Success with Dyslexia, with William Manzanares IV | EDB 181

Entrepreneur & author William Manzanares IV discusses how he succeeds with dyslexia.

(25 minutes) William is a member of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, an entrepreneur, speaker, writer, investor, career developer and martial artist who holds a black belt in kwon moo hapkido. He was recently featured as one of South Sound Magazine’s “40 under 40”, and has recently published his first book “I Can’t Read”. William discusses the advantages dyslexia has given him, the importance reading has in his life, and talks about neurodiverse support in the Native American community.

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Entrepreneur, author & dyslexia self-advocate William Manzanares IV

HACKIE REITMAN (HR): Hi, I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman, welcome to another episode of Exploring Different Brains, and today we’re so lucky to have coming to us all the way from Washington State, William Manzanares of the Puyallup tribe out there, and this guy is an entrepreneur and a million other things. William, welcome to Different Brains.

WILLIAM MANZANARES IV (WM): I’m glad to be here, and thank you for having me!

HR: alright, now why don’t you introduce yourself properly and with the correct pronunciations of everything, because my brain is not pronouncing things appropriately.

WM: My name is William Manzanares, like you said, I’m a serial entrepreneur with a bunch of other titles, and now with being author from the Puyallup tribe of Indians in Washington State.

HR: Now, you didn’t mention that the way all of our brains are different, and my brain is having its challenges today, I don’t know how I’d be labeled. I got expelled in the first grade and 10th grade I struggle with this and that- how would you label your brain?

WM: I would label it as the mindset now is dyslexic, and just like wired a little different than the rest of the   population.

Fascination with business

HR: Tell us about your fascination with business- how it began.

WM: Oh, it began when I was little kid, I used to- my mom told the story on one of the businesses our grand opening- she was telling all the employees how I used to talk my little sister out of her Halloween candy and sell it back to her in November. I would just run stores in my room and just- enjoyed anything to do with business.

HR: Now, so I’m not going to ask you for any family-friendly rates on anything, ’cause look what you did to your sister with that Halloween candy! (laughs) that was good! What kind of businesses have you gone on to establish?

WM: I’ve had a string of chain of tobacco retail stores, convenience stores, I had a bar and grill at one point, I started a health food store-it was a whole store we had in that- and then invested in a publication started that from the ground up. There’s a few other things- some things I don’t want a name ’cause they were failures but-

HR: Hey, you can’t have the successes without the failures.

WM: Exactly.

The role of dyslexia in William’s life

HR: They used to say in boxing, “you judge a champion by what he does when he gets off the canvas.” So you’ve had a lot of different things. Tell us your attitude and how dyslexia has played into everything you do.

WM: Well, trying to find answers, I became more of an avid reader about five years ago, digesting audiobook after audiobook, and I was doing some research on the topic, and I started finding more answers to what I always saw as my own little work arounds, and so dyslexia to me has been my secret weapon in all my business. I’m able to see things that others can’t, or won’t, or won’t be able to- I just don’t know how to explain it to those who don’t have that way of thinking is that I can see around corners, I can see things before they happen, it gives me a really good gauge to talk to people and kind of feel their- I heard that its energy, but I guess empathy, I can feel other people’s positions of where they’re at in from working with them, I can see things from their perspectives. I believe that’s a great- a great advantage in business.

William’s work-arounds for dyslexia

HR: Now, give our audience- the secret what we’re about here is positive tools that can help, like the book I wrote is a Aspertools for Asperger’s and autism; tell us some of the tools that those of us who might have trouble reading in the audience, or dyslexia or whatever we call it- what are some of the tools that have helped you along the way your work arounds?

WM: Well, first of all, if you have in the business world if you have to write an email, I 100% use Grammarly with the Google Chrome add-on, it helps suggest words and it corrects- autocorrects- it’s way better than if you’re- at my age you’ll remember spell checks when they first came out, they didn’t really work, I use grammarly on a daily basis when it comes to reading. I use audio- Audible and audiobooks. I think if you haven’t ever tried an audiobook, you have to try it if you’re dyslexic. There is some traits with dyslexia- not everyone has this, but if some of your listeners do, try and listen to audiobook on a higher speed. I’m able to personally digest books at three and a half times the speed of what anyone else that doesn’t have it can’t listen at that speed, I believe that’s an amazing work around or advantage; and then dictation software, and using your phone, and just talking in your phone has been as technologies advance, I’m seeing it not as a problem as I would have when I was in grade school.

