Service Is Our Business chapter 14

It’s Your Move Now

How often the player at chess or checkers, as the game reaches its final stages receives the brusque reminder: “It’s your move now!” That player might well be compared with the reader of this book. Here, too, many pieces have been moved about the board. Vocational service has been “played” in terms of craftsmanship, good faith, human engineering — in their many aspects. As in chess or checkers, some of the pieces may have been lost. The reader, like the player, has not retained them for his use. Yet some remain, and he is confronted with the question, what shall he do with them. “It’s your move now!” Similarly, a Rotarian impressed by the horizons of opportunity to serve society is not unlike the player who speculates about some brilliant strategy for winning the game. He, too, is challenged to do something about it. The large contributions that vocational service can make to the world will not be accomplished through discussion, still less by solemn resolutions in Rotary clubs. The genius of Rotary is individual action. The product of Rotary is men. Particularly is this the case in vocational service. When a Rotarian, convinced of the challenge to leadership in business or profession asks impatiently, “Why doesn’t someone do something about it?” he is promptly invited to—”look in the mirror, and meet someone who can and should.”

What process is it that goes on inside a man when the discussion of ideal goals is translated into practical activity? Some light on this abstruse problem may be found in an episode that occurred in a steamship office where several applicants for the post of radio operator had gathered to be interviewed. Their excited discussion of the prospects for employment made them ob­livious to the dots and dashes that began coming over the loud speaker.

About that time, another man entered the office and sat down quietly by himself. Suddenly he snapped to attention, walked into the private office, and in a few minutes came out smiling.

“Say,” called out one of the group, “how did you get in ahead of us? We were here first.”

“One of you would have got the job,” the man replied, “if you had listened to the message from the loud speaker.”

“What message?” they asked in surprise.

“Why, the code;’ he told them. “It said, ‘The man I need must always be on the alert. The man who gets this message and comes directly into my private office will be placed in one of my ships as a radio operator! “

How many Rotarians have listened to talks on vocational service at conventions, district meetings, or in their own clubs? How many have been alert to recog­nize the message that would send them back to their offices with a plan of action? There is no way of telling, and if it could be told, the record might not be very encouraging. The transition from thought to action is often devious and fraught with peril for the idea. So much depends on the disposition of the man himself, his methods and habits in dealing with ideas.

Accordingly, the Rotarian who has given some thought to vocational service may also recognize the need to service himself vocationally.

The specific application of vocational service to a particular business or professional practice may not be apparent immediately. On the surface, established routines may seem well enough, or the prospect of injecting an entirely fresh note into the complex inter-relationships of an active organization may appear bewildering. The Rotarian who asks himself, “Where shall I start?” may find himself answering rather in the vein of the farmer who encountered a stranger hopelessly lost in the country.

“Which road do I take for Cincinnati?” inquired the traveler.

The farmer deliberated for awhile, and then in a burst of confidence, “You know, if I were going to Cincinnati, I wouldn’t start from here!’

Yet, right here in the Rotarian’s own office, store, or factory is the opportunity to serve society. Where should he begin? What particular phase of his many relationships most urgently requires attention?

One way to find out is in the series of questions called, “A Vocational Service Score Card,” a personal check-up sheet that is available from Rotary International. So phrased that they call for definite answers, these questions will demonstrate to anyone just where his vocational service has been lacking, if he will consider them in all honesty and sincerity. One prominent Rotarian who had checked himself with the score card confessed that after he had totaled his score he tore the paper into tiny pieces and threw them into the waste-basket hoping that the charwoman was not an addict of the “jig-saw” puzzle.

Most Rotarians who use the score card will find the need for improvement in some one phase of their vocational service emphasized in their answers. There is the place to begin!

The process of servicing himself vocationally cannot stop here, however. Business and professional practice goes on continuously from day to day, bringing new problems into focus, calling for practical decisions of greater or less importance. To realize, even with a shock, the need for improvement is not enough. An habitual attitude, proof alike against monotony and against surprise, must be developed.

Many Rotarians habitually set apart a few minutes at the beginning of each day as a quiet time for previewing the day’s work as an opportunity for service. They ask themselves: “What is being done in my busi­ness that ought not to be done?” “What things ought we to be doing that we are not doing?” They anticipate the decisions that they or their associates may be called upon to make, and try to judge them objectively in the light of social usefulness.

