Richard Branson wants people to think of dyslexia as an asset, not a weakness.
The founder of Virgin recently described his experience with the disorder in a blog post for the U.K.’s Sunday Times, right before launching a new charity for dyslexia on Tuesday.
Branson wrote that his dyslexia was “treated as a handicap” in school, which he stopped attending as a teenager.
“There were some subjects where I drew a complete blank,” he wrote. “[Math] just didn’t make sense to me. I once did an IQ test and the questions seemed absurd. For years I hadn’t been able to work out the difference between gross and net.”
However, the symptoms of dyslexia ― like slow reading, confusion with math and difficulty processing words ― are precisely what Branson says enabled him to build his business empire.
“Once freed from archaic schooling practices and preconceptions, my mind opened up,” he explained. “Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage: it helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems.”
Branson has spoken out about his dyslexia before. He’s also mentored children with the disorder and has given talks about how it shaped his youth. Now, he explains, it’s time to make sure schools are equipped to support kids with the same condition.
Approximately 5 to 15 percent of people in the U.S. are thought to have the dyslexia, and some estimates reach as high as 17 percent. Yet the disorder is still subject to stigma.
Branson’s new charity, Made by Dyslexia, aims to tackle that by changing the way people think about the condition.
“Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, artists and tech professionals are dyslexic ― yours truly included,” he wrote on Virgin’s website announcing the launch of the initiative. “From my own experience, I know that dyslexic people can achieve great things when they focus on their strengths and get the right support in school.”
We’re certainly here for that school of thought.