Triangles in a world of Circles


Kevin Lawrence here, and today I want to share with you a fascinating conversation I had with a young teenager around ADD and dyslexia. In the world that I work, with entrepreneurs, and leaders, ADD is one of these things that’s extremely common but often not really talked about. It’s one of these things that people aren’t advertising the fact that they might have ADD or dyslexia. Yet, it turns out some of the most high-performing leaders I work with have ADD, regularly. And dyslexia is quite common, particularly in entrepreneurs.

So I was having a conversation with Devon. He was 17 at the time. He was the son of one of my clients who had really struggled with ADD and dyslexia in school. We’re sitting in a cafe having a conversation, and we’re talking about it. I wanted to understand, from his perspective, what it was like at school.

As we were talking, we came up with this brilliant metaphor that kind of described his experience. It was interesting, because it related a lot to conversations I have with executives and what they need to do to create high performance in their world.

Really, what Devon was saying is that his teachers tried to help him in school, but because his teachers didn’t understand him, it’s almost like they would yell at him, or raise their voice. It sounded like they were yelling at him. Every time they tried to help, it actually hurt, and made the problem worse.

The conversation was his teachers weren’t bad people. They just didn’t understand because they came from a context more like a circle — a regular, well rounded person, which many teachers would be, and lots of people in the world are.

The problem is Devon is more like a triangle. He’s a different kind of person. But a circle person doesn’t understand a triangle, and therefore it’s hard for them, no matter how good their intent, for them to help.

It was interesting. We were in a Starbucks Cafe, and we got this metaphor because the table we were sitting at was a round table, and it had a triangle cut into the table. That’s where the metaphor came from.

The conversation I had with Devon, as I was kind of helping him with this, is really that the truth is, in society, our tendency is to take triangles and try to make them into circles. And that’s what really messes up people who are different: high performers or people that have ADD or dyslexia.

The conversation with him was his teachers have a great intent. But they don’t understand him and how to leverage his abilities. Really what Devon needs to focus on is to be a better triangle, same with lots of leaders; just focus on your strengths and be a better version of that.

Then with these areas that are missing to make you a well rounded person, that’s where you delegate. You work on a team. You hire people or get other people to help you with it, and that’s how people can be high performing.

If you look at real high performers that have ADD or dyslexia, they are amazing triangles. They’ve learned to embrace it, and they stop trying to fix these things that are different about them. Instead, they outsource, hire, or delegate those parts of their life or work, and they usually become higher performing individuals than your regular, well rounded circle.