Roughly 10 percent of all people are left handed and 90 % are right handed. If you’ve always been curious as to what determines hand preference, it can be a variety of factors such as the differences between the right and left halves of an individual’s brain, it could be related to outside influences such as teachers or parents prompting use of one or the other and it can even be training.
Famous lefties include Presidents Barak Obama, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton. Musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney…lefties. Albert Einstein, Julia Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Mark Twain…all left handed. Left handed people have to overcome a little more than righties. In Latin the word for right is “dexter” (as in dexterous) and the word for left is “sinister”. Left handers sometimes might feel stigmatized, but I am sure putting up with so many right handers helps toughen and smarten them up!
Handing is something that seems predetermined from birth, such as a pair of twin two year old girls we know, who from birth have been a righty and a leftie. Fascinating and interesting. Their father is primarily right handed but plays hockey left handed and shoots pool left handed, so therein might lie a clue. I’ve met ambidextrous golfers, switch hitters in baseball, and tennis players who can hit with either hand, and always wondered how they could possibly do it.
Some years back I was challenged to a game of ping pong. My opponents said he would play left handed, though he was right handed. Perhaps it was a taunting psychological strategy or maybe he was trying to tell me he didn’t think much of my playing. I said that I would play left handed too, even though I am right handed. We were both pathetic hitters for the first five minutes, not even able to properly serve. 10 minutes in, something magical stated to happen. We learned how to hit confidently with our non-dominant hands. After 15 minutes I began to hit with topspin and after 20 minutes, I could switch hands after each shot, hitting 1 with my right hand then with my left, quite naturally. In 20 minutes, I had gone from total incompetent incoordination to confident. The next day, it took only a couple of minutes to get back to competent left handed hitting and later, even after a month of not playing, I could quickly regain my left handed competency. I checked with a neurologist friend and he told me that the brain is quite remarkable in its potential to adapt and that I was reprogramming new neural pathways as I learned to hit left handed. This can be quite useful in the event of injury or stroke and is part of how the body copes with challenge. He said that this type of exercise is great in aging people as it keeps our functions working better and longer.
What struck me was how incredibly awkward using my left hand was initially. Starting out, I couldn’t imagine that I would attain any level of competency. It was just so painfully awkward. But surprisingly, once I got past the first five minutes of brutal discomfort, the magic started. That discomfort and awkwardness can easily convince you that you couldn’t get past it….but then think about juggling or even just riding a bicycle for the first time. Both feel absolutely out of reach impossible, until you get past and master the initial pain stage and then you have a skill that your body doesn’t forget. The moral of the left/right story is…how many things in life do we quit too early, often just before we get past the initial pain point, never knowing that success was waiting just around the corner. Thomas Edison said “I haven’t failed, I’ve just tried a thousand things that haven’t worked yet.” Patience, my friends, is what usually works in the end. Couple patience with persistence and you will find success.