It is often when you think you really know someone that true lessons begin.  I have been a friend and colleague of Chris Bright for at least seven years, and have had a sense of respect and admiration that coincides with his business, family, and quality of life success.  To know Chris you might say that he has a way of making all of this ‘look easy’, and he demonstrates that on a daily basis. While I have been aware of some life setbacks that he has overcome; primarily in overcoming family tragedy, it has been a recent series of discussions that have enlightened me on how ‘special’ Chris truly is.  

You see, Chris battles dyslexia and has had to work very diligently at tasks that can be viewed as quite simple by those of us that don't comprehend this affliction.  As you read more below, you will come to find how Chris gave the description ‘special’ a new meaning; one that he now is actively sharing with those looking to find the victory in their own struggles.  

According to Chris, he decided that ‘being special’ was going to actually be a transformational force for good in his life. Chris Bright has exceeded all labels put upon him, and while I think he has exceeded many of his own highest expectations, it may be that the best part of his story is only now about to be written...

In this story, I am proud to introduce Chris Bright. A committed family man, friend, and generous contributor to society. This restaurant entrepreneur has developed five brands that now total over 1500 locations. One of his current brands, Z Pizza, is in a class of it's own in the area of healthy eating and fast casual dining.

Struggling with a learning disability, whether in an educational setting or everyday life, presents
frequent challenges. In my case, the obstacle to overcome was – and is ‐ dyslexia.

Learn To Learn
Dyslexia is defined by the National Institute of Health as “a reading disability resulting from the inability to process graphic symbols.” Being dyslexic doesn’t mean someone is “slow” ‐‐ Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill are among many famous dyslexics; but being dyslexic does mean having to “learn how to learn” in a different way.

My fifth birthday is my earliest memory…I vividly recall celebrating the day with my classmates, many of who were in wheelchairs, used crutches or had braces on their legs. I’d been placed in a class for children with special needs; including my friends afflicted with cerebral palsy, because of my learning disability. While a five year old does not feel the stigma of being recognized as a child with special needs, I was nonetheless aware that my classmates and I were “different” from the other kids.

I was fortunate that my parents and teachers became aware of my dyslexia at such an early age. Still, even with therapy and the dedication of my instructors, I struggled with my disability. Navigating around areas of weakness became routine. Growing up, I was petrified when it was my turn to read aloud or was asked to go to the blackboard. To this day my penmanship is terrible. I ended up repeating the 1st grade.

Unspoken Talents
I was extremely quiet as a child; so much so that years later, more than one former classmate
communicated they didn’t recall me uttering a word in school. Not interested in filling a classroom with my own tentative, hesitant voice, I became a diligent listener and observer. As my dyslexia made reading for context and understanding difficult, I channeled my learning ambitions away from words on a page toward hearing the power and influence of the spoken word. In time, I realized that my listening and observation skills were abilities, perhaps innate talents to “even out” my disability.

I can still quote and remember dialogue from movies I viewed long ago, which I believe is an ability that developed because of my greater appreciation of the spoken word due to my shortcomings as a reader.

But, being an above average listener and observer didn’t solve all my dyslexic problems. Like many dyslexics, I developed coping skills or workarounds to deal with the gaps and shortcomings that plague a child that doesn’t process information the same as their fellow students. These coping skills ranged from continuous trial and error, to sometimes awkward improvisation or a need to be ultra-prepared in order to match up to peers. A dyslexic in an educational setting deals with the potential of failure and embarrassment on an almost daily basis.

Running A Marathon
As a young student, I came to realize that being the first to finish a task was not in the cards for me; but I also learned that completing the task correctly was an accomplishment to be proud of. Ultimately, I learned in my own way that the process of learning was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Determination and perseverance would rule my academic world, and these attributes have certainly been keys to success in my chosen profession.

I concluded some time ago, right or wrong, that since I’m not the world’s quickest study, I needed to commit myself to the long haul. To this point, the 10,000‐hour theory asserted by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ”Outliers,” speak to me. In a nutshell, Gladwell provides empirical support to his theory that in order to become the best at something, even the most talented people must invest 10,000 hours of practice to achieve the highest echelon of success. This certainly suggests that in order to achieve mastery, we are all running the marathon … and that while sprinters may show some natural ability in the beginning, they ultimately burn out and fail to reach the pinnacle.

My Unopened Gift
I’ve been in the restaurant business for most of my adult life. I’ve practiced my craft for more than 40,000 hours. I’m passionate about this business because of the challenges it brings and I’m ever curious about my chosen industry because it’s changing constantly and new brands emerge almost out of thin air. My curiosity puts me in perpetual student mode. At the same time, as someone who has been involved with five brands that started with a combined 18 restaurants and today have more than 1,500 locations; I’ve experienced and have learned a great deal about the food and beverage industry. I am eager to pass along what I’ve learned over my 20 year career.

