourceful kid and taught myself how to fix bicycles and to build a dune buggy. I made friends easily and enjoyed activities that other kids enjoyed.
At 14 or 15, I realized that I would never be able to read at a high level. Nevertheless, this moment of self awareness fueled a fierce desire to figure out how to achieve my goals. At that moment, with the encouragement of my parents, I made a conscious decision not to let my inability to read stop me from learning a trade.
Years later, I discovered that many people with dyslexia have made similar decisions not to let their disorder prevent them from achieving their goals (Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford and Whoopi Goldberg, to name a few).
To succeed without being able to read or write properly meant that I needed to surround myself with people who could read and write well. It meant I needed to develop strong skills in other areas, such as listening, communication, intuition, problem solving, negotiation, and lateral thinking.
A wise man once told me not to always take the easy road. What I took from that is that hard work builds character and brings its own rewards.
When I obtained my automotive technician's certification at 20, I felt a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment. It showed me that I could achieve success without following traditional paths; I could do it my way.
These days, doctors and caregivers know how to identify dyslexia in early child development and can provide learning tools and support systems for children with this disability.
We are fortunate to live in an age where disabilities (mental and physical) don't have the stigma they once did. Today, there are educational resources, support groups and career opportunities for people who struggle with all sorts of disabilities.
My main message here is not to let a disability prevent you from accomplishing what you want in life. If you have been dealt a disability or a handicap in life, whatever your age, don't let it stop you from pursuing your dreams and achieving all that you can achieve.
And let people know about your disability. There is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. If people know about it, they will understand.
I have learned much from sharing my disability with friends and colleagues (I'm still learning). I have also been inspired by high-profile men and women who have led extraordinary lives despite their disabilities or handicaps.
At our Auto Group, we proudly employ and support people with disabilities. I am sensitive to their needs and inspired by what they can do. We look at the ability, not the disability.
If you have achieved goals in life in spite of a disability, I'd love to hear about it.