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- Half of the “Shark Tank” investors – Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran, and Kevin O’Leary – are dyslexic. Guest Shark Richard Branson is, as well.
- Dyslexia is a lifelong learning disability that makes reading difficult, but does not affect intelligence.
- Research suggests that anywhere from 5-20% of the global population has dyslexia, but that as many as a third of entrepreneurs in the United States has it.
- The Sharks say that skills that help with dyslexia, like learning how to control focus and delegate responsibilities, help with creating and running businesses.
Dyslexia affects anywhere from 5%-20% of people in the world.
Among the judges on the NBC show “Shark Tank,” it’s 50%.
Three of the six “Shark Tank” investors are dyslexic, and they consider the learning disability not a disability at all, but an advantage.
Research suggests they’re onto something. A 2007 report from the Cass Business School in London found that 35% of 139 American entrepreneurs surveyed were dyslexic. While that number is based on a small study that may have resulted in a number that isn’t representative of an entire population, other research has found the percentage of entrepreneurs with dyslexia is higher than the percentage of those in the overall population.
According to the DyslexiaHelp team at the University of Michigan, dyslexia affects people of all intelligence levels, but affects an above-average percentage of those with high intelligence.
In a recent interview with “Shark Tank” investor Daymond John for Business Insider’s podcast “Success! How I Did It,” John mentioned his fellow dyslexic Sharks, and explained how he was able to use dyslexia to his advantage as an entrepreneur. Here’s what he and his other Sharks had to say on the subject, including the Season 9 guest Shark, Virgin founder Richard Branson.
- Daymond John: “As I look at, it was always a workaround,” he told us. “I would read something – I had to read it three times – then I’d have to go and try to do anything in there that I read because I don’t know if I grasped the information correctly. So it always made me take action.”
- Barbara Corcoran: She told Entrepreneur in 2014 that growing up with dyslexia forced her to be more creative and social than classmates who took to schoolwork more easily. The key, she said, was overcoming an insecurity over it and embracing it. “And the kids that are so good at school, that don’t have to fight for it, very often they don’t do as well in life and business because they’re not flexible,” she said. “There’s no system dictated to them out there like it is in school and they certainly tend not to make good entrepreneurs.”
- Kevin O’Leary: Like Corcoran, O’Leary was initially ashamed of his dyslexia, until he learned to control it. Then he considered it a “gift,” he told Entrepreneur in 2016. He said, “staying focused in challenging times and on the tasks you’re trying to achieve in business is very important, and that is actually how you get over dyslexia. Forcing yourself to focus over and over again.”
- Richard Branson: Branson has been one of the most vocal supporters of entrepreneurs with dyslexia. He told Bloomberg in 2015 that dyslexia has forced him to keep his communication with his team simple and efficient, and to be quick to delegate responsibilities to others that could do them better. “Too many leaders want to cling onto everything themselves and do everything themselves and never let go,” he said. Similarly, dyslexia also made him adopt a habit from a young age of keeping notes throughout the day, which has become “one of his most powerful tools” in business.
As John told us, he realized as a teenager that his dyslexia may have made him different from most people, but he believes the workarounds developed him into an entrepreneur.
You can listen to the full podcast episode below: