259. Overcoming Childhood Biases, He Trusts His Sharp Mind and Heart
Thomas O’Grady, Ph.D.
He endured bias and ridicule from teachers and counselors—and was almost fast-tracked to the slow lane—simply because he did not look like everyone else.
Dr. Thomas O’Grady’s successes in a range of fields have sprung from his ability to help a wide range of businesses and people, including Lee Iacocca, Alan Greenspan and Japanese and European companies. With a Ph.D. in mathematical and statistical economics from Berkeley, and fluency in three languages, he has appeared in all major media. His current book, The Mechanics for Breakthrough Success, shares that path for others.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
After experiencing ridicule in school, despite his outstanding test scores, things changed dramatically when Thomas entered the military in the Vietnam War era. Quickly he was guided to the military’s Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California. At first, he didn’t like the option—his high school German classes were not among his favorites—but friends urged him to reconsider. He learned Russian and soon was in a security agency, where he broke three Soviet codes. He was in charge of intelligence gathered across two-thirds of the Soviet Union.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
There have been many, but Thomas cites a crucial turning point from his early life as a powerful motivator. “As I grew up, my eyes were crooked. Everybody perceived me as both dumb and uncoordinated. I had teachers in junior and senior high school who made themselves popular by things they said about or to me. I had guidance counselors who would read off the scores of the national tests they gave us every year. I always had 99th percentile in everything except one. One of those counselors told my parents, ‘Well, you can’t really go by test scores alone. Have you ever thought about sending him to a trade school? Not everybody’s meant for college.’ What that meant in my school was that you were going be put in the ‘dummies track.’ I was scared to death of that. Even as shy as I was, I would immediately plead, ‘Please, please don’t!’ The reply was, ‘OK, we’ll wait another year and see how it goes.’”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
“Throughout my life, many people have asked, ‘Can you imagine where you would be today if people had understood your abilities back when you were five or six?’ The very first time, I answered this way, and it’s been the same ever since: ‘If that was the case, I might not have the caring nature and my desire to help others that I do today.’” Today, Thomas explains, he is more attuned to recognizing potential in people and can make a difference in their life choices. “The distribution of IQs is the same, whether you’re in a ghetto, a small Southern town or some suburban neighborhood. The difference is your environment. Your environment surrounds you like a capsule and limits your perspective and opportunities. It’s really a matter of attitude.”
Steps to Success from Thomas O’Grady, Ph.D.
1. Learn to trust your natural talents and acquired knowledge and skills.
2. Have the courage to speak up honestly, to tell people the truth instead of what you think they want to hear.
3. Even the best job will include some elements you do not love. Attitude makes the difference.
4. Learn to listen attentively, both to people and to situations and things.
5. You can learn from everybody and everything. No matter how bright you are, you can learn something from the next person.
On His Bookshelf
The Mechanics for Breakthrough Success, by Thomas O’Grady, Ph.D., due for release soon.
Connecting With Thomas O’Grady, Ph.D.
Subscribe to the Podcast Free: