Emlyn Mousley: Dyslexia Made Me A Better Entrepreneur
Emlyn Mousley – co-founder of Aus-Asia Global Resources HK LTD and EmlynMousley.com – is dyslexic. He's also a highly successful entrepreneur. Mousley says his dyslexia has never hindered his success. In fact, it may be the driving factor that made his achievements possible in the first place.
Emlyn Mousley is in good company when it comes to successful leaders with dyslexia. His cohort includes the likes of Charles Schwab and Richard Branson. Separate studies have shown that 40 percent of millionaires in Britain and 35 percent of entrepreneurs in the U.S. are dyslexic. So what's the connection?
Dr. Sally Shaywitz, professor of learning development at Yale University, tells Businessweek that classic signs of dyslexia should be treated as assets instead of learning disabilities. She and her team at the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity have been studying the link between dyslexia and creative thinking. Their theory is that dyslexics are more creative thinkers because they need to navigate the world differently in order to learn and understand it.
“Many of the coping skills dyslexics learn in their formative years become best practices for the successful entrepreneur,” says Gabrielle Coppola, staff writer for Businessweek.
“Dyslexia forces you to look at things in totality and not just as a single chess move,” John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems and dyslexic like Emlyn Mousley, tells Coppola. “I play out the whole scenario in my mind and then work through it... All of my life, I've built organizations with a broad perspective in mind.”
Richard Branson, another well-respected entrepreneur, believes dyslexia has contributed to his success, much like Emlyn Mousley says. “Strangely, I think my dyslexia has helped,” Branson tells Time magazine. “When I launch a new company, I need to understand the advertising. If I can understand it, then I believe anybody can. Virgin speaks in normal language instead of using phrases that nobody understands, like 'financial-service industry.'”
Dyslexics have strengths in some strategic areas that others lack. “Dyslexic thinkers are said to excel in visual-spacial tasks involving whole-picture thinking and finding original and creative solutions to things,” says Fiona Smith, columnist for Business Review Weekly. “While dyslexics tend to not be good at details, it is believed they learn to excel by grasping the bigger picture and producing original ideas. Social exclusion may also be a factor in making them more motivated.”
Ron Davis, author of The Gift of Dyslexia, highlights eight factors that contribute to entrepreneurial success in people like Emlyn Mousley, Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, and others. First, they're better at altering and creating their own perceptions. They're more curious and aware of their environments than the average person. They think in pictures, not words, which leads to more vivid imaginations. They're more intuitive and insightful, and they're multi-dimensional thinkers. They can also experience thought as reality.
“These eight basic abilities, if not suppressed, invalidated or destroyed by parents or the educational process, will result in two characteristics: higher than normal intelligence, and extraordinary creative abilities,” Davis says.
Many successful dyslexic business people developed these skills at very young ages. “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,” Richard Branson recalls to Business Review Weekly. “Being dyslexic means I am good at delegation and the bigger picture.”
Since dyslexics have poor reading and written communication skills, they learn to develop excellent oral communication instead— including heightened delegation and problem-solving skills, which are essential to entrepreneurship.
“The ability to attack problems and solve them is essential when one is creating a new venture, so the dyslexic who has had to overcome problems to survive at school has much experience in this area,” says Julie Logan, a professor at the Cass Business School in London that studied the relationship between dyslexia and business success. The study found that 20 percent of entrepreneurs in Britain and 35 percent in the U.S. show signs of dyslexia.
“People really struggle to delegate,” Logan tells Businessweek, “and these people have learned to do that already. If you're bogged down in the details, you're not out there looking at where your business needs to go.”
Logan also found that being dyslexic meant trusting and relying on others from an early age – important building blocks for building solid business relationships. “Being a slow reader forces you to extract only vital information, so that you're constantly getting right to the point,” Gabrielle Coppola writes. “Dyslexics are also forced to trust and rely on others to get things done – an essential skill for anyone working to build a business.”
Successful people like Emlyn Mousley are proof that dyslexia shouldn't be considered a handicap. The condition provides special insight to the world that many ordinary people lack. And as far as building a successful business goes, “Just believe in yourself, follow what you believe is right, try and live your dream and not follow others,” Emlyn Mousley advises.
Rebekah Henson Plourde contributed to this article.