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Daily Inspiration: ‘Dilbert’ Creator on ‘Hacking’ His Brain

I won’t sit here and claim that you can overcome anything, but you can overcome a lot. That’s what “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams discovered when he suffered a pair debilitating health issues which prevented him from communicating with the world and even creating his long-running comic strip. Speaking with NPR in a recent interview, Adams detailed a period where he was unable to use his fingers–and later his vocal chords–and how he was able to effectively “hack” his brain in order to get back to work.

Adams, 56, talked about one of the lows of his career, discovering that he suffered from focal dystonia, a neurological malady which caused the pinky finger on his drawing hand to spasm whenever he would attempt to work. Thankfully, Adams was able to receive a quick diagnosis, but was still left with the problem of being able to, you know, actually work with an unruly digit. So Adams taught himself how to work around the problem. From the interview:

"But eventually I found that if I could hold my pen with my pencil down to the paper for just a second, it took a while for the spasm to kick in. And so I just did that hundreds of times a day — just touching the pen to paper, or pencil to paper, and taking it up before the spasm started. When I could keep the pen there for about five seconds or so, eventually it just went away."

Describing the process as hacking his own brain, Adams says that at no point would he allow himself to succumb to hopelessness. A few years later when Adams lost his voice to a mysterious ailment which he would later discover was connected to the focal dystonia.

Neither crisis was for Adams, the end of the world – “It was just really, really bad luck.” And what did he take away from the experience? “There’s nothing that’s really impossible. Lots of things seem impossible, but sometimes they’re not if you just keep plugging away.”

[Header image: “Dilbert: The Complete Series” DVD]

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