HR: Wow, very interesting. We interviewed a professional author Lisa Shapiro who confessed that Grammarly has just saved her, just a big advocate of it. I’ve been afraid to try it myself, and I don’t know- I’m not sure why, I think I’m afraid of all the data that I’m having access to it, but I don’t know how it works.

WM: I mean I used -when I use my Gmail, I use it; I don’t use it for every- I mean there’s a step I was in a gig once where I had to use Microsoft, and then I copied and pasted back to Grammarly ’cause I was such a crutch of using Gmail- I would recommend anyone to just trying it. You can always get rid of it, but once you tried it I don’t see a world without it.

Neurodiversity in Native American communities

HR: Well I’m going to give it a try, as soon as we get off this interview I’m going to give it a shot. Tell us the state of neurodiversity, or different brains within your tribe.

WM: When you come- I can speak more broadly than individuals and my tribe- when you come from historical trauma, as if anyone doesn’t understand the story of how the United States government over time would take tribes’ land away, and then move them around- it messed with the whole family dynamic, and I would say there’s a group of people who have historical trauma, and I believe that has the root cause of any other issue, that if you think of a Native American and you hear something negative, I would say that would be any of the issues, would be based on that. So when I say different brains, I say it back from the the first side, but then from every other side you have so many people from different walks of life coming together as one with the united purpose of culture, and maintaining our sovereignty.

HR: What about the- the tools they’ll give someone like- say someone with dyslexia, or someone who’s autistic or someone who -I consider alcoholism a neurodiversity, you know?

WM: Yeah.

HR: Is the approach any different within the tribe than it is generically?

WM: The approach that I would say that I appreciate the most with tribes is it’s more of an individual focus, because throughout the tribe, there’s a lot of connections in a lot of people related, so it could be a distant cousin, so you feel more compassion to want to help them then if it was just an average citizen in the United States where you don’t know them. So you see your brother, your sister, your cousin, and you can call them a brother by any family member means, that you can see them in pain. So there are many micro programs that help with those issues. The tribe invests heavily in the mental health- they have mental health, they have health, they have substance abuse, they have treatments, they- they provide that to help with that.

HR: Now does your tribe have casinos out there?

WM: Yes.

 Advice for new entrepreneurs 

HR: Okay, great. What advice would you have for our audience who are thinking of becoming serial entrepreneurs?

WM: You know, when I was younger, I used to think anyone could be an entrepreneur; my first advice is don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re scared to fail before you started, then you’re not in the right mind frame. Be- it’s okay to fail. You’re going to fail at some things- you’re not going to be perfect I would say just get out there and do it.

Misconceptions around dyslexia

HR: Just get out there and do it, yup. It’s like we tell a writer, just write! In surgery we would say “see one, do one, teach one,” but you’re not going to learn surgery just reading about it, you got to do it, and I think it’s the same thing in business. What’s the biggest single thing you think might be a misconception about dyslexia, from your point of view?

WM: There’s- the biggest single thing- I have to pause for a second, ’cause I’ve seen so many I believe the biggest single thing is that you see words backwards. That’s not- that’s- there’s a stigma that it’s people should know they have dyslexia because you see words backwards, but-

HR: What are some of the other things you think are misconceptions?

WM: That you’re stupid, or that you can’t read- it’s not- it’s not even a perspective of reading or phonetic reading, or any aspect of Dyslexia, is one trait that can go bad in school, or you might be dyslexic, but I’ve seen people who say people can’t read 100%, they just think it’s synonymous with dyslexia which is- that’s a big misconception.

HR: Yeah, I remember when I interviewed Matthew Schneps, a professor at MIT and Harvard, I started introducing him and he interrupted me, and he said, “Hackie, thanks for the nice introduction, but I want to straighten you out on something.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “you said I’m doing all these things despite my dyslexia, and I’m telling you I’m doing it precisely because of my dyslexia.” and as you pointed out in the beginning of the interview, you see things a different way, in many instances, sometimes better than your average bear. Could you expound on some of the- some of the ways it’s helped you?

WM: So, when you listen to traits that- I would ask your readers to read if they’re dyslexic or think someone in the life’s dyslexic, the Dyslexic Advantage or The Gift of Dyslexia and there’s a few others that will pop up if you start reading those books; you start seeing it as a gift, instead of a hindrance, and that’s where I started reframing it, and saying, “wait a minute! I can work around a problem, or spatial awareness” like I haven’t really ever got lost in my life, and I realized I could see the streets and know how to connect and get back to where I started. One story that always I try to brag about, the most was back-to-back trips to Europe and Korea and I kind of wandered off, let’s be honest, I kinda just totally wandered off, and I was able to find my way back to the starting point in a foreign country not knowing the language, and I used to brag about that just think some cool story and then I read more about dyslexia, and I was like oh yeah, that was dyslexia. If – that example started where I read about a small child who found his way through a maze when the parents were astonished of how we did it. I said ”Oh! I’ve done that, I’ve gotten lost in a foreign country.”

