7 years, 4 months ago

WTF is a Dyslexic Polymath?

One Saturday last January, my wife and I were visiting my cousin Andy and his family for the weekend. He and I were in his kitchen; me bending his ear about my new ‘Found In Design’ un-book idea, while he cooked breakfast.

Andy’s a smart cookie who works for Ricardo UK and someone I love to test ideas with. After ten minutes of me machine-gunning my thoughts at Andy, he rested the spatula in the frying pan and turned to face me.

“Look, Nige, you’re a great storyteller, and I like your ideas, you know I do use one of your thinking tools, but isn’t this stuff just common sense”?

I paused for a moment mid-stream, at first not sure whether to be insulted or pleased. I decided pleased – and with a smile retorted with a quote from Voltaire:

“Why is common sense, not so common”?

Andy glanced back down at the pan, and sighed.  He had a moment of reflection; his inner voice telling him that lives with that reality daily. I’d stated the obvious again! 

He glanced over, and with a withered smile, replied:

“Good, point…” and added,  “Would you like a sausage with your breakfast?”


A few days later I was recounting the conversation with Andy to a friend. Once I’d finished, she paused for a moment, and then laughed loudly – looking me square in the eye:

“I know exactly what he means.  It often seems to me that you end up stating the ‘bleeding obvious’, but when I think about it, it wasn’t actually obvious before you started babbling on”.

She then added:

“I think it’s the way your weird ‘dyslexic polymath’ brain works – you seem to see simple patterns that the rest of us don’t see. And when tell us a story that explains one of them, they just do seem like common sense”!

“Oh, thanks”, I said flatly,  feeling a bit insulted, and confused.

I guess I’ve always been embarrassed about my dyslexia. This stems from unhelpful, “old-school”, teachers and, frankly, a fairly unsupportive father (who freely admits now he made a bit of a hash of parenting me). Mum, however, was different she helped me understand Shakespeare’s plays through Lambs Tales and encouraged me to write poetry, lyrics & music. She helped me tell my stories.

So when my friend called out my dyslexia, I felt very awkward at first. But then I realised, she had a point; the way my brain is wired does help me see things a bit differently. And I suppose my fanaticism over SIMPLICITY and PATTERN seeking might be directly related to dyslexia. I think they might be the coping mechanism I’ve used to survive, and thrive, despite my lack of academic qualification. So maybe being a ‘Thicko” isn’t so bad after all; maybe weirdly-wired misfits can help by stating the “bleeding obvious”!


Oh, and, by the way, once I’d looked up ‘polymath’ I decided I would buy my friend a pint next time I saw her.