You Profit From Every Learning Opportunity

In the spring of my junior year of high school, searching for an easy class full of girls, I signed up for typing.  My decision was correct on one account I was wrong on another: the class was full of girls but not easy.

I was surrounded by high school girls who took to typing like ducks to water.  Every class session would produce new records: 30 words per minute with only two mistakes; 50 words per minute with one mistake and the record, 60 words per minute with no mistakes.  In contrast, I trudged along setting my own record—20 words per minute with 5 mistakes.

At the end of the semester, I received a “mercy C” in Ms Dixon’s class.  I also acquired a lifelong respect for people who spend their days tapping away on keyboards.  Had I learned that there are no easy classes, I would not have registered for mechanical drawing.

A good draftsman possesses the skill to draw in ink without making a mistake.  Not me—wrinkled and smudged from erasures, my drawings were terrible.  Before long, the teacher, Joe “Fig” Wooten, understood I had no aptitude for drawing.

Prior to the class ending, my classmates would turn in their completed drawings.  I would still be working when the bell rung and return after school to work while Mr. Wooten graded papers.  I finished the semester, learned basic drafting skills and received another “mercy C.”

In college, majoring in history and American Studies, I teased my business major friends about attending a trade school.  In return they would belittle my wimpy courses.  Challenged by my friends and bored with “subjective” study matter I decided I wanted to take an accounting course.   I convinced the head of the American Studies department to allow me to apply the course to the requirements for my major and signed up for accounting 101.

I loved accounting.  When studying history you delve into “gray” areas— accounting, however, is black and white: debit and credit.  Not only did I enjoy the course work, I was able to join my buddies, sitting on the steps of the business building, watching the girls go by.

Typing, mechanical drawing and accounting—those three courses provided value I never imagined.  What I learned made my transition  into the business world much easier, and many years later, I still use the skills gained in “throw away” courses.


Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” – Chinese Proverb

2 responses to “You Profit From Every Learning Opportunity

  1. Enjoyed hearing about your life, Bill, and laughed about the image of you in that typing class. I loved typing! And I loved the subjects that dealt with “gray areas.” I guess I’ve always been a dreamer. I majored in English with a minor in social anthropology. Not very useful when it comes to getting a job. My father was an engineer and felt the smartest people were in math and sciences. He loved me anyway!

    • My father didn’t understand my decision to major in and teach history at the college level. When working for him, one day he asked “How could someone with no business experience or education possibly believe he knows everything?” I realized he was right and I needed to be quiet and learn.

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