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.
Sometimes it happens that a man is not working to advantage because of some defect in his physical make-up. He may have defective vision or some peculiarity of hearing that renders him unable to respond as quickly as he should to the demands made upon him. If these defects are ascertained, it is usually a simple matter to correct the defects by mechanical means or readjust the relative duties of different persons so that the defects will be minimized.
Where large numbers of people are employed, it is comparatively easy to use tests for discovering defects of sight or hearing by simple apparatus without requiring the services of a high-priced expert. By adopting these test methods any manager of a large industrial establishment can satisfy himself whether his employees are up to certain normal standards. He can even apply the tests to himself.
Optical tests can be conducted by securing an ordinary letter chart such as is used by oculists and opticians. Seat the subject twenty feet away. If he can read all the lines of letters from the largest down to the smallest his eyesight is practically perfect. In a large percentage of cases the smaller lines of type are blurred and invisible. To detect the cause and degree of defects of the eyes it is necessary to try out the eyes by using a trial spectacle frame and inserting detached lenses before the right eye and the left eye alternately. One of the most common forms of defective vision is astigmatism. A chart has been designed with a series of circles and straight lines radiating from the center. If the subject is astigmatic he will see some of the straight lines distinctly while others will be blurred. For instance, one or two of the vertical lines may appear very black and strong while all others will look like a hazy network. This defect, due to uneven-ness of the spherical surface of the eyeball, is easily corrected with properly ground glasses.
Defects in hearing can be easily determined by means of an "acoumeter." This little instrument measures the acuteness of the hearing very accurately by means of shot dropped from varying heights upon strips of glass, copper and cardboard. Tests with this device indicate whether the subject's hearing is above or below normal.
Stop wasting your energy.
Heretofore you have used your powers in a more or less haphazard way, with a vast amount of waste and no efficient direction. From now on you are to exercise more intelligence in this respect and make all your energies contribute to your business progress and your personal success.
You are losing power in fruitless outward activities.
You are losing power in the thinking of useless thoughts. You cannot stop the ceaseless activity of the mind. But you can conserve its forces by directing them into channels that are worth while.
You are losing power in a turmoil of inward mental strains and inharmonies. Catch yourself at some moment when you are forging ahead in a crowded day's work. You will then see what an inner whirlwind of excitement is in progress, what stresses and strains are at work, what contrary impulses, what frictions and obstacles are being overcome.
Now, to the engineer every one of these words - friction, obstacle, strain - spells loss of efficiency, and in this Course we shall teach you how you may do away with antagonistic impulses, may bring your combined mental forces to bear upon the common enemy, and may hurl yourself into the struggles of business and practical life with a joyful and headlong impetuosity that no obstacle can withstand.
Professor Walter Dill Scott, of Northwestern University, has said: "In studying the lives of contemporary business men, two facts stand out preeminently. The first is that their labors have brought about results that to most of us would have seemed impossible. Such men appear as giants in comparison with whom ordinary men sink to the size of pygmies. The second fact, which a study of successful business men (or any class of successful men) reveals, is that they never seem rushed for time.
"Such men have time to devote to objects in no way connected with their business. It cannot be regarded as accidental that this characteristic of mind is found so commonly among successful men during the years of their most fruitful labor. According to the American ideal, the man who is sure to succeed is the one who is continously 'keyed up to concert pitch' - who is ever alert and is always giving attention to his business or profession."
And again: "It is not necessarily true that the greatest and most constant display of energy accompanies the greatest presence of energy. The tugboat on the river is constantly blowing off steam and making a tremendous display of energy, while the ocean liner proceeds on its way without noise and without commotion. The man who frets and fumes, who is nervous and excited, is strung up to such a pitch that energy is being dissipated in all directions."
Many business men know they are going at a pace that kills, and at the same time they feel that they are accomplishing too little. For such the pertinent question is, How may I reduce the expenditure of energy without reducing the efficiency of my labor?
One of the busiest and most efficient men in England is quoted as having explained his own accomplishment of big results with the least expenditure of effort: "By organizing myself to run smoothly, as well as my business; by schooling myself to keep cool, and to do what I have to do without expending more nervous energy on the task than is necessary; by avoiding all needless friction. In consequence, when I finish my day's work, I feel nearly as fresh as when I started."
The late Professor James, of Harvard University, often referred to as the founder of modern psychology, spoke thus disparagingly of untrained effort: "Your convulsive worker breaks down and has bad moods so often that you never know where he may be when you most need his help, - he may be having one of his 'bad days.' We say that so many of our fellow-countrymen collapse and have to be sent abroad to rest their nerves, because they work so hard. I suspect that this is an immense mistake. I suspect that neither the nature nor the amount of our work is accountable for the frequency and the severity of our breakdowns, but that their cause lies rather in those absurd feelings of hurry and having no time, in the breathlessness and tension, that anxiety of feature and solicitude for results, that lack of inner harmony and ease, in short, by which with us the work is apt to be accompanied."