This is an email  I recently wrote to my family:

It has come to my attention that some of my nieces and nephews are lacking when it comes to what I feel is one of the most valuable skills a person, especially a young person, can have today. This skill affects how educated you will be, what kind of grades you get, what jobs you are qualified for, your relationships with family members and friends, and it could even save your life. I’m not talking about reading, writing, public speaking, showing empathy, or financial management, although those are all terribly valuable skills and arguably more valuable than the skill I’m talking about–I’m talking about typing, and typing quickly.

Note: Typing with two fingers is not typing. Let’s not argue about it. If you think two-fingered-hunt-and-peck “typing” is real typing then just trust me, you’re wrong.

Let’s examine how typing affects the four areas I mentioned above:

Education – Education is different than grades and goes beyond school. But let’s look at it within the school environment. You have a report to write. You have limited time. The more time you spend typing, the less time you have to research your report. The more time you spend typing, the less likely you are to want to research your report thoroughly, because after all, the more research you do the longer your report will be and you’ll end up typing that much more, and if you can’t type fast then typing is a pain. As a result of your lack of typing skills you will learn less.

What about outside of school? I’m not in school, but I maintain several blogs (diary-like websites where I post on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to triathlons). In the course of creating content for these blogs I perform a lot of research, and I learn a lot. But if I couldn’t type quickly, I’d quickly lose my motivation to maintain these blogs (if I had ever started them in the first place), and I would miss out on the learning that comes from maintaining said blogs.

Grades – Of course you can get good grades without being educated, and you can be well-educated without getting good grades. But those cases are the exception rather than the rule, and people who make such claims typically did not received either good grades or a good education while in school.

As with the former example about writing reports, if you don’t put as much effort into typing up a report because you hate typing or can’t type very fast, then you have less opportunity to revise a report, or you may write a report that is short when a longer one would have resulted in a better grade. Faster typing generally = more thorough work which generally = a better education which generally = better grades.

Employment – I once fired an employee because he couldn’t type. Ok, the real reason is because he was a salesman who couldn’t sell, but a large part of why he couldn’t sell was directly tied to his not being able to type and thus he couldn’t send emails to clients or type up proposals. He only lasted two weeks with my company and I will never hire someone who can’t type ever again. Perhaps you think I’m unusual as an employer, and while I will grant you that I’m unusual in many ways, I’m not unique in this matter. A lot of employers require good typing skills, or more commonly a lot of jobs require good typing skills to even be able to being to perform them.

Here’s a related story that bears telling–Have you ever heard of Overstock.com? They’re a large online retailer. Not quite Amazon.com, but they’re big. The founder wasn’t from Utah, but I’ve heard firsthand from him that when he was trying to decide where to base his company he chose Utah in large part because most people here already knew how to use Microsoft Word, email, Internet browsers, and other basic software programs. And those who can type well can generally use these programs better than those who can’t.

You young people–trust me on this one when I say that if you can’t type and type well, you will disqualify yourself from all but the hottest and noisiest jobs.

Relationships – Email, Facebook, chat, blogs, etc. This is how a lot of people communicate and stay in touch these days, and it will only become more so in the future. If you can’t type fast and well enough to communicate using these mediums, then you can’t say as much as you might like to, and your relationships may not be as rewarding as they otherwise could be.

And that bit about typing being able to save your life? As a young man one of my professors in college was drafted to go to Vietnam. If he had been sent into combat he stood a decent chance of being killed. But he knew how to type 120 words per minute on an old-fashioned typewriter. His skill was so valuable to the military they couldn’t risk losing him, and so he was kept in places far away from things that kill you.

I don’t know the best way to learn how to type. I was taught by Mrs. Nunez at Dana Junior High School in Arcadia, CA. We learned on manual typewriters with a book next to the desk that ran us through typing drills. It wasn’t a very intellectually stimulating class, but without a doubt it was the most valuable class I ever took, and I include my graduate college classes in that list. No other class changed my life in a more concrete and clear way. No other class set me up better for success and happiness in life.

I’m sure there are free programs out there on the Internet that will teach you how to type correctly. There are games like http://www.freetypinggame.net and there is software you can buy (try first) like Mavis Beacon. I know it’s a pain at first, especially if you’ve done it the wrong way for a long time. But if you earnestly try it won’t take you long at all. Maybe a week or two and you’ll be well on your way. Like anything else, it takes some willpower and resolve at first, but quickly becomes easier. Once you’ve made the switch, you’ll never go back to the old way and you’ll be happier for it.