There are 4 forgotten skills required to be taken seriously. The skills are to read, type, listen, and speak. You won’t find these skills listed in the Requirements section of a job description; one could argue that you should.
If you are under 30, you did not likely get training on these skills, in public school cost cutting measures, and a disconnect between academia and the real-world considers this curriculum to be obsolete. Ponder for moment, and read on…
Required: 4 Forgotten Skills
I recall the summer after 7th grade. Somewhat reluctantly as a kid that wanted to be outside, I agreed to go to summer school. I signed up for beginning typing. Looking back, taking typing from the Western Illinois University Laboratory School (now gone) summer program was one of the most important things I did as a young teen.
The classroom had IBM Selectric™ typewriters and room for 24 students. Mrs. Whitman led 12 of us that summer, all reluctant, in a formal business skill program I recall as typing lessons. The room was fluorescent, lit with that artificial light spectrum that gave you a headache. The environment was sterile, and over-air-conditioned like the O.R. I had been in and out of for ear surgery. There were no windows. I think back and remember daydreaming if the electric hum we all heard was the lighting or the collective artificial orchestra of IBM mechanical instruments in the dozen or so typewriters. Were they mocking us for being there when other kids were outside? Or were they powered up only to laugh in harmony at us as we mistyped the words we were given to practice?
Paints a vivid picture, doesn’t it. The point is that by being forced to type, the old fashioned way where mistakes required complete retyping, enabled one to process thought, develop clarity, and speed in typing skills so one could articulate more ideas, and achieve it with more clarity.
1. Read to Stimulate Idea and Thought
Some of the best ideas come from reading the work of others. It doesn’t matter if it is a book, your kindle, online, a blog, just read. Read what interests you, jot notes and ideas in the margins, or in Evernote. You won’t use them all, but do it. Connect reading with thought to dig a deep well of ideas. You will increase your ability and make it easier to generate new ideas in your field of focus.
Teach your children to read, widely; it will give them advantage and creativity.
2. Type to Write with Structure
I’ve specifically called this skill type. Not the hunt-and-peck use of a keyboard, nor the use of thumbs on a smartphone or tablet, I mean real, serious, typing on a keyboard. I mean the skill that they don’t teach in High School anymore. There is no mechanism like it for connecting thought with the well-written printed word. Eventually, voice-recognition tools will get better, but for editing, moving words around (cut and paste) and forming structured written communication, one must learn to type on a QWERTY keyboard.
Typing 100+ words a minute is much slower than the brain can fire synapses, to be sure. But no one can understand your particular real-time dynamic connection of neurons. As your brain tells your fingers what to do on the keyboard, typing forces structure to clearly articulate thought in language that others can understand.
Oh, yes, and as coding becomes critical for the next generation – yes software programming – rated by many sources as number one skill in demand from future college graduates, typing is necessary. There is no voice-recognition tool that will replace organizing source code and preparing it for compiling into software.
Teach your kids to type on a keyboard; it will give them clarity of thought.
3. Listen to Hear a Message
Listening is the complement to writing, in two ways. Listening enables you to lead better by understanding the interests of others. It helps form the structure of your writing to serve your audience. If you do this, your audience will have greater interest in what you have to say (written or spoken). Moreover, people will remember what you say and write, and consider it the authority to base new thought upon.
The second important, and lesser known value in listening, is to play back in your own mind, your own thoughts. Some call this reflection, I sometimes say to ponder. In essence, it is to listen to your own thought and words, and evaluate them logically and emotionally to ensure they carry your message. Listening always involves an audience of at least one, and that one person can be you.
Teach your children to listen in this reflective way; it will build trust among peers.
4. Speak to Build Confidence
Reading (to stimulate thinking) typing (writing to form structure) and listening (to hear a message) leads to speaking. People may read your writing, and want to know more. Often, they want to see the source, and evaluate its credibility. Being able to speak and deliver a linear thought is critical. Demonstrating confidence that your thinking and writing is authentic and authoritative, is only possible if you can bring your audience along with you on the journey you are communicating. It doesn’t matter if the journey is fiction, poetry, teaching, motivation, or anything. Speaking with confidence validates what you read, what you typed, and shows how well you listened.
Teach your children to speak with confidence; it will take them places.
I sent my own two children to summer school programs when they were in junior high. For them, it was computer skills such as Microsoft Office – which is where they learned their typing skills. Those skills have served them well, as they did homework in High School, and continue at the University level – nearly everything is done on their laptop’s QWERTY keyboard, from engaging with web-based learning and testing tools to full-scale research in the world’s greatest library – the internet.
My parents could both write. My mother taught college level English. My father was an educator, researcher, scholar, and tenured professor. I grew up with the sound of a typewriter somewhere in the house, almost always. With 3 sisters and one brother, we went through typewriter repair bills, like it was a family sport. This was a good foundation to recognize the value and build these skills.
All these skills increase your ability to be taken seriously, in whatever you do. I believe typing on a real keyboard is a most critical skill to develop, and even perhaps resurrect in our curriculum for our schools. Having a command of the keyboard is something that accelerates the other three skills. Nothing is more painful than watching someone peck out an email or document, using two fingers.
Image Credits: IBM Selectric, Wikimedia Commons.