'Tis the season for gift giving and I'd love to give one to each one of you. But that being impossible, I'm going to offer a select few of you the best gift of advice you'll ever get; that is, if you're in a position or of a mind to take advantage of it.
Have you ever been a lost soul, not knowing where you belong or what you should be doing with your life? Confused about your college major? Have you ever spent a lot of time doing what interests you only to find you're not very good at it, like maybe music or art? Or worse yet, are you good at what you do but you no longer enjoy it, perhaps even hate it? I have. Big time.
Back in 1956 I was an aircraft engineer working for Northrop Aircraft Company. I'd been in the industry for six years, ever since graduating from UCLA. I was good at it. I enjoyed the problem solving. But somehow I knew I didn't really belong. I hated the isolation and I had little in common with other engineers. Our car pool conversations were inevitably limited to sports, women and cars. There had to be more to life if only I could find it.
Luckily, I came upon a book, "Know Your Real Abilities," by Margaret Broadley. This book was written about the Human Engineering Laboratory aka The Johnson O'Connor Research Institute, which is the world's only genuine aptitude research and testing laboratory. In 1956 the "Lab" was already 30 years old, having developed the psychomotor tests used by our military air corps during WWII to determine who should be pilots, navigators or bombardiers.
Dr. O'Connor, the founder of the "Lab," was originally an electrical engineer at General Electric where he became fascinated with the problem of some people being able to assemble intricate mechanisms easily using their hands and small tools while others could not. It was at GE that he developed his first manual dexterity tests back in the 1920s. He left GE to devote full time to measuring and isolating innate, God-given aptitudes. It takes years to isolate an aptitude and prove that it isn't related to another aptitude. At the time I took the "Lab's" complete battery of tests in 1956 there were 19 aptitudes which could be grouped into hundreds of job combinations.
The Human Engineering Laboratory's norm is success, not national averages. All who are tested are compared with eminently successful people in all walks of life who have been tested for research. The "lab" is now over 70 years old and its aptitude data bank of successful people is huge. To make this story as short as possible, my engineering aptitude was in the 100th percentile but my personality aptitude is the exact opposite of that of the "born" engineer, which explained my dissatisfaction with the profession. I'm an "objective personality," which is ideally suited for sales, teaching or management. I must work with and through people. However, don't confuse the personality aptitude with introversion or extroversion.
What to do? Well, the "Lab" came up with the idea of combining my highest five aptitudes which are engineering, objective personality, analytical reasoning, inductive reasoning and foresight into a new profession called "sales engineering." But somehow, without any sales experience, I had to get into the sales department of a first class high-tech company which sold its products to the aircraft and other hi-tech industries. It cost me a 25 percent salary cut but I got in.
How did things turn out? I was truly reborn! I couldn't get enough of my work. Every day was a ball. My salary doubled in my first year, tripled in my second year, and I was the Los Angeles Regional Manager in my third year. Later, I joined another company which pioneered digital computer peripheral products in oil and gas exploration, and the chemical and petrochemical industries, 25 years before personal computers. Four years later, I had my own company.
To be a purposeful, well-integrated person in today's society you must use all of your strong aptitudes in your work and in your hobbies and you cannot afford to waste time where your aptitudes are weak. Forewarned is forearmed! When you know you're using your strongest aptitudes and your competitors aren't sure about theirs, you're the one holding aces back to back.
The "Lab's" tests are copyrighted and are not available in universities. Other so-called aptitude tests are only "interest" tests, not the genuine article. There are Human Engineering Laboratories in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It's the best investment you can ever make!
I owe the "Lab" a huge debt of gratitude, as do my children and 22 other people I've sent there over the years. When your working life is rewarding, your spiritual life will have a better chance of flourishing too. We need both. I hope today's column will at least help some troubled soul. If so, I will be amply rewarded. Have a holy and happy Christmas season.
Bob Thomas is a Carson City businessman, local curmudgeon and former member of the Carson City School Board and Nevada State Assembly.