It's ironic that "bed" was the word that unlocked literacy for John Brennan, given that his current job involves providing hotel bedrooms. When John Brennan was 8 years old, he met an educational expert who unlocked his ability to learn, starting with a simple exercise involving that 3-letter word. The well-known hotelier, broadcaster and other half of The Brennan Brothers spoke on The Ryan Tubridy Show about his journey from struggling at school to success in the hospitality business. John chats to Ryan about his book My Name is Jhon, the deliberately misspelled title, his a-typical path to success and the brilliant schoolteacher who made a lasting impact on his life.

John say he was very happy heading off to school, but he just couldn’t get the hang of reading and writing:

"Mum never had to drag me out the front door. I always ran up the road. That may be because I’m the youngest of 5 and there’s 8 years between me and the next. The only children I met were when I went to school, so I was delighted to go to school but when I went in it was blank."

John used to smuggle motorbike magazines into school and look at the pictures under the table. He says everything went just fine until he was asked to read something aloud from one of his schoolbooks:

"You’d be asked to read a paragraph of a book and the teacher would call you. I’d be there dreading that I’d be asked to do it because I wouldn’t get past the first word. I just couldn’t do it. The brain just wasn’t wired for it."

Enter Finbarr O’Driscoll, the sports-mad young teacher from West Cork who took John Brennan’s class from when he was around 8 years old. John says Mr O’Driscoll recognized that there were a number of kids in his class with learning difficulties. John says for the first time ever, he felt seen by a teacher:

"He didn’t teach the curriculum, he taught the child."

John’s mum had been beating a path to the school for years to try and find a solution to his struggles with reading and writing. Mr O’Driscoll encouraged Mrs Brennan to bring John to a specialist in Dublin. The American education expert diagnosed dyslexia. He also introduced John to a new way of seeing that would help him to read, starting with one 3-letter word:

"Bed. And I couldn’t get it. And he explained it to me; he said 'Listen, it’s a ‘b’; what’s a bed? You’ve a headboard, you’ve a flat bit that you lie on, and you’ve a kicker at the end.’ He was an American and they call it a ‘kicker’ at the end of the bed."

John found it incredibly helpful to see the word "bed" as an "actual" bed, where the vertical strokes of the "b" and the "d" form the imaginary headboard and kickboard. This simple trick unlocked his abilities to learn. The specialist explained that it was normal for people with dyslexia to see words a unit and they find it hard to break it up into individual letters. The expert also inspired John’s confidence because he treated kids and adults equally:

"He had the exact same chair on his side as on this side and the minute I walked in I looked at the desk and I said: Hmm, we’re equal."

Summer courses in Bray, County Wicklow followed, where John met like-minded kids and gained confidence in reading and writing. He says he’s eternally grateful to his Mum, who persisted in trying to find help for him, the American expert who explained what was going on and Mr O’Driscoll, the teacher who set him on the right path. John says that as an adult, his brain still works differently to a person without dyslexia:

"I think from a dyslexic point of view, I think the brain works quicker. Because you’re always compensating, and you’re always thinking, what’s coming next?"

Now running a number of successful businesses, John Brennan is keen to see training options offered to kids who may never go to university, but who still need support in their careers. John says academic success isn’t everything. He is delighted to have found the key to his dyslexia, but he says it’s never stopped him from being happy:

"Success is happiness. It’s nothing to do with money. I was in my own world. I was delirious. Just because I couldn’t read that book over there didn’t bother me in the slightest."

If you want to hear more about John Brennan’s views on education, his cancer story and Ryan’s chat with the teacher who changed everything for can listen back to the full chat with Ryan Tubridy here.

John Brennan’s book My Name is Jhon is published by Gill Books.