Shark Tank’s Daymond John pushes past Dyslexia to millions


By Carter Higgins,

These days, Daymond John can be seen just about everywhere: from giving advice on business mergers, inking multi-million dollar deals on ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank or finding other ways to continue to build his empire he built from the clothing brand, FUBU.

This success may not have been possible if John had let his difficulty with dyslexia define him.

Dyslexia, also known as reading disorder, is characterized by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees. Problems may include difficulties in spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, “sounding out” words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads. Often these difficulties are first noticed at school.[4] When someone who previously could read loses their ability, it is known as alexia. The difficulties are involuntary and people with this disorder have a normal desire to learn.

Although associated with teens and pre-teens, dyslexia may begin in adulthood as the result of a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or dementia.

Initially, John had it tough going through school. “In math and science, I would excel,” says John. “I could look at something quickly and get high grades, A’s and B’s.” Yet reading and spelling were another story. His father’s frustration turned to yelling and worse when John couldn’t get certain words, no matter how often the two would study them. “Literally, I couldn’t spell the word ‘because’ for 4 or 5 years. I wouldn’t know how to spell my middle name, Garfield. When I read a book, I got tired.” He was a C or D student in language arts, even though he spent far more time working on it.

When his struggles in school finally became a little too much, his parents set out to get him to see a professional. The diagnosis of a learning/ behavioral issue didn’t sit well with his mother. “My mother didn’t believe it,” he remembers. “She just said I wasn’t applying myself. She felt I was brilliant, because she would work with me on a daily basis and see my abilities.”

John’s point of view in school was simple. He knew he wasn’t good at reading, but math and science and everything else came easily. So he worked hard to be exceptional “and look like a superstar” where he could, and was content to squeak by when it came to reading and writing. The key, it seems, was that he never let his one area of weakness define his whole self.

“My mother always said, ‘It takes the same energy to think small as it does to think big,’” John says. “So dream big and think bigger.”

John did think analytically about what kind of student he was. “You always have to know where you’re weak and where you’re strong,” John explains, in business and in life. So for high school, he chose a program where his challenges wouldn’t hurt him.

That specific mindset helped give him the drive in his early 20s to turn FUBU from a project with friends into a multimillion-dollar business. “I would write something down, think about it, visualize it, and work my way toward it.”

As an adult, John keeps that momentum going with a five-day-a-week ritual:

  • John keeps a running list of about seven goals at a time, which he writes on a piece of paper. Each goal has an expiration date and a couple lines detailing how he’ll achieve the goal.
  • They will always include a health goal, family goal, business goal, relationship goal, and philanthropy goal. The other two often involve another business project or his personal finances.
  • Each goal is specific and worded in positive language. For example, John writes that he currently has a goal of getting down to 170 pounds by July 4; rather than add that he will do this by avoiding fried foods, meat, and alcohol, he adds that he will be doing this by regularly eating fish, drinking eight glasses of water each day, and exercising twice daily.
  • John reads through his list when he wakes up and before he goes to sleep so that his goals are the first and last things he thinks about.
  • He reads his goals an average of five days a week, giving himself some time to step back.

John’s main takeaway he had as a kid, can be found in his own book, “The Power of Broke,”:

Stop telling himself everything he didn’t want to be, instead focus on what he did want. He sustained this mindset through the practice of regularly writing down and reviewing his goals.

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