D is for Being Determined To Overcome Disqualification

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A person can sometimes feel disqualified. They may get the message from teachers or other significant people that:

“You’re useless. You’re no good at anything. You’ll never make it.”

Certainly a person may have little aptitude for a particular activity, but they may have other strengths. They may also not fit in because they are dyslexic or have an intelligence that is not measured at school.

Looking at peak performers, some have a history of being told they were useless. They found a way to deal with any emotional pain, however, and go on to do fine work.

Looking back on your life, can you recall when you overcame some kind of disqualification? Somebody may have said you were no good, but you chose to prove you did have talents, perhaps in a different field of activity.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you had the determination to overcome disqualification.

Describe the specific things you did then to be determined and overcome the disqualification.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of you being determined and overcoming the disqualification.

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There are many ways that people overcome disqualification. Let’s explore some of these.

Somebody who tells the person
“You can,” and shows how

A pattern emerges when interviewing people who have overcome difficulties. The individuals often say something like the following.

“I had somebody who encouraged me. They made me feel as if I was the centre of their world.

“They saw something in me that others didn’t. They did more than say kind words, however, and showed me how I could move forwards.

“They opened a door to a new world. It was then up to me to make the most of the opportunity.”

Good mentors, for example, often help a person to clarify their ‘What’ – the real results they want to achieve. They then help them to focus on the ‘How’ – the key strategies they can follow to achieve success.

Sometimes this ‘How’ is different from the conventional route. It encourages the person to build on their strengths and pursue creative ways to reach their goals.

Kiran Bir Sethi has devoted much of her life to enabling individuals to say “I can.” She founded Design For Change.

This is a global movement encourages children to express their own ideas for a better world and put these into action. Here is an extract from its website.


Children and adults learn through the Design for Change Challenge that “I Can” are the two most powerful words a person can believe. Children who have discovered this are changing their world.

This year, Design for Change reaches 34 countries and over 300,000 schools inspiring hundreds of thousands of children, their teachers and parents, to celebrate the fact change is possible and that they can lead that change!

The challenge asks students to do four very simple things: Feel, Imagine, Do and Share.

Children are dreaming up and leading brilliant ideas all over the world, from challenging age-old superstitions in rural communities, to earning their own money to finance school computers to solving the problem of heavy school bags – children are proving that they have what it takes to be able to ‘design’ a future that is desired.

Building on strengths

People who overcome disqualification often display another characteristic. They have learned to build on their strengths, whilst aiming to manage the consequences of their weaknesses.

Sometimes they arrive at this realisation by themselves. Sometimes they have met somebody who told them something along the following lines.

“Different people are good at different things. You are good at ‘X’, rather than ‘Y’ or ‘Z’.

“Great workers do few things and do these brilliantly. They work hard and make full use of their talent. They also find creative solutions to challenges.

“You can build on your ability. But you will need to have the right attitude and apply yourself properly to achieve your goals. It is your choice.”

Everybody has strengths. Everybody can be helped to find creative ways forward. They can then choose whether they want to work towards achieving their chosen goals.

Thorkil Sonne has helped many people to take this route. He created The Specialist People Foundation. This helps people with autism to build on their strengths. You can discover more via the following links.



He was elected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2009. Here is the citation that was published at the time.

Thorkil changes the way society perceives autism by transforming it from a handicap to a competitive advantage.

His Specialist People Foundation employs autistic people, who have a ten times lower fault rate in software testing and other tasks.

Thorkil now plans to go beyond Denmark, empowering people with ASD globally.

Self-discipline and success

People who overcome disqualification often set a specific goal and pursue their chosen strategies. They then demonstrate self-discipline and work hard to achieve success.

Today you can find many articles on topics such as Grit, which is related to self-discipline. But one point is worth remembering regarding how people show persistence on the way to peak performance.

A person can show Grit in one area of life, for example, but not in another. They may demonstrate this ability when constructing motorbikes, but not when doing algebra. They may show it when dancing, but not when playing sports.

People who build on their strengths when overcoming disqualification see a light at the end of a tunnel. They are determined to reach their goal.

They may spend years studying at night school, developing their skills or creating their own kind of job. They show self-discipline, find solutions to challenges and work hard to achieve success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of any way you might want to help other people to deal with the possibility of disqualification?

You may want to encourage one of your children who has certain skills, but these are not recognised at school. Or you may want to help people who face the prospect of being systematically undermined.

Imagine that you want to help people – a person or a group of people – who may be disqualified. How can you help them to deal with such an experience?

You may want to offer personal support, provide them with practical tools, create a website that helps them to deal with the difficulties or whatever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to help people – a person or a group of people – to deal with disqualification.

Describe the specific things you can do then to help them to deal with the disqualification.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of you helping them to deal with the disqualification.

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