The $500 Millionaire always tells me is that my biggest strength is my ignorance. This is not something you would want to hear from someone who you respect and it took me a second to understand that this is not an insult. Ignorance has nothing to do with ability. Ignorance is defined as lack of knowledge or information. If you know me personally, that describes me well in certain aspects. This is not a disadvantage but according to the $500 Millionaire, it is an advantage.
This point was brought up and expressed very well in Malcom Gladwell’s new book, “David and Goliath” (http://gladwell.com/david-and-goliath/). If you do not know the story of David and Goliath, it was always understood that the under dog won. In reality the under dog never wins. They might be thought of as being at a disadvantage but that alone is a STRONG advantage.
Growing up I received many different titles as a student. Some of the most prominent titles any 10-15 year old boy would love. Class Clown was probably the “nicest” term that was used to describe me. At this same time, in the late 90’s there was this fade called “learning disabilities” that were just starting to become popular throughout school teachers. Now, it is an epidemic. You wouldn’t believe this but because a kid cannot pay attention in a history class, that means they have an issue!!! (I wish there was a font for sarcasm but that last line was sarcastic) The $500 Millionaire is older, wiser, and much more mature than myself, and even he would have issues sitting through a boring presentation in class.
When I was labeled, it was great! I got away with everything. I had extended time for tests, I would pass classes I probably didn’t deserve to pass. Basically if I put C effort into anything, I would get an A. I found the more labels I received, the more I was able to slack. At the time it was FANTASTIC but looking at it now, I cannot tell you ANYTHING I learned between 4th grade and 11th grade. As you can probably read in this blog here, I never fully learned the fundamentals of reading, writing, or spelling. If you have read this blog from the beginning you know the WHOLE point of this blog was to force myself to write due to it being such a weakness. Everytime I post these blogs, I have to go back after I get a message from someone who tells me what mistakes I have made. Do I like hearing that I do not know how to read, write, or spell…no, but each time I mess up (FAIL) I am reminded and I then learn from it. People always ask me why I do not proof read what I write…the truth is that I did, and this is still what you get. When it comes to reading, it is just as hard. I have to FORCE myself to read a book and if I was to read a book cover to cover, it use to take me MONTHS. The only thing I remember throughout school was the disciplinary actions slowly going away as I received more labels.
So how did I survive? The answer is adapt. Right now it takes me forever to read a book so when I found Audible.com which allows me to listen to books. I have been able to do on average 2 books a week. I had to make it work. I had to get creative and experienced failure almost every day throughout grade school. That was the best thing that I received while in school. I learned how to fail, and keep going. Only about three teachers would let me fail if I chose too and that really helped shape me.
The disadvantage that I’ve had my whole life has been my advantage and I am just now realizing it. I have always had to think outside the box. Learning anything never came easy to me. I was the bottom part of class that let the top 50% exist. Needless to say I had to work hard in order to get mediocre grades. I was babied by some and pushed by others. The ones that pushed me are the ones that helped get results. The one that let me slide, just made things worse.
The worst thing we can do is give unreal expectations for anyone just because they have a label or a disability. That doesn’t mean you should not support their needs but when I say unreal, I mean to give someone exemptions that will not exist in the real world. This will only hurt them. Weather it is our strengths or weaknesses we need to be able to turn our disadvantage into advantage and the way we over-nurture people, is just continuing to point out their flaw. Instead, let’s see what that disadvantage and help them adapt around that.
Think of your weakness and the hardships that you had to go through and how have they helped you grow. If you are dyslexic does that mean school will be easy? …probably not. Does that mean that you can’t use this for other advantages? … absolutely not. Some of the most successful people would have been labeled as having a learning disability if they even existed while they grew up.
Humans adapt. It is the one thing that allows us to survive. We have no other real advantage in the world besides our ability to adapt which is cause by the ability of our brain. Instead of enabling someone with a “disadvantage” try to help them find their advantage. One thing the $500 Millionaire says to never judge a fish by his ability to fly. Pass it around and stop feeling bad for yourself and others. Instead, find what the strengths are.