A simple standard of judgment that can be applied spontaneously to every contingency as it arises, is “The Four-Way Test of the things we think, we say or do.”*

1. Is it the TRUTH?

2. It is FAIR to all concerned?


4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

The Rotarian who originated The Four-Way Test took over a large business that was on the rocks. An official of the bank which had given this company a large loan in its prosperous days, and expected to lose it, declared that he had never heard of a concern “so broke” coming back. Yet, by putting the “Test” in con­trol of its policies, the business was piloted to solvency. Immediate sacrifice of profits that failed to square with these requirements was amply repaid by a more efficient organization, employee dependability, and the confidence of customers.

Let no one suppose that translating vocational service principles into practice can be achieved overnight. Said the originator of The Four-Way Test: “Though we ask our stockholders, employees, distributors, and customers to let us know when we don’t live up to the Test, after many years of sincere endeavor we feel that we are living up to about seventy per cent of our ideals. We regret that we haven’t done better. Yet I can see that we are making progress in learning what The Four-Way Test really means!’

Servicing himself vocationally extends beyond the “quiet time” when the Rotarian considers his business or professional problems in the light of social usefulness. “Sharing” is no less essential, not only as insurance that the new directions will be carried out intelligently by associates, but also as a check on the resolution and sincerity of the Rotarian himself. Talking them over with others subjects intentions that have been conceived in a moment of enthusiasm to some sort of check and challenge. The Rotarian who takes a framed copy of The Four-Way Test and hangs it in his office for all to see issues a tacit invitation to every customer and client to measure performance with professions. Employees are given to understand what they can expect from their employer as well as what he expects of them. Even competitors are summoned to help in keeping the business “on the beam!’ Can anyone with experience in business or profession fail to see that such courageous sharing is sound from every standpoint? As one Rotarian remarked: “Here are all the tools to do a good and practical job in human relations!’

Will you give these tools a fair trial, a thoughtful and thorough application to the problems and opportunities of your working day? To impart a new tone to your business or professional relationships may call for some courage and persistence. As a Rotary bulletin put it: “We must have the freedom to fail. Ford forgot to put a reverse gear in his first automobile. Edison once spent two million dollars on an invention that proved of little value. The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make some mistakes because they attempt many things.”

This is the mood of high adventure in which a Rotarian who has really caught the spirit of Rotary will regard his vocation. Many things are to be attempted in sharing with others his realization that “service is my business.” The chance of occasional failures will not deter him for he knows that true success in his business or profession lies in making the attempt. For this cause came he into the world.

It’s your move now! Whether a Rotarian score himself, has a daily “quiet time” or shares with his business associates his resolution to serve society; whatever means he may use for translating the ideas of vocational service into action and habit are strictly his own business. Somehow that transition must be made, however, if Rotary is to escape the charge that vocational service is theoretical, mystical, and intangible. Words, glittering generalities, persuasive examples, eloquent speeches will avail nothing unless Rotarians apply them. Vocational service will exist only as a spectre at the feast if it is not put to practical use.

The Spanish philosopher, Unamuno, tells of the aqueduct in Segovia. Built by the Romans 1,800 years ago, it carried cool waters from the mountains to the thirsty city. Nearly sixty generations of men drank from it. Then came another generation which said: “This aqueduct is so great a marvel, it should be preserved for our children’s children. We will relieve it of its centuries-old labors!’

To give it well-earned rest, they introduced a modern water supply. Then it began to fall apart. Built as it had been from rough-hewn granite blocks without lime or cement, the sediment of centuries had formed a natural mortar. Now the dry sun made it crumble. What centuries could not destroy, idleness disintegrated.

And so it is with vocational service in Rotary. Respected, but unused and set apart from the active business life of Rotarians, it becomes misty and impractical. It tends to fall apart. Tried and tested in daily combat with the tough problems of business or professional practice, vocational service grows with fresh vitality and meaning. Like the ripples from a stone flung into a pool, the influence of Rotary can stir the stagnant waters of commerce. The lines run out in countless directions when the individual Rotarian uses voca­tional service in his business or profession. Today it can begin. It’s your move now!