In 7th grade I took a typing class. It was required. The powers that be shoved too many 13-year-olds into a tiny room with tiny keyboards and we spent hours each week with paper covering our hands typing books of the Bible as fast as we could. Each week we took a typing test. The fastest and most accurate typist got to use the REAL computer the next week. They got to sit at a full-sized desk where they could stretch out their elbows and actually see all of their words as they worked. The rest of us sat with our little AlphaSmart keyboards and only saw three lines of text at a time. I got to use the real computer exactly once.
A few years ago, right after I finished seminary and was floating around in Austin planning our wedding, I took on a job from a Doctor of Ministry student: transcribing his final project interviews. I hadn’t done transcription work before but found that I was actually very fast. (Thanks, AlphaSmart!) I started picking up other transcription jobs and kept improving my pace and efficiency. While I found the interviews I was listening to and putting down on paper interesting, I quickly realized that transcription work was a little mind numbing for me; so I stopped looking for that type of task.
I’ve been thinking lately about how these little habits and skills were less than fun when I was learning them, but how mastering them turned out to be super helpful in my life.
About a month ago I travelled to Waco to conduct a series of interviews for an article I was writing (I’ll share more about that once it’s published). I love interviewing. It’s fun to think up questions and then see where the conversation leads and what I can learn about a person or event.
In order to get accurate quotes, I decided I needed to transcribe my interviews. Turns out the hours I spent honing this skill really paid off. My quick typing and the rhythm I discovered a couple of years ago—pausing and polishing text from the audio as I go—made transcribing my own interviews a breeze. So much so, that I could transcribe and allow my brain to churn as I outlined my articles and made notes of where to place quotes. I love this planning part of the process.
No, I didn’t love retyping chapters of the Bible for an hour every day in 7thgrade, but I am grateful that I am now a fast typist. It has made taking notes and cranking out papers—and now articles—so much easier and has freed me up to practice other skills, like interviewing. I decided years ago that transcription would not be my profession. And yet, having the skill makes doing what I actually love—talking to people and writing articles and stories—so much easier.
It’s fun to look back and think about the little things I couldn’t appreciate until I looked at them in the rearview mirror. It’s exciting to wonder which skills I’m practicing now will equip me for something yet to come.
Obviously, this musing could apply to a lot of things…are there skills you picked up in your life that you can now look back on and see how they laid a foundation for where you are—or who you are—today?