Takudo-Ketsuryoku (Selection of the Way and Exertion of Effort)
Now whether one’s purpose is great or one’s purpose is slight, if one has determined on one’s intention, the next thing that is necessary is to select the way to achieve it. Just as there are many roads that arrive at a single destination, there are naturally various means and methods that help achieve a certain purpose. In this case, even when the purpose is good, if the means and method are mistaken, then one will be unable to achieve the purpose and the effort will of course end in failure. The quality of the means and method, their skillfulness or clumsiness, will truly make a great difference to their outcome. Young people, once they have determined a purpose, tend to act on impulse and proceed directly to it in haste, neglecting to work out their means and method. For that reason, therefore, they may be unable to carry through to the purpose they had taken the trouble to establish for themselves, and their effort may end in meaningless failure. Therefore it is necessary to take great care.
The question, then, is what are the best means, and the answer is, that which can achieve the purpose best with as little wasted effort as possible. Unless we put a great deal of thought into it, what one thought was a shortcut will sometimes turn out to be in fact a long and precipitous path. What appears to be a long way around may yet in reality be a shortcut. To attempt to reach that single destination without taking into consideration the existence of twists and turns that are intrinsic to the route, and paying no heed to the presence of mountains or rivers or moors or forests, but just rushing straight forward impatiently, is likely to result only in our going astray. What requires particularly careful attention is that the means and method absolutely must be derived from the correct and just path. People are given to say that one should choose whatever means achieves the objective, and sacrifice whatever is lesser to obtain what is greater, and similar things, but this is incorrect thinking. To think that a good purpose can be achieved by wrongful means is mistaken from the very start. It may be that when viewed from one perspective, even wrongful means could appear to bring about results that are good, but wrongful means are bound to bring about results that are bad in other respects, so that in the end, even the objective itself will be destroyed. Saigo Nanshu (Takamori) wrote that “In matters great and small, one should take the just, correct path, press forward in good faith, and not make any use of deceptive stratagems. When something does not go as they want, people often deal with the situation by employing guile, thinking that they will do this just to get past the obstruction because later when they have the chance, they can devise some way to do something about it, but their guile is bound to bring trouble, and their project will inevitably end in defeat. When the project is carried forward on the just, correct path, then even though it may appear to follow a roundabout way, when they go ahead on that route, success will come more quickly.” The issue he was addressing is the relationship between a purpose and the means taken to achieve it, and his teaching on this matter can only be termed exceedingly apt.
The purpose must be something that is not a fantasy but that definitely offers hope that it can be realized. Likewise for the means, too, which must be something sure and steady that offers the possibility of being enacted given the capabilities and circumstances of the person concerned. Even the means that seems a marvelous stratagem then and there, when one is coming up with it in one’s imagination, is most likely to fall short when applied in reality, and yield no benefit at all. For that reason, the means has to be always steady and sound even beyond steady and sound. However, it feels as though a favorable means that is steady and sound would be somewhat difficult to find. The way that one becomes able to discern steady and sound means is as the result of thought and experience. To act as younger people are apt to do, and casually decide on a means based on a moment of hasty thought is definitely not going to be a shortcut to achieving the purpose. It would be better rather to take a means that is steady and sound even if it appears to be going the long way around.