A second cause for our uncertainty lies in the almost universal human habit of purposelessness. Drifting, not steering, is the way of nearly all lives. It is hard mental work to plan, to consider, to study, to analyze; in short, to think. Someone has said that the average man would rather lie down and die than to take the trouble really to think. It is easier to await the knock of opportunity than to study her ways and then go out and capture her. She treads paths which may be known. She has a schedule which may be learned. She may thus be met as certainly as by appointment. Those who await her knock at the door may be far from where she passes.
We in America, especially, place altogether too high a value on our ingeniousness, our resourcefulness. We therefore put off the evil day. We say to ourselves: “There is plenty of time. I’ll manage somehow or other when the time comes for action.” We are rather proud of our ability to meet emergencies. So we do not plan and take precautions, that emergencies may not arise. It is too easy to drift through school and college, taking the traditional, conventional studies that others take, following the lines of least resistance, electing “snap courses,” going with the crowd. It is too easy to take the attitude: “First I will get my education and develop myself, and then I will know better what I am fitted to do for a life work.” And so we drift, driven by the winds of circumstance, tossed about by the waves of tradition and custom. Eventually, most men find they must be satisfied with “any port in a storm.” Sailors who select a port because they are driven to it have scarcely one chance in a thousand of dropping anchor in the right one.
In our ignorance, we do not know how fatal to success and happiness is this lack of purpose. We fail to impress it upon our youth. And, when one demands chart and compass, we cannot supply them. No wonder belief in luck, fate, stars, or a meddling, unreasonable Providence is almost universal!
Ignorance and lack of definite purpose, the two prime causes of misfits, have many different ways of bungling people into the wrong job and keeping them there.
The first of these is immaturity of judgment on the part of young people. There is a popular fallacy that the thing which a young man or a young woman wants most to do must be the thing for which he or she is preeminently fitted. “Let him follow his bent,” say some advisors, “and he will find his niche.” This does not happen often. The average young man is immature. His tastes are not formed. He is undeveloped. His very best talents may have never been discovered by himself or others. It is well known to those who study children that a boy’s earliest ambitions are to do something he thinks spectacular and romantic. Boys long to be cab drivers, locomotive engineers, policemen, cowboys, soldiers and aviators.