HR: That’s pretty cool, it’s kind of like when you’re blind and you turn the lights out, then you’ve got the advantage over everybody else.

WM: Yes, and I feel that the spatial awareness is the advantage, and what’s dis-heartening is if you go on different social media groups and people are apart of these dyslexic groups, there’s people who ask the question, “what is the biggest advantage” or “what is some of the advantages?” and what hurts the most, is seeing all the people say “nothing.” I don’t even know if that’s their own mindset, but what really excites me is seeing the people saying similar things that I’ve been saying today, and I’ve noticed a lot of other outspoken dyslexics have the same similar traits of positive thinking when it comes to some of what society would see as a disadvantage.

HR: And, from your point of view, because I know, you know, at Different Brains, we try to stay friends with everybody, and as you know with social media now, it’s getting harder and harder. For instance, if I introduce you as a serial entrepreneur who happens to have dyslexia, versus someone with dyslexia who’s the serial entrepreneur, depending which way I say that 50% of them are gonna like it and 50% of going to hate it. It’s either way, and I find that it’s- it’s- it’s a little tough to navigate, not impossible though, because people want to be nice, I think.

WM: I’m glad you said that people can get offended, and the reason I started telling people about my challenges growing up, is ’cause I wanted it to be inspiration for those who feel like they can’t, if they’re struggling with it. If you don’t know anything- if you don’t have that dyslexia, fine. I would love to see the day that people with dyslexia are looked at as the really advanced thinkers, and we want a dyslexic in our business, and that was my motivation. Unfortunately, you can say that word and it brings me different meaning to everybody. If someone was picked on because of it through school, they don’t like hearing it, or talking about it. If someone was, you know, different; but you’re right if you said you’re an entrepreneur with dyslexia, someone might really get upset about that when I’m seeing it as a positive like despite of it you can become anything you want.

HR: How would our Different Brains audience find out more about you?

WM: I- go to my website, willtalksbiz, I actually did it as willtalksbiz ’cause my last name is really hard to spell. I had always great school friends spelt my last name so it made it easier; that’s my personal site, and then I just wrote the book I can’t read a guide to success to failure and that’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, so you could find the book there and then know more about my struggle that can help you with yours.

HR: Do you happen to have a book handy you can show our audience?

WM: Right here.

HR: Hold it up there, hold it a little higher too. Alright that’s great. Nice cover!

WM: Thank you!

Success through failure

HR: “A Guide to Success Through Failure”, I like it. I like it, and I got to tell you, trying to get people to be- to lose their fear of failure can be a tough sale. It really can, but I used a lot of boxing analogies ’cause I had twenty-six Pro heavyweight fights, and I was always the underdog, and I was older, and I was a boxer from age 30 and up till 52 in the pros, and I had been a Golden Gloves champ when I was twenty-one- but I was always smaller as a heavyweight, and older, and stiff, and- and everything and it’s like- if you ask me, I learned far more from my losses than I ever did from my wins and you know, and that’s how you learn.

WM: I guess because I’m in martial arts, if you get punched, you’re not going to do that again if you get punched by moving your body a certain way, you learn from every time there’s a set back, right, and I think you would understand that and I hope your audience would understand that, is- it’s just- it’s how you can take your analogy of if you get hit in the ring and how do you act after you get back up, or what do you do when you’re outside the ring, and I think the fear of failure holds a lot of people back from achieving, I guess, at the ending of their dreams, and I wrote the book to inspire others, to say it’s okay. My biggest fear in school was to appear publicly; I faked it, I made a lot of things up, I did a lot of work that I talked about in my book, but that fear was bigger than anything else, so failing at business was just, you know, it was okay, and I think I can say it probably that I failed a few times in business, but it’s because I learned and got back up and didn’t I didn’t get kicked down on the ground and stay down. I think anyone who understands Sports would understand that if you give up after or before you even try, then it’s your choice.

HR: Can’t hit a home run unless you swing the bat. Tell us the role as a tool, that martial arts is played in your development?

