You Profit In Every Opportunity To Learn

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

After teaching me where to place my fingers on the QWERTY keyboard, Ms. Dixon, our teacher, expected me to transcribe the text she provided.  Not only was there a requirement for speed and accuracy, you were not allowed to look at the paper you were typing.

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.  I should have learned there are no easy classes.  Had I learned that lesson, 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.  The teacher, Joe “Fig” Wooten, understood I took his class believing I could get an easy grade.  Before long, he also 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 wonder if he and Ms Dixon commiserated with each about my lack of skill: I’ll never know. I finished the semester, learned basic drafting skills and received another “mercy” C.

In college, majoring in history and American Studies, I would tease 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: studying history and American studies you delve into “gray” areas; accounting, however, is black and white: debit and credit.  Not only did I enjoy the course work, I joined my buddies as they sat on the steps of the business building and watched the girls go by.

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

Not knowing what life will bring, you cannot be aware of what knowledge and which skills will be of value.  Not knowing what knowledge or which skill will prove to be valuable, profit from every opportunity to learn.


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


2 responses to “You Profit In Every Opportunity To Learn

  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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