+44 (0) 7777 682 618 Info@CreativeVectorsCoaching.co.uk

A dyslexic journalist? Surely a recipe for disaster. You might be surprised.

A.A. Gill’s autobiography, Pour Me: A Life is a great read for those of us who love his journalism. He’s the Sunday Times’ restaurant and TV critic as well as an occasional feature writer, including his Amnesty award winning Displaced Persons’ series. Whatever he writes about, it’s always erudite, compelling and witty, and if you don’t always agree with his opinion, you can be sure that it has been well, or at least amusingly argued.

His success is all the more surprising considering his troubled background. He is a severely dyslexic, recovering alcoholic.

Leaving boarding school with one A level in art and having been in detention every Saturday during his stay, Gill studied art at St Martin’s College before falling into a succession of dead-end jobs and developing life threatening alcoholism. Following rehab – he has not drunk since – he began teaching cookery to small groups. One attendee’s boyfriend asked him to write a piece on his rehab clinic for Tatler Magazine. The editor spotted his talent and nurtured his growth as a columnist, resulting in him winning an award in his first year.

It turns out that knowing how to write – punctuation and spelling  – is an important but widely available skill. Knowing what to write is a very rare skill, and Gill has it in abundance. He attributes his success to the very difficulties he has faced. Dyslexic kids develop charm to help them survive the classroom, he says. His flight from words to drawing taught him how to look at things in detail and sharpened his perception. Alcoholics need to become skilled judges of character and situations. His life experiences gave him an edge over his clever but green competitors in journalism.

He writes using a computer, but then dictates his pieces to a copy taker who creates the finished piece. He says he must do this within two weeks, or even he can’t read what he wrote. Using this method, he has sustained a celebrated (if occasionally controversial) career in journalism at The Sunday Times, perhaps the premier UK newspaper.

Gill reported his teenage fury at his father’s suggestion that he should become a journalist. “How can I be a f***ing journalist, when I can’t f***ing write!” he fumed. This got me thinking. How many of us don’t even try things because we perceive some insurmountable obstacle that turns out to be as fixable as hiring a copy taker?

Our self-limiting assumptions are often deep-rooted and unconscious. They may be vestiges of well-meaning instructions from our childhood to keep us out of trouble.

“Jobs / Success / Opinions like that aren’t for the likes of us”

“Girls shouldn’t argue”

“Only weak men show their feelings”

Some of these ideas become so internalised, we can’t even say why a particular goal is unobtainable for us.

Bringing the assumptions we have into consciousness allows us to challenge thinking that might be out of date now, wrong or irrelevant. Naming and challenging our beliefs is the first step to testing their veracity and thinking creatively about how – if the roadblock really is there – we can navigate around or over it.

What’s stopping you from achieving what you want to? Find someone to talk it over with. Other peoples’ perspectives might be useful. Ask the gatekeeper directly if there are alternative ways to qualify, or hire a coach to help you challenge your assumptions. You might just find there are 101 ways to get what you want.