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Ideas in the Wild: How William Manzanares IV, author of ‘I Can’t Read’ is Helping to Improve Literacy By Sharing the Story of His Struggles

Millions of Americans can’t read but illiteracy often goes unacknowledged or unnoticed. If you are the parent or teacher of a child who struggles with reading, you know the painful way that illiteracy steals their confidence and robs them of the joy that comes from learning. William Manzanares IV — a member of the Puyallup Tribe in […]



Millions of Americans can’t read but illiteracy often goes unacknowledged or unnoticed. If you are the parent or teacher of a child who struggles with reading, you know the painful way that illiteracy steals their confidence and robs them of the joy that comes from learning.

William Manzanares IV — a member of the Puyallup Tribe in Washington state — wrote I Can’t Read: A Guide to Success Through Failure to give the literacy conversation a much-needed jumpstart. William, who grew up unable to read and later learned he had dyslexia, overcame these obstacles and transformed himself into a successful serial entrepreneur.

William wrote his book to share the strategic superpowers that worked for him in the hopes it will improve literacy for those who can’t read. I caught up with William to find out the moment he knew he had to write the book, as well as his favorite actionable idea from I Can’t Read.


What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

After telling my company about my reading struggle and realizing that it was a bigger problem, the thought of writing a book was always in the back of my mind. Over the years people have told me, you should write a book, so there was this expectation that I would write on.

The actual moment when I realized I needed to get this book out there was when I read Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?: 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By, by Cary Siegel. I reached out to Cary, and he flew out to give a talk at my tribe for the youth and give them some money advice. It was an amazing talk, and afterwards we had dinner and we talked about the writing process. Cary was kind enough to let me pick his brain.

I didn’t even tell Cary this, but in that moment I was struck by a profound question: why has no one has written a book to those who can’t read or those who struggle with reading? That was the moment that started the process of me diving into writing my book and speaking to that audience. It all started because of a book I read and having the opportunity to connect with an author and ask him questions about the process of writing a book.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

My book tells you how to take the “can’t” out of your life and overcome any obstacles in your way. You do that by reading books about topics that you enjoy, or reading books about who you want to become in your career. There’s a book out there for every situation in your life.

But what you learn in that book won’t help you unless you first tell yourself it can be done. If you take the “can’t” out first, then you can do it. When you do that, then you’re ready to pick up a book that can increase your knowledge or change your mindset. If you struggle to read, get the audiobook and read along in the book as the audiobook plays. Again: take the “can’t” out!

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

I had to apply this lesson when it came time to record my audiobook. Up until that point, I was afraid to read in front of others, so I had hired a narrator to read my audiobook. When that fell through, I knew that making the deadlines from my publisher meant that I had to record the audiobook. It would’ve been easy to say, “I can’t do this.” But I didn’t do that.

I took the “can’t” out, stepped into the recording booth, and read my book. It was an amazing feeling to do something that I once would’ve dreaded doing. Don’t tell yourself you can’t. You know why? Because you’re always going to be right. When I applied this lesson, it opened so many doors because now kids who struggle to read can listen to my audiobook. So, I’m thankful for this lesson and the impact it had on my life. I’m hopeful it’ll make an impact on others.

For more advice on overcoming obstacles to live the life you want, check out I Can’t Read on Amazon.

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