The gist is the kernel of an idea. Dyslexics get the gist of the idea easier than many people — you see what’s important, then discard the rest,  leaving everybody else to wonder “Why didn’t I think of that?”  Linear thinkers and fluent readers may see the same information, but it is often locked into scripts or apps in their brains — they may not realize that they can use the knowledge in a new way. Or they get lost in the details, and have a hard time seeing what’s important.

The gist of an idea is its main point or part.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

For example, what is the gist of this entire website? That dyslexics are different, not less than.

If you are good at cutting to the heart of the matter, seeing the point, it will help you in school, and later in life.

Rube Goldberg drew cartoons of everyday actions that became ridiculously complicated.

Seeing the gist of something seems so obvious and easy that it is a little ambitious to call it a “skill”. But some people see the point much easier than others. Those who don’t flounder, mired in extraneous details and useless actions.

Here’s an example:

I used to have a boss who called me into his office and gave me long detailed instructions on how I was supposed to gather information for a report. The first time he did it, I sat there and listened to him going on and on about what data to look at and what I should avoid, where to find it, ignore the data in this column, here’s the latest picture of the kids, he likes to use the yellow highlighters, but I might find these numbers interesting, had I heard that this project was on hold? But he was going to go out and fix it, so don’t worry about it …

A solid five minutes of … stuff. Somewhere in that avalanche of words was what I was supposed to do.

I had just started the job, and was terrified of not doing well. But I was totally lost.

I thought about some of the words that had washed by me, and what this boss would need to know from that data. I gathered up my courage and said “You want me to find the data on these projects. I’m to highlight these numbers, and put the pages in the gray binders on that desk. If I have any questions, I’ll ask.”

My boss looked at me like I was dense. “That’s what I just said.”

But what took him five minutes to say, I did in 30 seconds.

Gist doesn’t seem like much at first, but people who see the world differently are often able to cut to the point of a topic and ignore all the extra “stuff”.

And that can be a huge advantage.

“Being dyslexic can actually help in the outside world. I see some things clearer than other people do because I have to simplify things to help me and that has helped others.”

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of companies, knighted for “services to entrepeneurship”, one of the richest men in the world.

Published by Amy Law

Amy Law is a science geek. She feels about science the way some people feel about music, or art, or sports – a total and complete emotional connection. She thinks in science. For Amy, there’s nothing better than helping people see the beauty of science as she does. She loves to untangle a complicated subject into its parts, explaining it so that anybody can understand what’s happening. Let her show you her world...


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: