REAL PEOPLE OF THE GC.
FROM BEING DIAGNOSED AS DYSLEXIC TO BECOMING A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, THIS HOPE ISLAND WOMAN BELIEVES BEING DIFFERENT CAN BE YOUR BIGGEST ASSET
Igrew up in New Zealand, right out in the bush. The closest shops were a 30-40 minute drive away. It was a YMCA camp. My father was an engineering draftsman but he got sick of that world and applied to be the director of this YMCA camp.
They took young boys out there and taught them skills, especially kids who were getting into trouble. It was really like a big family – 300 people would arrive every week of the holidays, so our place wasn’t our own.
There was me and my two sisters, so it was seriously a worry. Any youngsters who showed any interest in us would have to deal with the director of the camp.
It was a really lovely, relaxed lifestyle. My sister had horses. I had a pet sheep.
I went to a tiny country school and I really enjoyed school. But I remember one time when my teacher said “You’re just not getting it are you?” I was about eight when this one particular teacher said, “You’re never really going to be able to learn the way the other kids do, you’ve got word blindness”.
But he knew me really well; he wasn’t saying it as a criticism. He knew I’d put all my effort into find another way to do things.
Dyslexia for me was my brain not being able to figure out the format of words and all the different rules. As it turned out, I figured out how to recall the form of words, which was to imagine the shape of the word, rather than the letters themselves. So if someone asks me to spell something I tend to close my eyes and imagine the shape of the word.
I never saw it as a disability because it actually became my greatest asset. I trained as a graphic designer when I left school and I was given the advice that I’d be good as an art director. I decided to get into advertising and work on the creative side with brands.
I went to London for some training and after that I got the travel bug and ended up living overseas for five years. In that time I did all sorts of things – advertising, newspapers, publishing, I worked behind a bar. When I came back to New Zealand I knew advertising was where I wanted to be. I moved to Wellington when it was a creative hub.
I walked into Saatchi with my CV and walked out with a job in direct marketing. I became an insurance policy for the designers because my brain just worked in a different way to theirs.
I had grown up using it in a totally different way to everyone else because of my word blindness. They would run everything by me and say “Lauren does this look right? Does that look right?”.
I met my now husband, Graeme, when he walked into a meeting with Saatchi. We ended up working together and he employed me and contracted me back to Saatchi. I was running three different agencies doing production management with him and a small team of people all over the country. I loved it.
He was my boss for about nine years and I never even looked at him sideways, not my type at all. We started another agency, which we ran for about 15 years. Both married to other people and children to other people. It got to a point where we thought, this is ridiculous. We’re spending so much time together, we get on like a house on fire, didn’t want to go home to our respective partners – what are we doing? We had to be honest with ourselves and admit we wanted to be together.
We went through world war three unfortunately and broke up two families. But when I went home I just wasn’t on the same intellectual level as my then-husband. I was just expected to be the housewife and I couldn’t do that. It was difficult for everyone but it was the right decision. We’ve been together for 14 years.
Doing personal branding consultancy now, one thing I see a lot is people who don’t think there’s anything special about them.
People put a lot of pressure on themselves, but they shouldn’t.
They’ve just got to think what they do with ease that other people find difficult.
What people can do naturally is actually a skill and a talent. People are afraid of failure and I don’t know why because failure is probably what has helped me most.
“I WAS JUST EXPECTED TO BE THE HOUSEWIFE AND I COULDN’T DO THAT.”