Posted December 20, 2005
Kinko's founder found the
positive in ADD
See origional story [link]
By Jean Peerenboom
Paul Orfalea was a D-student, flunked two
grades, was expelled from four out of eight schools, and graduated
eighth from the bottom of his high school class. As a hyperactive
dyslexic, he was barely able to read, struggled on school tests,
had no mechanical ability, and after being fired from numerous
jobs, was virtually unemployable as a young adult.
Eventually, he found a way to turn learning
disabilities into learning opportunities. He thought outside
of the box without even knowing there was a box. In 1970, he
founded the highly successful Kinko's Copy Center.
He talks about his struggles, challenges,
philosophy and successes in his new book "Copy This! Lessons
From a Hyperactive Dyslexic Who Turned a Bright Idea into One
of America's Best Companies" (Workman, $23.95).
"Even if they're straight-A students,
speed readers and star athletes, they're scared half to death
of putting themselves on the line," he writes. "They
need a push. This is one of the greatest lessons I learned from
my own struggles, from my dyslexia, my restlessness and what
others call my ADHD. Doing life alone is not second best, it's
impossible. We need other people. We need to know how to talk
with them, argue with them, build with them and introduce ourselves
to them. We need a push. It's funny to think that human beings
forget this fact, especially the straight-A types."
"If you're going to enjoy the picnic
that life really is, you'd better learn to like yourself, not
despite your flaws and so-called deficits, but because of them,"
Orfalea said he still has no idea how a
copy machine works, has never used e-mail and reads, at best,
at a fifth-grade level. The chain he founded is now FedEx Kinko's
and is going strong.
"My job was going from store to store
to store to find out what people were doing right," he said.
"In every store, there was something people were doing that
was novel or creative."
He hired and relied on capable managers.
"Would you hire an incompetent guy like me?" he asks.
"But I knew how to hold other people accountable."
Orfalea said he took prospective employees
out for beers to see how they behaved, asked if they enjoyed
visiting their parents and posed a question he knew the applicant
would be unable to answer.
"Those three things were the ones
I relied on the most," he said. "How they handled themselves
while drinking, if they got along with their parents and if they
would say 'I don't know' in an interview."
"Copy This!" tells a fascinating
story of an amazing man, one of a handful of successful entrepreneurs
who never quite learned to read, write or sit still for any length
of time. Orfalea's Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder taught
him not to be deterred by obstacles, how to cut through the red
tape - or just ignore it - to grow a business without losing
perspective, to surround himself with the right people and still
have plenty of time to enjoy life.
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