How to Get the Things YOU Want (Oct, 1932)
How to Get the Things YOU Want
a five-year plan that anybody can use By Emmet Crozier
TAKE a pencil and a sheet of paper and write down your aims in life. Don’t be too specific, but let your imagination ramble a bit. Think of the years ahead. Make a list of the things you want most; then check back to see if you’ve missed anything. The job should take about three minutes—not more than five—and when you’ve finished you will probably lean back and survey the penciled program with hopeful pride.
Now get ready for a tumble. I’m going to tell you—if you’re an average person—just what you’ve written: You want to be financially independent; You want to be your own boss; You want to travel—China, India, the South Sea Islands; You want money enough to take care of your relatives and dependents; You want to have a family, to own your own home, with a big yard for the youngsters, belong to a country club, and have plenty of opportunity for recreation.
No, I’m not a mind reader. If I am correct about those aims, the credit belongs to Newman L. Hoopingarner, professor of business psychology at New York University. The professor has made a study of the daydreams we all indulge in about the future. He has questioned more than 10,000 men and women. He knows the answers we all give.
I watched him make that simple “What-do-you-want” test in a class of nearly a hundred students in his course in Personality Improvement. That course is Professor Hoopingarner’s own creation. He started it, wrote the textbooks, prepared the 105-minute lectures, and braved the scorn and indifference of pedagogic tradition in making it part of a college curriculum.
A plump, round man, as broad as a barn door, he told the members of the class to write down their aims in life, and when they had finished he told them substantially what they had written. A shrill minority piped up with a few special aims, but, by and large, the professor had hit the nail on the head. There was an embarrassed silence. Professor Hoopingarner walked over to the window, where he stood for a while taking a leisurely view of Washington Square. When he turned to face the class again, his voice was tinged with irony.
“The benches out there in the park,” he said, “are lined with down-and-out men who have the same aims. They want money. They want to be their own bosses. They want to travel and have a good time. All the same—vague and hazy and hopeful. But—” And now the professor paused. He searched intent faces before him. He doubled up one fist and brought it down with a smack against an open palm.
” Not two per cent of the people in this world,” he said, “actually have a goal!”
“Come, come, Professor,” I said, a little later, “do you mean to imply that 98 per cent of us are just ambling along through life without any definite notion of where we are headed?”
That, replied Professor Hoopingarner, is exactly what he meant. To back it up, he told me about studies he has made of 100,000 men and women. College students, army recruits in the selective draft, shop foremen and workers, salesmen, business executives—all these have come under his scrutiny. By groups, individual interviews, questionnaires, he has studied a huge cross section of us under the psychological microscope. Two per cent are headed somewhere— the rest of us are drifting.
But he is not satisfied merely to jolt his students out of their classroom complacency by quoting figures. By the time they have finished the professor’s unique course in Personality Improvement, each of his students has constructed a Personal Five-Year Plan to guide his life. This plan may be short and to the point, or it may be long and involved. But it is specific; it is orderly. It visualizes a definite goal and traces the logical steps necessary to reach that goal.
A FEW weeks ago I attended a series of Professor Hoopingarner’s lectures.
“What do you know about yourselves?” he demanded of his audience. “Row do you measure up in physique, mental alertness, skill, aptitudes, temperament? What are your weak points? Your strong ones? What is your goal?”
Youngsters of seventeen and eighteen, women in their early thirties, tired clerks and bookkeepers struggling for a new deal, sales managers and executives up to sixty-eight years old, all seated in rows of hard, classroom benches, followed the crisp challenge of his words. Sometimes they squirmed uneasily as he scored a touch on some tender sensibility. On occasion they opened their notebooks and wrote feverishly to catch a significant phrase on the wing. Now and then they were brought up sharp by an arresting statement such as this: “Success in life is due 15 per cent to technical knowledge, 85 per cent to personality!”
That statement was the starting point in Newman L. Hoopingarner’s new theory of education. He ran across it ten years ago in the report of a survey for the Carnegie Foundation, made to discover the factors of success in business. Most of the educators and business men who read the report promptly forgot it.
But not Hoopingarner. If success in life was attributable 85 per cent to personality and only 15 per cent to technical knowledge, why should colleges and universities continue to devote their efforts and resources to that narrow 15 per cent? Hoopingarner figured that the larger field was worth exploring, so he rolled up his sleeves and started after it.
The result is a definite system by which he aids men and women to take stock of their personalities, strengthen their weak points, and chart the future course of their efforts accordingly.
“FORTY-ONE years old, Hoopingarner is broad, beaming, easy to talk to. Behind his rotund amiability, however, he is as earnest as a preacher and as hard-headed as a Wall Street banker. Listening to the professor expound his theories of personality improvement and life-planning, in fact, I caught some of the earnestness that old-time ministers used to get into their sermons on Hell Fire. He comes by that gift honestly.
His father was a Methodist evangelist. With his family of five children (Newman L.—named for Bishop Newman— was the third) the elder Hoopingarner traveled the Middle-Western Corn Belt in the eighties and nineties.
At the age of fourteen the boy Newman found himself running a 240-acre farm near Enid, Okla. His father’s health had failed, the two older brothers had married and moved away. For two years he plowed, harvested, milked cows, and bossed a couple of farm hands. The things he remembers best from that period are a cavernous appetite, a healthy fatigue that made him fall asleep about the time his second shoe hit the floor, and an unquenchable curiosity about the source and persistence of Oklahoma winds.
The family moved on to Texas, a climate better suited to the elder Hoopingarner’s recurring asthma. Looking backward over their restless migrations, Hoopingarner says they worked through a new climate about every four years. Southern Texas was in the throes of a land boom, and the younger Hoopingarner, now sixteen, caught the fever from a land agent and passed it along to an elderly farmer from Kansas with such enthusiasm that he made a thousand-dollar sales commission.
Retiring from the field of active evangelism, the Rev. Mr. Hoopingarner took his brood to Austin, Texas, where Newman and his brother Dwight finished high school and entered the University of Texas.
IN THE university Newman displayed so much aptitude for psychology that even before he was graduated he was given a job on the university extension staff, carrying study courses to the farmers and farmers’ sons in rural Texas.
On the trail of more psychology, Newman went to Columbia University in 1917, then to Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh a year later as a major research fellow in the Bureau of Salesmanship. It was in Pittsburgh, working with business executives, sales managers, and shop foremen that the broad field of human psychology narrowed to a study of personality in its relation to business success. The World War gave him an opportunity to put the theory to practical use. At a Georgia army camp he had charge of over 50,000 personnel assignments for the Ordnance Department.
After the war he worked for a time as a specialist in adjusting disabled soldiers to civilian life, and in 1922 New York University placed him in the School of Commerce as assistant professor of business psychology. Last year he was made a full professor.
HOOPINGARNER gives his students no formula for easily attained success. He holds out no hope for quick and drastic changes in personality. No psychological miracle can transform overnight, he says, a maladjusted Mr. Hyde into a useful Doctor Jekyll. But he does believe that an understanding of personality will make our problems easier and will smooth a good many rough places out of the path ahead.
Well, just what is personality? When he started out to track it down more than ten years ago, Professor Hoopingarner found that everybody had a hazy definition, but nobody knew much, specifically, about it. Elinor Glyn called personality “It” and let it go at that. Some people said it was the difference between the girl at the telephone switchboard and a movie star. Again, it was something after-dinner speakers had and other people lacked. It was a kind of shining armor handed down by your ancestors which you put on at birth and wore blithely through life.
None of these definitions satisfied Hoopingarner. He dug deeper. By and by he found what he was after. Personality, he concluded, was not a trait nor a magic gift heritage. It was not the way you combed your hair nor the art of telling funny stories. Personality was human effectiveness, human performance; the sum total of a man’s abilities translated into action.
“It might be said,” Hoopingarner explained to me, “that there is no such ‘thing’ as personality, just as it might be said there is no such thing as performance in an automobile aside from the composite result of the interworkings of the various parts. To explain, to analyze, attain, or improve this performance or result, it is necessary to understand the parts of the car and improve their workings. Some parts may be considered more important than others, but every essential has its function, and its importance varies according to the results desired. So it is with personality.”
HIS next step was to divide the personality of the individual into its several parts. Hoopingarner dissected personality into five qualities:
2. Mental Alertness
All of us possess those qualities in varying degrees. But that analysis was a little too broad, too general. So he divided it further into twelve traits, which we can all recognize and measure:
5. Constructive Imagination
10. Organizing Ability
If the genial professor had been content to rest there, we would have a pretty good bird’s-eye view of Personality in general, but we wouldn’t know quite what to do with it, or, specifically, how to put it to work to make our own lives richer and fuller. So he devised a series of tests with which any of us can measure ourselves and find out what we’ve got and what we lack Elsewhere in this article are a number of these tests. Try them on yourself, and see if they do not suggest to you some definite, workable plan of strengthening your weak points and improving your good ones.
Each of Hoopingarner’s students must take the entire series of tests, after which he walks before a motion-picture camera for a screen test. He can read from a prepared manuscript or speak extemporaneously. Or he can just stand there and grin. But the camera records faithfully all his unconscious mannerisms, the awkward things he does with his hands, the presence or lack of poise. Then comes a voice test on a recording phonograph.
The screen test—about 33 feet of film containing more than 400 separate exposures—is later shown to the student in private, and Professor Hoopingarner comments on his gestures and manner. Likewise with the voice test.
WHEN I had seen dozens of these tests made in Professor Hoopingarner’s classes, he took me to his private office and showed me shelves piled with notebooks, papers, and bulky envelopes— a heterogeneous mass of documents rising almost to the ceiling. These were the records of his curious experiment in education. He pointed out a five-foot shelf of case histories: fragmentary, groping stories of men and women who had come to him for help in changing their lives. He reached into that mass of documents and brought forth a leather-bound notebook.
