Analyzing Character HTML version

Analyzing Character
backed by good judgment, and trained by shrewd study of large numbers of men until it becomes instinctively
In modern times we are learning not to depend upon mere guesses--no matter how shrewd. Mahmoud Effendi
could not pass on to others the art he had acquired. But the science of gunnery can be taught to any man of
average intelligence and natural aptitudes. Pericles left posterity not one hint about how to judge men--how to
recognize ability. Humanity needs a scientific method of judging men, so that any man of intelligence can
discover genius--or just native ability--in himself and others.
As the result of our ignorance, great possibilities lie undeveloped in nearly all men. Self-expression is
smothered in uncongenial toil. Parents and teachers, groping in the dark, have long been training natural-born
artists to become mechanics, natural-born business men to become musicians, and boys and girls with great
aptitudes for agriculture and horticulture to become college professors, lawyers, and doctors. Splendid human
talent, amounting in some cases to positive genius, is worse than wasted as a result.
In our experience, covering years of careful investigation and the examination of many thousands of
individuals, we have seen so much of the tragedy of the misfit that it seems at times almost universal. The
records of one thousand persons taken at random from our files show that 763, or 76.3 per cent, felt that they
were in the wrong vocations. Of these 414 were thirty-five years old or older. Most of these, when questioned
as to why they had entered upon vocations for which they had so little natural aptitude, stated that they had
either drifted along lines of least resistance or had been badly advised by parents, teachers, or employers.
We knew a wealthy father, deaf to all pleas from his children, who spent thousands of dollars upon what he
thought was a musical education for his daughter, including several years in Europe. The young lady could
not become a musician. The aptitude for music was not in her. But she was unusually talented in mathematics
and appreciation of financial values, and could have made a marked success had she been permitted to gratify
her constantly reiterated desire for a commercial career. This same father, with the same obstinacy, insisted
that his son go into business. The young man was so passionately determined to make a career of music that
he was a complete failure in business and finally embezzled several thousand dollars from his employer in the
hope of making his escape to Europe and securing a musical education. Here were two human lives of marked
talent as completely ruined and wasted as a well-intentioned but ignorant and obstinate parent could
accomplish that end.
A few years ago a young man was brought to us by his friends for advice. He had been educated for the law
and then inherited from his father a considerable sum of money. Having no taste for the law and a repugnance
for anything like office work, he had never even attempted to begin practice. Having nothing to do, he was
becoming more and more dissipated, and when we saw him first had lost confidence in himself and was
utterly discouraged. "I am useless in the world," he told us. "There is nothing I can do." At our suggestion, he
was finally encouraged to purchase land and begin the scientific study and practice of horticulture. The last
time we saw him he was erect, ruddy, hard-muscled, and capable looking. Best of all, his old, petulant,
dissatisfied expression was gone. In its place was the light of worthy achievement, success, and happiness. He
told us there were no finer fruit trees anywhere than his. Such incidents as this are not rare--indeed, they are
commonplace. We could recount them from our records in great number. But every observant reader can
supply many from his own experience.
Thousands of young men and women are encouraged, every year, to enroll in schools where they will spend
time and money preparing themselves for professions already overcrowded and for which a large majority of
them have no natural aptitudes. A prominent physician tells us that of the forty-eight who were graduated
from medical school with him, he considers only three safe to consult upon medical subjects. Indeed, so great
is the need and so increasingly serious is it becoming, as our industrial and commercial life grows more
complex and the demand for conservation and efficiency more exacting, that progressive men and women in
our universities and schools and elsewhere have undertaken a study of the vocational problem and are