Dyslexia - The Secret of Success

The secret of the super successful
According to a study commissioned by the BBC in 2003, dyslexics are far more likely to become self-made millionaires than others.

Secret of the super successful ...they’re dyslexic
Ben Dowell

YOU don’t have to be dyslexic, but it helps. A study has revealed that millionaires are significantly more likely to suffer from the condition than the rest of the population. Psychologists who analysed the mental make-up of business winners found learning difficulties are one of the most important precursors of financial success. About 40% of the 300 studied had been diagnosed with the condition — four times the rate in the general population.

Experts believe one reason may be that dyslexics, who tend not to be good at details, learn to excel by grasping the bigger picture and producing original ideas. They might also be more motivated because of the social exclusion many feel.

The findings, by Tulip Financial Research, show a huge majority of Britain’s estimated 5,000 self-made millionaires performed badly at school and continue to perform poorly in aptitude tests.

“Most people who make a million have difficult childhoods or have been frustrated in a major way,” said Adrian Atkinson, a business psychologist who assisted with the tests. “Dyslexia is one of the driving forces behind that.”


Sir Richard Branson, head of Virgin, who made his first million by the age of 18 after founding a record label, is a classic example of the successful dyslexic. Branson, a billionaire, admits he did not understand the difference between net and gross profit until it was explained to him three years ago.

“One of the problems about being dyslexic is that you don’t perform well at school and I knew I wasn’t going to pass my exams so I did other things,” said Branson. “Being dyslexic means I am good at delegation and the bigger picture.”

Lord Heseltine — the former Tory cabinet minister whose wealth was put at £203m in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, largely from his Haymarket publishing empire — has also suffered throughout his life from dyslexia.

He recalls his first entrepreneurial steps at Shrewsbury school: “I wasn’t any good at games, so when all these very energetic fellows spent the afternoon exhausting themselves on the soccer playing fields of Shrewsbury I used to carry lemonade up the hill and sell it at a significant mark-up.”

The latest study was commissioned for a BBC2 series, Mind of a Millionaire....Ivan Massow, a former Tory party adviser and businessman who made his first million at 21 and is dyslexic, said the findings chimed with his experiences.

Massow, who came from a broken home and felt himself shunned at school, insisted his traumatic early experiences were beneficial to his career.

Small Business - The mind of an entrepreneur: 
Childhood shapes the future whiz-kids
Rachel Bridge discovers the secrets of how to make your first million

THEY are hugely optimistic, full of energy and extremely exciting to be around. But they are also stubborn, single-minded and selfish. And they absolutely hate holidays. Welcome to the fascinating world inside the mind of the entrepreneur, where risk is irrelevant, speed is vital - and failure is not an option. 

In a bid to find out what makes them tick, a team of psychologists and business experts spent a day putting a group of entrepreneurs through a series of psychological tests for a new BBC2 series, called Mind of a Millionaire.... What they found was rather surprising. Adrian Atkinson, business psychologist with the consultancy Human Factor International and one of the programme’s experts, says: "Entrepreneurs are different to the rest of us. They don’t behave rationally in the way other people do. They’re willing to risk everything to start a business. They pursue opportunities without regard for resources, preferring to create the opportunity and then find the money later. "They believe that everything that happens, whether good or bad, is due to their actions."

The result, he says, is great for the economy, which thrives on constant innovation and change, but not so good for dinner-party conversation. "You wouldn’t want to get stuck in a lift with an entrepreneur because most of them are not tremendously enjoyable companions," he says. "They have this amazing focus and single-mindedness and they don’t need relationships with other people. They just talk about business all the time."

Atkinson says entrepreneurs can be divided into three distinct types:
Social entrepreneurs, such as Paul Harrod, whose company provides employment for the homeless. These are driven by the desire to improve society.
Theme entrepreneurs, such as Anita Roddick, who start businesses within a particular defined area; and
Serial entrepreneurs, such as Richard Branson, who look for opportunities to create wealth anywhere and will often set up one company after another in quick succession.

All three types are, however, motivated by one of three factors - revenge, status or power. And the roots of that stem overwhelmingly from their childhood experiences. Atkinson explains: "Revenge entrepreneurs are driven to put right a social injustice to their family or to themselves, which they experienced as a child.

"Status entrepreneurs are driven to create a situation where they are highly respected by the people they think matter. Something in their childhood has made them feel excluded and they are determined to show the world that they fit in. "Power entrepreneurs are driven by the desire to show people they can do whatever they want to do. What drives all of them is the desire to create wealth to appease their feelings of insecurity. It is not about money, it is about providing security from slipping back into their previous existence."Rene Carayol, a business adviser and another member of the programme’s team of experts, says one of the most fascinating characteristics of entrepreneurs is their absolute refusal to acknowledge failure. He says: "They don’t do failure, they redefine it. Failure for them is a learning experience that will enable them to be even better. If they fall over, they just come straight back up again. I have never met such a bunch of optimistic people. Everything is an opportunity, the glass isn’t half full, it’s spilling over."

Carayol says there are several things traditional business people can learn from the way entrepreneurs work. He says: "Number one, making mistakes is okay. It’s a necessary part of learning. Number two, speed is the key competitive advantage when you’re in business now - it’s not who does it better, it’s who gets there first. Time used to be the enemy. It’s now an assassin. And number three, play to your strengths." Sadly, for the rest of us, however, Carayol thinks that ultimately entrepreneurs are born, not made. He says: "If you don’t have that drive, that energy, that focus, then you can’t make a chicken salad out of chicken s**t, no matter how you try."

Case study: 
Alexander Amosu, 28, made his first million composing ring tones for his friends’ mobile phones. He began selling them for £1 a time from his bedroom, but within four months he had moved into offices and was employing 21 staff. In the first year his company, Rnb Wild, had sales of £1.3m. He sold it for several million pounds this year to start up a new business selling video downloads for mobile phones.

Amosu, who was brought up in Kilburn, northwest London, by his grandmother, got his first taste of being an entrepreneur at the age of 12 when he got a paper round so he could afford a pair of new trainers.

He says: ‘The best way to make money is when you make money out of nothing. There have been many times when people have said to me, what the hell are you doing, you are just wasting your time. But I don’t get put off when people are negative, it spurs me on. If you don’t try something, then you have failed yourself.’
Comments