When I was a kid, I had a bumper sticker proudly displayed on my bedroom door: Lefties Have Rights, Too! As a minority of the global population – just one in ten people is left-handed – I was often frustrated by a world set up exclusively, it seemed, for right-handers.
Regular scissors, for example, were impossible for a left-handed child to use – the blade goes the wrong way, folks – so my mother had to order in special 'lefty scissors' for me. Entire lessons were set up for the right-handed majority, and the unique needs of lefties not taken into consideration in teaching instruction – take arts and crafts, for example, where I was forced to turn everything around the other way in order to create products which looked like what the other kids were doing…like sewing backwards in needlepoint, an immensely frustrating experience!
The Creative Left
Sports, too, were set up for right-handed-only instruction – my tennis racquet being yanked out of my left hand and thrust unceremoniously into my right. Surprisingly, I turned into a decent tennis player, despite my being discouraged to play with my natural hand. Only years later, did I figure out that my effective double-handed backhand was a result of me preferring to strike the ball on my stronger left side, rather than use my right side (my forehand). I’d turned a challenge into a winning advantage…Lefties, it turns out, make a plan!
Left-handed people are said to be more creative than their right-handed counterparts – anecdotal evidence points to the high number of southpaw creative geniuses including artists Leonard da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Picasso; the philosopher Aristotle; scientist Marie Curie; and composer Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach. Explains Time Magazine, Da Vinci’s famous backwards ‘mirror’ writing may have been less a code and more a way to overcome the challenge of smudging the ink – a challenge well known to every lefty (#LeftHandedProblems)!
Perhaps an inclination to creativity is in part to having to find our way around a world designed predominantly for our right-handed brethren, and – in times past – navigating our way around some serious discrimination. Not too long ago, lefties were considered stained by the devil and regarded with suspicion and disdain – and still are in some parts of the world. Being marked out as ‘other’ still lingers in our collective subconscious…Did you know, for example, that the English word sinister is from the Latin sinistra, meaning left?
Getting Left Behind?
We may not be targeted by the witch-smellers anymore, nor have our hands cruelly tied behind our backs to force us to use our right hands, but nowadays lefties in traditional employment face wage discrimination – with new research suggesting that lefties earn less than their right-handed colleagues – with median earnings up to 10% lower, due in some part to tools of the workplace being better suited to right-handers.
So what’s a lefty to do? Become an entrepreneur, that’s what! There is some evidence to suggest that the right-brain thinking of left-handed folks is conducive to entrepreneurship. It’s the right hemisphere of the brain, says the UK’s Project Smart, which helps us strategise and see the bigger picture – that blue sky thinking characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.
Lefties Rule the World
We may be small in number, and lag behind our right-handed wage slaves grinding away at the corporate mill, but the upper echelons of business and leadership boast a high number of lefties. This article in The Huffington Post quotes research published in the American Journal of Psychology, which points to evidence that left-handers are better at divergent thinking (idea generation that explores many possible solutions) – this type of thinking comes in handy when launching start-ups or solving world problems. Some famous lefties include:
- Barack Obama
- Bill Clinton
- Bill Gates
- Oprah Winfrey
- Steve Forbes
- Henry Ford
- John D. Rockefeller.
But Why Are So Few of Us Lefties?
I stumbled across this great Ted-Ed video in which Daniel M. Abrams explores why such a small proportion of the world’s population is left-handed. In it, he tells how left-handedness is associated with competition and right-handedness with co-operation. Perhaps our competitive streak goes some way in explaining why lefties make good entrepreneurs but bad slaves? Take a look…
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