WM: It was an amazing role- it builds confidence if I always- when I decided to do that my father had passed away, and I was trying new things with my life, and I wanted to create a – I created a bucket list and said I’m doing stuff. Tomorrow is not promised, and martial arts was something I always wanted to do it and I got into it. I didn’t know I was going to get to the black belt level, I just was doing it trying to lose weight, and as I was over the years, it built confidence and I realized when you know how to handle the situation, you’re going to be more confident when you’re- and more diligent and more observant when you’re walking around. I mean it built so much confidence though I started wandering off in a foreign country so I don’t know how that was confidence or arrogance, but I was glad I was dyslexic to find my way back but with the confidence, that’s where I’d say it helped- it was never going to go into this and who can I beat up, it was how can I better myself, and learn what to do if a situation goes bad. Through that though, it was an hour drive to go to my Hapkido classes that I learned about Audible and started just digesting, so not only I was training my body, I was training my brain at the same time and curing boredom on the road, so it was a vital part of my whole life turn around.

HR: How cool, how cool. You know and that’s also an example where you just described is utilizing your time in the car without being distracted from your driving and safety to- to read books by listening to them, and that’s another example of efficiency in your life.

WM: Oh yeah, if you ever if you’re having your listeners getting on a plane, the most- you have like twenty minutes of even waiting for the the board you can be listening to a book. I was getting obsessed with it up there for a while listening to every passing moment I could. If now there’s some people say listening is not for them, but I think everyone should try listening to a book at least once, so they can see how they are digested, but it’s all the inefficient times in your day that you could be training your brain to learn something different.

HR: Yeah. you know, and it’s sometimes when I talk to audiences, and I say look if we all have different brains, so if someone’s deaf, and you’re a teacher, what are you going to holler at them for, and if someone’s blind, why are you going to write on the Blackboard, and if you’re having trouble reading while you’re trying to better your tools and reading, listen to an audio about- but why not use tools, and I’m glad you use that word that I don’t hear used that often, workarounds. I like that word because that trained your brain and wired your brain to the most valuable thing that companies look for today, is people who can solve problems. You know? It’s like- I can solve that problem, I can figure it out, it’s just another problem.

WM: I think with workarounds, I’ve seen it as when you’re hitting an obstacle in business, and I think that’s why the entrepreneur aspect is a great word for someone who has dyslexia, who wants to find a workaround, is- I didn’t want to get a traditional job, so I had this fear of traditional jobs, or how am I going to read or how am I going to do all of this? So I found a workaround by creating my own job, creating my own companies, hiring people to do tasks I couldn’t do, and that was the first work around, but over time I called them workarounds because- I’m facing a challenge, I find a workaround or I find a solution. Everyone’s brain does that, I’ve been you would see that right, at when there’s some damage to the brain, or brains- are amazing wiring that can find a way to solve any problem.

HR: Yes, if we ask the brain to work, and I think that’s the key. I think sometimes, we kind of quit. You know? we just veg out and your brain doesn’t rewire, and you- you know, you’re just stagnant, and I think a person like you with your personality and your brain, that’s just a given. You’re going to figure it out, your your wires are always going to be working at something and that’s great. Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you’d like to cover?

The importance of reading

WM: Yes. One thing I really want to think that’s important to why the ability reading can unlock different parts of the brain, even if you’re a dyslexic brain or whatever brain, is when I was looking through my- I love history enough to really just pay attention to it, and I noticed the greatest leaders in history were all readers, and I believe that everyone should be reading, despite any disadvantage they have, and there’s so many workarounds with today’s technologies, that you can read- listening to audiobooks is reading, and anyone who ever debated me on that, I said you want to talk to my friend who’s a blind- legally blind copy-editor, she reads three books a week through audio. so yeah, that’s my work around with that one; but reading can unlock more, and if a guy who identified like myself- who identified if you identify with not being able to read or I can’t read, your right. But find a way around it. Find a work around and start reading, because it changes something in your brain when you can unlock more and more books. I’m a different person than I was five years ago, I completely changed, and became a positive version of myself- the version I wanted to be through a lot of reading; I want listeners to pick up a book, and it- it- what really frustrates me the most is I struggled my whole life to become a reader, and those who can read without a problem, never had a problem reading, haven’t picked up a book in a long time. I would hope people could pick up a book and just start reading to help understand the joy, the feeling that I feel; I want others to feel that, even if you have identified not being able to read. That’s where I really want to leave any listeners pick up a book.

HR: Well that’s great advice, great advice. You’ve inspired me to go home and read more now, too. Well William Manzanares, thank you so much for being with us here on this episode of Exploring Different Brains, we hope you’ll come back real soon.

WM: Thanks for having me, I’d love to. Looking forward to it.