Sir Jackie Stewart’s autobiography helped change my life after reading his book ‘Winning Is Not Enough’, so when the opportunity for me to interview Sir Jackie came along it was too good an opportunity to miss
It was dream come true: the opportunity to interview my hero, Sir Jackie Stewart, OBE. Sir Jackie’s courage and charisma on the track fuelled my enthusiasm for motor sport. Indeed, when I was younger, I even became a race marshal at Scottish motor racing circuits.
But there was another reason why I was so happy to speak with my idol. Ever since I had read ‘Winning Is Not Enough’, Sir Jackie’s autobiography, I realised we shared a common bond. Just like Sir Jackie, I too had faced many years of difficulties because of un diagnosed dyslexia; in fact we both were tested around the same age in our 40’s. I knew how it felt to underachieve at school and had faced the same negative reactions of people assuming I was slow-witted because of poor spelling. Not to mention being unable to escape the hurtful things being said, not just in school. At that time I felt almost paralysed to do anything or want to do anything worthwhile in the future. I could have so easily gone off the rails at this stage and believe me many others have gone down that path. But I am much better and much stronger than that.
But when the opportunity arose to interview Sir Jackie, I jumped at the chance. The Scottish former racing driver, nicknamed the ‘Flying Scot’, competed in Formula One between 1965 and 1973, winning three World Drivers’ Championships. His achievements on the racetrack – as a driver, commentator, team owner and racing safety advocate – are phenomenal.
But it is for his achievements off the track that make Sir Jackie my hero. At school, he did not fulfil his academic potential, just like me. Instead, Sir Jackie found a different route to success, one that meant he had to ‘think outside the box.’
“All clever people think the same,” Sir Jackie says, “but people with dyslexia break the mould and think differently, often more creatively. Having dyslexia has meant that I have had to find other ways of achieving things in my life.”
At school the focus and attention is on academics; the area where people with dyslexia can be at their weakest. But while the glittering academic prizes may have eluded him, nobody could accuse Sir Jackie of being an underachiever. He is one of the world’s most successful and recognisable faces of Formula One.
As for being dyslexic, I am not limited in what I do when it comes to raising awareness. This is borne out by the people who I have chosen to interview for articles for various global publications. I hope this continues for a while yet.
Sir Jackie is testament to the fact that dyslexia need not stand in the way of achievement. Many well-known people including Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and Keira Knightley now admit to having dyslexia. By being open about dyslexia they are helping to educate and dispel ignorance.
And foremost among these high-profile celebrities is Sir Jackie, who champions the cause whenever he can. He told me: “Typical strengths associated with the condition include, empathy, intuitiveness, problem solving, creativeness and original thinking.
“Take pride in having dyslexia – it is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Spelling may not be Sir Jackie’s strong point, but his words weave spells of magic to all those affected by dyslexia.