Natural abilities are like natural plants, they need pruning by study.
Ability is the skill and aptness with which we do things. In order that a man may come to possess ability he must turn mind and hand to some form of activity. He must perform the required act the first time, the second time, and so on to hundreds of thousands of times until he is sure of himself. This is how we succeed in learning to walk. First there is the desire, then the doing, finally, the per fection of doing.
It has been pointed out recently by a student of economic labor that there is a right way of laying bricks and of shoveling dirt. This right way consists in the fewest possible motions consistent with the greatest amount of accom plishment. The bricks must be within easy reach so as not to require the bend of the body, the cement must be so placed as to prevent the turn of the body, the relation between the length of a man's arm and the length of his trowel must conserve every muscular move ment involved.
The result of studying men and work in this way, is this : The energy stimulated in the workman is made to move directly upon the task, and, consequently, it is not lost on the way.
This conservation of energy is a subject recognized to be so practical in these days that many men have specialized it. They under take to examine the conduct of a business or manufacturing enterprise, and to inform the owners how the work may be so simplified as to produce more and better results with the least possible amount of friction or loss of energy. This permits labor to proceed in a straight line from the raw material to the finished product, saving energy and lessening expense all along the line.
We can easily conceive that some day men will undertake to do this work for the indi vidual; showing him how he can proceed from morning to night, working directly and losing as little energy as possible. In the absence of a specialist who will do this for the indi vidual, there is no reason why he should not do it for himself. With the mind so trained as to think clearly, with the body and its senses in their subordinate places, a man has then to turn to his skill and aptness in doing what falls to his mind or hands, and of examining is to determine if he is doing it directly; that is, with directness.
This is a call to the mind to establish system. System means regularity and simplification, which in turn imply getting rid of indirect ness and waste of effort. Examination and system applied to a man's working ability raise his value immediately. He does better work in a shorter time, and, consequently, has more time to do more work, or he has more time for leisure, which, let us hope, he is de sirous of learning how to use.
A man who fails thus to organize himself is adrift; he is depending too much upon the current and not enough upon the strength sent out through his arms and the oars. Here is the case of an unorganized man: Carl Marvin entered the employ of the Easton Company, when he was seventeen years of age, as an errand boy. He continued at this work for two years, and gave thorough satisfaction.
Carl was then nineteen years of age.
The manager of the company, observing the boy's industry and habits of strict attention to business, suggested that he be given a place in the circular department. The work was ex acting, but Carl mastered its detail, and in two years he had full charge of it.
While Carl was engaged in the circular de partment, the manager continued to watch his work. One day he suggested to him that he learn stenography and typewriting. He urged this as a valuable asset for the future. By at tending night school and mastering a type machine in his spare moments he so well fitted himself that he was made private secretary to the manager.
Carl was then twenty-one.
The new position to which he was elected was the most exacting and responsible he had ever held, yet he found that he had more lei sure hours than he had ever enjoyed before. He spent these hours in reading whatever books he could find treating on the unequal distribu tion of wealth, of the injustice visited by the rich upon the poor, of the horrors of the grinding life a workingman is subjected to by his wealthy employer.