The Four Degrees of Action for Dyslexia and for Life

If you’ve never heard of Grant Cardone, settle in. This will be worth your time. His book, The 10X Rule, the Only Difference Between Success and Failure invites readers to adjust their thinking about what is possible, and then create a level of action to match. He states, “You must set targets that are 10 times what you think you want and then do 10 times what you think it will take to accomplish those targets. Massive thoughts must be followed by massive actions.” He continues, “You never do what others do. You must be willing to do what they won’t do—and even take actions that you might deem ‘unreasonable.’”

These passages made me ponder their application to the dyslexic life and mind-set. If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you’ll be familiar with my illustration that having dyslexia is like having a dial-up modem brain in a high-speed internet world. You spend a lot of time buffering. The buffer fills up quickly and needs to be cleared before you can move on to the next task.

Because of the limitations of the full-buffer effect of dyslexia and the time requirements needed to clear that buffer during/between tasks, I have felt in the past that it wasn’t realistic for me to have the same types of dreams as folks who don’t have this issue. And in working with dyslexic students, I’ve discovered that this is not a unique belief—most struggling young readers can’t imagine a life where they would ever look forward to reading and writing, or even consider seeking a line of work where written words play a pivotal role.

Writing on a chalkboard that says Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action

But what if they did? What if parents and educators supported a change of belief in these students such that they discovered that they have things to say, things the world needs to hear, and that they get to hone that message as they learn to read, write, and communicate well? Instead of just doing enough to get by, passing or failing their way through school, what if excellence was the goal?

Enter the Four Degrees of Action. Cardone continues, “Exactly how much action is necessary to create success? Not surprisingly, everyone is looking for the secret shortcut—and equally unsurprising is the following fact: There are no shortcuts. The more action you take, the better your chances of getting a break. Disciplined, consistent, and persistent action is more of a determining factor in the creation of success than any other combination of things.”

Cardone says most people fail because they are operating at the wrong degree of action.

There are four choices:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Retreat
  3. Take normal levels of action
  4. Take massive action

It’s important to note that humans tend to take more action in areas where they have the most innate ability and the least struggle, while doing nothing or retreating from tasks where we struggle or suffer. This certainly plays out demonstrably in school and in life; you or your child may enjoy stunning results in one area, while not doing as well in others. But here’s the thing: once we believe that we can make something happen, and then work in “disciplined, consistent, persistent fashion with massive action,” we can increase our results—and our success! Even with dyslexia!

Goals are the next topic of focus. If you’re like most people, you may think about goals once a year. Students often don’t consider goals until they’re near graduation! Cardone suggests writing down meaningful goals every single day, with a view to stretching ourselves just outside our comfort zone. Here’s a powerful question that sets the tone, “Ask yourself whether the goals you have set are equal to your potential.” Most dyslexic students demonstrate well above average intelligence, and yet they feel stupid or less gifted than their peers because of their struggle to read and write. It’s our job as the adults in their lives to remind them of the things they do well—their tenacity, their discipline, the way they show up every day for school even though it is difficult, and their work ethic, and that these very abilities and qualities will allow them to succeed. People who are vulnerable and overwhelmed often need to borrow another’s confidence in them until they can relax enough to believe in themselves.

Starving fear of its favorite food is the next powerful concept. Anyone with dyslexia will be intimately acquainted with performance anxiety. Knowing that there’s a written test, an essay, lots of reading, or other labor-intensive tasks coming up is enough to cause physical symptoms of distress. So much energy goes into this existential dread that there’s literally nothing left with which to exert ourselves academically.

Cardone states, “I handle this dilemma (fear) myself by omitting time from the equation—since that is what drives fear. The more time you devote to the object of your apprehension, the stronger it becomes. So starve the fear of its favorite food by removing time from the equation.” How can we translate this principle to the dyslexic student? Teach them that the moment they start to feel that fear, apprehension, and reluctance kick in, that’s their trigger to start. Begin. Jump in to the task at hand. Starve the fear, and instead choose to use their energy to get their work done, to practice, to hone their skills. The best time to take massive action is that very moment. Instead of trying to avoid fear, pain, or discomfort, we need to learn to lean into it. We get to model this skill for the young people in our life, and both generations benefit.

So here’s to helping ourselves and our kids to set massive goals, pursue massive actions, starve our fears, and reach untapped potential!

Cardboard Box Adventures Picture Books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong pre-literacy foundation for their children. Check out the new CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators.