Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/80

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76
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

TRAINING FOR ACTION
H. W. FARWELL
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

EDUCATION is properly preparation for service. That man who enters upon his work with a poor idea of what is required of him is at once seriously handicapped and often prevented from reaching a goal which he hopes to reach, and strives to attain, sometimes with an enormous waste of energy. Much praise should be given to training which seeks to give high ideals and broad outlook, but surely something must be spoken for effort to make clear the means of attainment of a laudable ambition based on high ideals and broad outlook.

We know well the value of fundamental principles. We spend much time to ascertain what things are essential. We try to bring to younger minds the best of the results of continual analysis; yet on one point there seems to be very little effort made to make more certain the accomplishment of tasks whose essential features are readily traced to underlying principles. One of the greatest things about any work is its final solution, accomplishment or completion. The conception of a work of art, of a suspension bridge, of a transportation system, is not for all of us. There have never been too many “men of ideas.” But ideas arise from imagination and only too often the plan goes awry before the final realization. The “man of ideas” needs a man with a power to accomplish.

There seems to be prevalent the notion that executive ability is a gift from nature, made to comparatively few in a generation. When one of these endowed individuals is thrust into a position of responsibility, his talent appears and success follows almost of necessity. Since this ability is rare, much time is lost in finding a man who possesses it; meanwhile, a great injustice is done to those dependent upon the executive. Such a point of view can hardly be considered fair even to the average man, for not all positions demand the highest order of executive ability.

Other people apparently assume that executive ability is a characteristic of all men, that any one in a position of responsibility, for which he has the requisite training in principles and methods, will be able to accomplish as much as any one else. How fallacious is this assumption may be quickly seen by considering the varied accomplishments of, let us say, our representatives in congress.

Executive ability is a gift from nature, to be sure, and possessed by every man, but in the same way that each man has talent for music