Here was the five-year plan of a building superintendent, one of last year’s students. Charged with supervision of janitors, window cleaners, inspectors, and repair men for a group of buildings operated by a large corporation, he has a fairly secure position and a comfortable income. But that isn’t enough. As a student in the Personality Improvement course he has made a survey of his future, his job, himself. And here, in a 47-page notebook, he sets forth his five-year plan.
He is going to make himself a better building superintendent by studying building construction. He is going to train men under him to accept responsibility and think for themselves. He has a definite program of reading, study, savings.
TOURING the fall and winter (1932) he is going to read the messages and papers of Presidents of the United States. As an avocation he is going to try his hand at writing books for children. For 1933: “January to June: Experimentation with promoting of ideas for children’s storybooks.
” June to Sept.: Study of business English and grammar.
“Sept. to Dec.: Reading of literature and biographies.”
Professor Hoopingarner told me that this student thus far has faithfully followed the plan for 1932. He has already made considerable progress with his idea for children’s books, at the same time widening knowledge of his own job.
The professor turned to the shelves again and brought out another five-year plan. Here was a shopkeeper, a retailer of women’s dresses, mapping his course: “I intend to strengthen the present organization of my store so that I can delegate to others a great deal of the work I am doing. I also have in mind, in the event of opening another store, to have a nucleus of trained executives to carry out my ideas.
“In this present period of depression, the opening of a new store is unwise and almost impossible through lack of capital. Bearing in mind the need of capital at some future time, I am trying to enlarge my circle of friends and acquaintances, as ultimately it will be from this source that the capital will originate.”
Concerning his personal finances: “Of course, in these chaotic times, with salary cuts and economic difficulties, it is not easy to adhere to some methodical and systematic manner of saving. But here is a plan I mean to carry out: A certain percentage of my weekly salary must be put aside regularly and deposited in a bank. With every $100 I will buy some good bond, in all likelihood some United States bond. When I have accumulated about $50,000 worth of this security, I shall go to some good bank and invest in an annuity. As I recall my experiences and those of many of my friends—of the fortunes made and lost and the utter helplessness of these people—I think the wisest thing any person can do is to put a definite amount out of the firing line—out of reach of temptation.”
But—the merchant’s five-year plan goes on to say: “After all, success in life cannot be measured by mere dollars alone. I am also planning to get some grasp on Philosophy. … I have a very definite plan for enlarging my spiritual horizon. I shall read the Bible for an hour every day.”
“That man finished the course more than a year ago,” Hoopingarner told me, “but he still drops in to see me occasionally. Recently I checked up on his plan for the current year. In spite of increased financial problems in his particular business, he has kept methodically to his program of savings. He has widened his social horizon. And, just as important, he is reading the Bible every day!”
AND now the professor reached up among his shelves and brought down a sheaf of papers. They looked like English themes. For the most part they were handwritten. All bore the same heading: “My Own Problem as I See It Now.”
This is the subject of one of the first papers the Personality Improvement student must hand in.
Professor Hoopingarner lives at Rockville Center, nineteen miles east of Manhattan on semi-rural Long Island. A thirty-five minute train trip gives him the opportunity to observe the personalities of Long Island commuters twice each day. He plays golf occasionally, more to study human behavior on the links than to break 90. For recreation, he would rather pitch horseshoes than play any of the modern games. Most people take their bridge too seriously, he believes, and therefore it is not a healthy recreation.
In summer, he tinkers with an outboard motor on Huntington Bay, Long Island, where he has a log cabin near the water’s edge, and explores the beach near by, observing, with his thirteen-year-old son, the habits and behavior of crustaceans and other forms of marine life.
Even his small son has a five-year plan. He is going to be a surgeon, and, as a part of his preliminary training, he spends an hour a day running scales on the piano. Music and medicine? One of the most important things in a surgeon’s equipment, Hoopingarner pointed out, is a pair of supple, pliable hands and wrists. How better acquire them than by taking piano lessons?
“Look here,” I said to Professor Hoopingarner, “this course in Personality Improvement and Life Planning is all very well for the people who come here to the university and take the course under your guidance. They have the stimulus of your lectures and your instruction to prod them along. But how about the people who have left the classroom behind them?
” I have a brother-in-law in Chicago who never went to college and never heard of your course. How can he tackle the personality problem and make his own five-year plan?”
“Easiest thing in the world!” said the professor. “First, let him consider his job, his working field. What is its future? What branches of it are along the main stream; which ones are merely overhead? What are the requirements for success in that field? Anybody can answer those questions sensibly and honestly about his own work.
“The next step is to measure his own personality in relation to his job. He tests himself in the twelve traits, beginning with Impressiveness and ending with Knowledge. Here is the mirror in which a man surveys himself, check and double check.
“He knows by now that certain definite things are needed for him to attain success. After discovering his own personal deficiencies and his natural gifts, he writes out a simple program to strengthen the weak points and improve the strong ones. And the last step is to follow that program religiously!”
A FIVE-YEAR plan for all of us! Why not? Hoopingarner’s students have tried it—and it works! And there never was a period when men and women so greatly needed a definite plan to guide and stabilize their lives.