It may seem ironic, but I look at my dyslexia as a gift…a strange gift, to be sure, but in the course of “learning how to learn” and overcoming my disability, I discovered skills and talents that continue to benefit me every day in my personal and professional life. For example, while developing unorthodox approaches or workarounds with school assignments did not always make the grade, an unconventional approach to problem solving in my professional career has resulted in many positive outcomes. Naturally thinking outside the box, as is the case with most dyslexics, is a sought after skill in an ever changing environment where creativity is required to lead.

Roughly 10 percent of the population is dyslexic, including stalwarts of science, business, sports, literature and government. Edison was famous for stating that he liked failing because it meant he was one step closer to success. This view most certainly can be looked upon as a dyslexic trait. Einstein, Churchill, Alexander Graham Bell, Richard Branson and Charles Schwab are just a few of the thousands of dyslexics that transformed their learning disability into an asset that helped them achieve tremendous success.

My favorite dyslexics, though, are Kay and Liam Bright ‐‐ my wife and eldest son.

A Word of Encouragement
We all face obstacles; some seemingly larger than others. The difference is how we interpret the challenges before us and whether we will allow them to hold us down, or propel us forward. I have learned within myself (and what I see in others) that it all boils down to the “story” we tell ourselves about what we face each day. People who lead fulfilling lives (and make significant contributions) tell themselves inspiring stories while others weave tales of despair and disillusion.

When you look at anyone you truly admire you will see an individual that has learned to give empowering meanings to things that could otherwise have held them back. When faced with difficulties we can be quick to draw disempowering conclusions.

A very valuable lesson I have learned is to ask myself “what else could this mean?” This question alone has helped me find powerful interpretations and results from circumstances that could quite easily have led to pain, suffering, or setbacks. We all possess the ability to do this, and I hope you will find the strength in the words of my own story.

Author's Bio: 

About James McPartland:
James McPartland (aka "Mac") is the Principal and Chief Inspiration Officer of the JMac Performance Group, a specialized management consulting firm focused on realizing the importance of the human potential in business. He is an entrepreneur, author, international speaker, and noted authority on leadership, team building, corporate wellness, and transformational change.

Mac focuses on helping successful leaders get even better by achieving positive lasting change in behavior (and results) for themselves, their people, and their teams. As a consultant and speaker, he has worked with senior executives in organizations from Fortune 500 corporations including The Dow Chemical Company, IBM, Allergan, Technogym, Les Mills International, Spinning and Total Gym, as well as non-profits such as the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Mac’s vast business experience includes:

• Expertise in strategic business modeling and business plan development, analysis and execution.
• Design and deployment of creative, effective and aggressive sales and marketing strategies
• Recognition of potential in business, people, and opportunities
• Strong communication skills in motivating and inspiring allegiance to company goals and core values
• Strategic recruitment of synergistic top executive and support staff talent
• Development of passionate corporate culture, commitment and productivity through credible leadership, incentive drivers and motivation training
• Proficient management analyzing and employing measurable key metrics to drive core objectives and outcomes
• Efficient execution of self-administered accountability systems motivated by incentives, recognition, and reward programs
• Track record of results. Built companies from start to $150mm in annual revenue, launched two additional companies in the health and nutrition space

Mac also actively participates in numerous events and organizations including the International Health and Racquet Sports Association, the American Heart Association, and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. In addition he is currently active in U.S. Public Policy legislation that will positively impact the companies that provide wellness benefits.

He sits on the Board of two new health and wellness companies in California, Best Fit Data and Worthwell. Mac also speaks French, and is an active member for the World Presidents’ Organization.

James has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers including The Register and Times of Los Angeles, Club Business International and The Business Journal. He has also been a guest on network TV and numerous radio shows.

In 2008 “Mac” was recognized at The Mayo Clinic by the President’s Council of Physical Fitness and Sports for his outstanding contribution to wellness. Additionally, his efforts were rewarded by the World President’s Organization with an award for leadership. After a year of preparation he led a group of 55 executives on a first of its kind business retreat to Vietnam.

James earned his Bachelor’s Degree from North Carolina State University. An avid fitness enthusiast, he has completed 37 marathons and 8 Ironman Triathlon events. He resides in Coto De Caza, CA with wife Mara and sons Luke and Logan.

About The JMac Performance Group:
A ‘Human Performance Company’ dedicated to improving the health and profitability of a company by unlocking the potential of its employees. Business and people development consulting is cultivated through seminars, workshops, and executive retreats.

If you would like to receive The JMac Group monthly communications, please visit our website 'home' page: and click 'SUBMIT'.

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