A British soldier in World War I once walked up to his officer to tell him that the boots issued to him didn’t fit. Without skipping a beat, his officer responded, ‘This is the army, lad. There is no such things as boots that don’t fit. It is you that don’t fit the boots.’
Compliance is paramount in the army. You had to fit the system, obey orders and suppress your individuality. Yet, in how many other places do we see the same pattern?
If the education industry doesn’t suit your needs as a student, you are not fit to be employed.
If being a cog in a large industrial machine isn’t your idea of a perfect job, you are not fit to be promoted.
If we do not enjoy grabbing beer with you, you are not a ‘culture fit’ to work in our startup.
The very language we use implies that you ought to fit in, and not the other way around.
It might be absurd to think of people’s feet trying to fit the single-size boots they have been offered. But only too often, that is exactly what we expect.