A Family Tradition
Helen Payne contacted the New York office to obtain her test results. In the course of her correspondence, she mentioned that everyone in her family (7 in all!) had been tested. Though we often test more than one family member, the breadth of the Payne family’s experience is interesting and a legacy from George Payne, the first generation tested, who believed heartily in the work we do.
It all began with a referral
George Payne’s boss first introduced him to aptitude testing. Though the testing confirmed George’s choice of industrial design, he found it an effective way to give focus to someone who is making choices. After his own experience, George encouraged his wife, Marjory, to be tested in 1961. Later, it was his children’s turn: first the two older ones, Barton and Roger. “My dad was a big proponent of your program,” says Roger. “It really clarified things for him and he wanted to help us find our place in life.” The two youngest, Matt and Helen, followed a few years later. Matt remembers his parents telling him about the testing, saying that, “I’d play with blocks, listen to music, play some games, maybe find out something new about myself. I thought it was great!”
Knowledge for focus
Both George and Marjory thought it was important that their children be aware of their unique abilities. Marjory said,“It wasn’t that we wanted to force them to do anything, but we did want them to know their talents.” Helen remembers that her father said, “Aptitudes are there; they are not expected of you. Testing was such a family staple that “…aptitudes were discussed at the dinner table. Sometimes, we even pulled out the results right there and looked at them.” This emphasis on using one’s own talents was pervasive in the family, and each of the Paynes was encouraged to find the path that was right for him or her.
Hints in everyday life
Both parents seemed to embody their aptitudes. George’s aptitudes, such as structural visualization, transferred very well into his work as an industrial designer. Marjory used her talents first as a registered nurse and then in hobbies such as hand-spinning wools. They also passed some traits along to their children. Marjory scored high in finger dexterity, and her daughter did as well – she uses her dexterity and visual memories in quilting and sewing, which she started doing at the age of eleven. Matt was always the brother who could remember “exactly where everything was,” using his ability to remember small visual details (Observation). Barton, with a high score in structural visualization, is the “guy you want to pack your U-Haul.” Roger, with his objective personality score, was the “natural politician” who knew everyone.
Family resemblances – and differences
After a few members of the Payne family were tested, they noticed some similarities. Nearly everyone in the family scored high in structural visualization, and used this talent in different ways: Helen loved science, Matt gravitated towards mechanics, Barton chose geophysics to study. Their mother suspects that this is one of her legacies, saying that she always found “three-dimensional visualization came naturally to me.” In fact, this trait was a favorite for the family to discuss. Helen says, “If you want to start an argument in my family, ask for directions. We love to debate these, maybe because of our structural visualization.”
However, just like physical features found in some families, not all aptitudes are an exact copy. Roger does not score high in structural visualization, and his mother says that she “can tell he uses his ability to understand abstracts – like emotions, situations, and people’s thoughts – to work well with them.” With a natural management pattern, Roger fell easily into leadership roles, from organizing “Payne’s Pond hockey league” to being deemed the “mayor” of his local dog park.
Similar starts, different paths
The second generation of the Payne family has used their aptitudes in varying career paths. The eldest, Barton, is a research geophysicist specializing in 3-D visualization software. With his success at Brown, he earned a full scholarship for a Ph.D. at Cornell. He has worked in several countries, he and his family have lived in others, and they’ve travelled to dozens more. International travel may also have given Barton an opportunity to use his auditory talents by picking up foreign languages. He says that the testing helped him because “life choices are hard, particularly in the darkness of ignorance, so [testing helps you] get a light.”
Roger, the “natural politician”, has gone down another path because his aptitudes are different. He obtained and MA in international trade and has mainly worked in real estate appraisal for commercial and residential units, a field in which his natural ability to work with people has benefitted him. He has also noticed that, “Even though I wasn’t always consciously trying to follow them, my [aptitude] scores all fit my life experience.”
Matt, with his power of observation, has always worked with his hands. With a very high score in structural visualization and a keen eye for detail, he finds it natural to do work in which he can understand and work with concrete objects: doing mechanics, construction, furniture assembly. He believes in the value of testing because “Testing like this can help people understand talents and their worth. Why say because your father was a doctor, you have to be a doctor? You could be successful in different ways and have more enjoyment.”
Helen, who still quilts in her spare time, used her talents in school and work. After obtaining a degree in molecular biology, she worked in cancer research at MIT. Then she shifted to patent law, in which she used her structural visualization to understand design and her inductive reasoning to be a problem solver. She also uses her ideaphoria in client relations. “My clients liked working with me because I was easy to communicate with,” she says. With a high score in foresight, she is currently considering more of a “big picture option” of opening her own intellectual property practice.
Even though these paths are divergent, each has touched upon the person’s unique gifts. Marjory says, “George was very interested in where everyone would end up.” The emphasis was on fulfilling each person’s potential, not following one set path. As Matt says his parents exhorted, “So your numbers are different, don’t worry about it! We’re all different from each other!”
A lasting tradition
The whole family maintains that aptitude testing – while not the only guide – has affirmed some of their life choices and opened their eyes to new options as well. The second generation of the family was all tested when they were very young, before the age of 17. Roger says of the the experience, “One of the nice things about being young when tested…is that I grew into the results.”
Since aptitudes are stable throughout life, knowing their talents early has helped the Paynes consider what choices would work best for them. Barton says his aptitudes were “key to selecting college and graduate courses.” Both Roger and Helen have made use of follow-up sessions to contemplate changes in circumstances. Roger says, “This kind of testing, when interpreted by a professional, is very helpful, and I have thought back on my aptitudes many times.”
Now a member of the third generation continues the tradition. Barton’s daughter Emily was tested this year in our Houston office as a fourteen-year-old. Her father says that, like her grandfather, she’s already spreading the word “to several of her friends, passing out brochures to them.” And Ian, her nine-year-old brother is eager to find out about his own aptitudes in a few years. Roger’s wife Susan plans to be tested very soon as well. We wish them, like the generations before them, many years of satisfying choices and fulfilling work using the self-knowledge that they gain through testing. As Barton says, borrowing imagery from his chosen field, “Circumstances and interests may make your education wander a bit, but aptitudes form the landscape that guides your development, like valleys channel water.”