Defying All Odds: 6 Successful People Who Never Let Their Struggle To Read Define Them

Growing up with a learning disability (LD) can be extremely frustrating. It often means having to learn in different ways from one's peers, and feeling alienated in the process.

However, a learning disability does not denote a lack of ability or intelligence; it simply means that a person's brain works differently. In essence, learning disabilities do not define a person.

Likewise, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) notes:

Learning disabilities (LDs) are real. They affect the brain's ability to receive, process, store, respond to and communicate information. LDs are actually a group of disorders, not a single disorder. ...People with LD are of average or above-average intelligence but still struggle to acquire skills that impact their performance in school, at home, in the community and in the workplace. Learning disabilities are lifelong, and the sooner they are recognized and identified, the sooner steps can be taken to circumvent or overcome the challenges they present.

At present, there are 2.4 million students with LDs. Many of them likely feel stigmatized and misunderstood. Yet, just because certain individuals learn differently than their peers doesn't mean that they don't have the capacity to fulfill their dreams.

We all have to discover the world in our own way; there is no single path to success or enlightenment. Besides, the world would be extremely boring if we all perceived it the same way.

Learning should be dynamic, not prescribed. Thus, individuals with LD's are not destined for failure. They are accustomed to overcoming challenges and meeting them head on.

Having an LD often means that learning is a struggle. Yet, it is through struggle that greatness is achieved and strength of character is forged.

In fact, some of the most accomplished people in history faced LDs. These individuals were responsible for incredible achievements long before LD's were even fully acknowledged.

Accordingly, they are a testament to the fact that learning is a lifelong endeavor; it simply requires determination, inquisitiveness and passion.

Here are some of the most successful individuals, past and present, with LDs:

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci epitomized what it means to be a "Rennaissance Man." He was a philosopher, painter, architect, musician and beyond. Yet, unbeknownst to many people, he also had dyslexia.

Accoringly, Dr. Sheldon Horowitz of NCLD contends:

Based on what we know of [da Vinci], he—like so many people with LD—stood out as different from his peers but was able to structure his life around his strengths and unique capabilities. He had an extraordinary sense of visual-spatial planning, which we have come to appreciate as a characteristic of many people with dyslexia.  He could write frontwards, backwards and up and down, and his ability to create wildly imaginative drawings of inventions maps onto how we perceive some many of our kids with LD and ADHD today.

Steven Spielberg

Spielberg is an Oscar award-winning director and is behind some of the greatest films of all time.

He also has dyslexia, which has often made him feel isolated and different, but he never let this stop him from pursuing his dreams.

When I felt like an outsider, movies made me feel inside my own skill set.

Richard Branson

Branson is a billionaire and the founder of the Virgin Group. By 16, he had already begun his first business.

The man is an inspiration to millions of people. He also struggles with dyslexia, but he has always seen it as a strength and the secret to his success.

Back when I was in school, few people understood dyslexia and what to do for it... My teachers thought I was lazy and not very clever, and I got bored easily...thinking of all the things I could do once I left school. I couldn’t always follow what was going on. On one of my last days at school, the headmaster said I would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. That was quite a startling prediction, but in some respects he was right on both counts!

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper is an award-winning journalist and popular TV personality on CNN.

Yet, he has always struggled with a mild form of dyslexia. Overcoming this challenge led him to appreciate reading on a very personal level, which ultimately sparked his interest in journalism.

When I was a kid I was diagnosed with a mild form of dyslexia. I remember I would always carry a book around with me, but I was never actually reading the book. I would just pretend to read because I had trouble making sense of the words and letters. Luckily I went to a school that caught the problem very quickly and I had access to people who could really help. It’s vital that kids have access to teachers who can meet their unique needs. Too many kids with learning disabilities struggle to keep up with their peers and suffer from low confidence.

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab is one of the most successful businessmen and investors in America. He also failed English twice at one point because of his dyslexia, and read comic book versions of the classics in order to understand them.

Consequently, he has always preferred oral communication over the written word.

He went to Stanford University, and really struggled during his time there:

I flunked English twice. They just passed me through the third time. I got an F in French. I had a tough enough time with the first language. When I came out of public high school I thought I could charm my teachers. I found out in college I couldn't.

Obviously, his dyslexia did not prevent him from rising to the top of the business world. If you want something bad enough, keep fighting. As Winston Churchill once said, "If you're going through hell, keep going."

Jay Leno

Jay Leno has experienced widespread fame and success as a popular TV personality and comedian. As a child, however, Leno struggled in school due to his dyslexia.

Comedy is not an easy world to succeed in; it's extremely competitive and most people never make it big. Leno attributes his success to fact that overcoming his dyslexia taught him to persevere.

In perhaps the most vindicating moment of his career, Jay Leno called his 5th grade teacher, Mr. Simon, who had given him a poor grade on an assignment surrounding astronaut John Glenn. Four decades later, Leno was interviewing Glenn on live television:

I had Glenn sign a thing for Mr. Simon and I got my paper upgraded from a C- to an A.

Stay determined, and don't ever let anyone discourage you from pursuing your dreams. No matter what obstacles you may face, no challenge is insurmountable.

Photo Credit: WENN