This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
WE HAVE shown you that you have within you the potentialities of success in the form of latent mental energy. We have shown you that your ability to achieve depends upon your ability to utilize to the full your underground mental resources.
But success demands that you do more than merely use all your mental energies. You must use them intelligently.
Most men fail because they speed the bullet without aiming. They fire at random, and so bag no game.
Your pent-up mental energy is the powder in the cartridge. Its usefulness depends upon the man behind the gun.
To succeed in business you must intelligently control and direct (1) your own mental energies, (2) the mental energies of others.
The course of the average man through life is an aimless zigzag. It has neither direction nor purpose. It represents wasted energy capriciously expended.
Mental energy is like water: it has a tendency to scatter. It is diffusive. It seeks release in a thousand different directions at the same time.
As a boy, first learning to write, you were unable to prevent the simultaneous squirming of tongue and legs, all ludicrously irrelevant to your purpose of writing. So now, as a business man, unless you have learned the secret of self-mastery, you are unable to concentrate your efforts, your attention is easily distracted, you exhaust yourself in displays of passion, you are forever doing things during business hours that have no relation to your business, you are forever doing things in connection with your business that do not contribute to its progress, you expend just as much energy as the accomplished executive or the successful "hustler," but you fritter it away in unprofitable activities.
To correct this is to gain mastery and power.
Concentrate your mental energies on one thing at a time. Stop spreading them around. The promoter may have a dozen big enterprises under way at once, but he takes them up one at a time. He transfers his whole mind and thought from one to the next. You cannot of course be eternally doing the same thing; but make no mistake about it, the only way to succeed at anything is to consciously control your mental energies. You may throw them now into this attack, now into another; but you must always have a tight grip on yourself, or you cannot succeed.
You will often hear some "live-wire" business man spoken of as a
"human dynamo." He has the faculty of turning out a stupendous amount of work in a comparatively short time. How he can carry in his mind the details of so many large projects, how he can accomplish so much in actual, tangible results in many directions, how he can pull the strings of so many enterprises without getting lost in the maze of detail, is the marvel of his associates. And yet this man is never "hurried, nor flurried, nor worried." But every word and every act is straight to the point and productive of results worth while.
"A cool brain is the reverse of a hot box. It carries the business of the day along with a steady drive, and is invariably the mark of the big man. The man who dispatches his work quietly, promptly and efficiently, with no trace of fuss and flurry, is a big man. It is not the hurrying, clattering and chattering individual who turns off the most work. He may imagine he is getting over a lot of track, but he wastes far more than the necessary amount of steam in doing it. The fable of the hare and the tortoise would not be a bad primer for a number of us, and the lesson relearned would not only be beneficial in a business-producing way, but it would help us in the full enjoyment of our work."
Progress in mental efficiency must result from the application of knowledge of the mental machine. Just as we watch the steam-engine and the electric motor to see that they are not "overloaded," so we must watch the mental machine, that no more power be turned on than can be profitably employed.
This principle has already been applied to physical labor by Mr. Frederick W. Taylor in his ground-breaking studies in "scientific management" Mr. Taylors celebrated experiments in the handling of pig-iron, by which the quantity handled in a day by one man was increased from twelve and one-half tons to forty-seven and one-half tons, "showed that a man engaged in such extremely heavy work could only be under load forty-three per cent of the working day, and must be entirely free from load for fifty-seven per cent, to attain the maximum efficiency."
There is no reason why efficiency in mental effort should not be gauged just as accurately as in muscular activity. If there are times when your wits are not as keen, when you have not the same grasp of fundamentals, as at other times, it is because you are mentally "overloaded." It may be the result of a great variety of causes. It may be from too many hours of continuous mental effort. But the probabilities are that it is the result of vexation, worry, dissipation, or allowing the mind to be burdened with the strain of vicious, or at least irrelevant and distracting, impulses and desires. And so efficiency is lost.
The "human dynamo" is a man who long ago learned the lesson of scientific management of his own mental forces. He does one thing at a time, and does it the best he knows how. He directs the whole power of his mentality to the one problem and solves it with accuracy and dispatch. There is no more of a "load" on his "gray matter" than there is on that of the fretting, fuming, finger-biting fritterer, but every pound of steam is spent in useful work.
Look at the victim of St. Vitus' dance. There you have an illustration of wasted energy. And it is mental energy, for every muscular movement represents the release of thought power. The mental lives of most men are equally aimless. They are lives of ceaseless activity producing nothing.