Any Google search about lefties and you’ll be confronted with lots of studies about Southpaws: They’re more creative. They use both sides of their brain more fluidly. They tend to be better at multitasking. The list goes on — and science has plenty to conclude about lefties. Though your dominant hand likely has little to do with your performance reviews (and hey, chances are slim your boss even knows if you’re right or left-handed), this estimated 10% of the population approaches work differently. Or rather, because of how they’ve adjusted to life in a world designed for righties, they’ve learned different strategies for success.
Regardless if your hand gets smudged when you write on a whiteboard or not, these smart nuggets of wisdom from left-handed CEOs are beneficial to any career:
“Embrace your challenges”
If you ask the CEO of Thursday Boots, Nolan Walsh, growing up left-handed wasn’t a negative experience, but rather, an advantage. He never felt insecure or burdened by his South Paw preference, but rather, he saw the benefits. He could effectively play basketball, baseball, tennis, and soccer as a leftie.
He also studied differently than his classmates explaining, “While right-handed people can see the words they write as they move across a page, when you write left-handed, your vision of the previous words you write is obstructed by your hand. I think this taught me to be more thoughtful and precise is my writing,” he shared.
All of these experiences presented “challenges” if you look at them that way, but for Walsh, embracing his differences and seeing the perks of being unique made him into a stronger worker.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
Though the CEO and co-founder of Babyation, Sam Rudolph writes and eats left-handed, he does everything else with the opposite side.
“I swing a bat right-handed. I cut right-handed. I use right-handed scissors, and I kick with my right foot. I’m pretty sure that’s because growing up, my teachers and parents couldn’t figure out how to do things ‘backwards!’,” he explains.
Though it might have been an uphill battle at the time, he thinks of it as early training in adaptability and being pushed out of my comfort zone — a skill that’s carried him through his life and career.
“To this day, I’m most comfortable when I’m uncomfortable. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was perfect training for running a startup,” he adds.
“Worry less about what people think”
When the CEO of Sheree Cosmetics, Tiffany Herrmann was in elementary school, she was sometimes viewed as different since she needed the corner desk to avoid bumping anyone’s elbow when she wrote with her left hand. As she got older, others found her left-handedness intriguing. But as the daughter of a leftie, she worked to accept and foster her unique skill, instead of fighting it. The process was one that taught her to embrace who she is — regardless of what others think.
“I learned a little more creative than the others growing up, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the left-hand/right brain, but it taught me to not worry about what others thought of me and to just be me,” she shares.
Be open to critical feedback
Adjusting — often in real time — to right-handed everything requires a nimble approach to life. And perhaps, the ability to be open-minded when others critique your performance or give you feedback. For Walsh, being open to opinion — positive or negative — is an important pillar of success. On the last Saturday of every month, he sits down to read all of the bad reviews, all in an effort to improve his business strategy and customer satisfaction.
“While it can be painful at times, this openness to criticism has lead to exponential improvements and has allowed us to form strong relationships to supporters who were formerly some of our strongest critics,” he says.
Look at the entire landscape of your career
When you’re a lefty, you view the world differently. Often times, lefties are able to process information quicker since they use both sides of their noggin’, and they tend to focus on the overall, long-term vision instead of the small details of the here-and-now. Rudolph recommends this approach to the tenure of your career, too.
“Instead of climbing in a linear progression, evaluate new roles based on an opportunity to learn something completely different and develop a new side of your professional self. The more knowledge you have, the better you can put the pieces together and see the big picture,” he explains.
Always believe in yourself and keep your eyes on the target
No matter how successful someone is, how much money they earn each year or how often they are recognized by their industry or peer groups, everyone has those no-good, terrible days. Your dominant hand doesn’t determine this — but rather, is a fact that threads of all together. Herrmann says it’s important to always keep your eyes on the target and to be your own number one fan.
“Don’t feel sorry for yourself, because it’s normal to hit walls — just keep moving forward,” she says. “A lot of entrepreneurs and professionals tend to fail around the ‘downs’ because they give up and walk away. If you have a goal in your career or a promotion that you are going for, and you don’t get it the first time — it’s ok. Work on yourself. Get back up and try again.”
Treat people right
Though Walsh wasn’t personally teased for being a lefty, some South Paws are. This might motivate them to write with their right hand, even if it isn’t comfortable. Or in the case of Herrmann, she figured out how to use a marker on a whiteboard with her submissive hand, just so she wasn’t embarrassed when her sleeve wiped away her scribbles in front of her friends.
No matter the circumstance or human — from your employee to your client and beyond — Walsh stresses the importance of treating people right. For many, it’s a no-brainer way to conduct daily interactions, whether professional or personal, but it’s often forgotten in the heat of the moment or during stressful periods.
“The easiest way to get your team and customers to care about you is to show you care about them. They’ll notice,” he adds.