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I'm looking for a noun to use in a description of someone who genuinely works hard and does well, but with no direction. He has no goals, and is aimless. He just doesn't know what he wants to work towards so he generally just settles for something.

Definitely not lazy. Trying to finish this sentence: "...but he certainly didn't fit the stereotype of a (....)."

closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, Jim, sumelic, tchrist, Phil Sweet Jul 3 '16 at 3:22

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  • "Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests" – sumelic, tchrist, Phil Sweet
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    You say they work hard but essentially have no desire to rise above their current position? Perhaps they are content. – Jim Jul 2 '16 at 18:30
  • rudderless underachiever...sounds too lazy. – Bookeater Jul 2 '16 at 19:57
  • he didn't fit the stereotype of .. what sort of person? Someone who doesn't work hard? That is a different definition from someone who does. Which are you looking for? – bib Jul 2 '16 at 21:12
  • You say you are trying to finish the sentence "....but he certainly didn't fit the stereotype of a ______". That isn't looking for a description of the person, it is looking for a word for what the person is not. Which do you want? I am sympathetic to your question, because I know people like the person you are describing. Often such people find what they are looking for, sometimes they don't. Are you looking for a word to describe a high-school/college student, or a 40-year old person? – ab2 Jul 2 '16 at 21:14
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    @ab2: I think the idea is that he is a __ who doesn't fit the stereotype of what __s are usually like. – sumelic Jul 2 '16 at 21:28
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One possibility is drifter From Cambridge Dictionaries Online

a person who moves from one place to another or from one job to another without any real purpose

This definition is not quite right, because it overlooks the fact that a drifter might work very hard, even though he does not accumulate much, and might have a purpose that is not recognized by conventional people as a real, valid purpose. For example, climbers often work construction jobs to earn enough money to climb. Example: Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air, when he was young. His purpose was to climb, climb, climb.

More generally, some people just take longer than others to find a purpose, and the process of drifting may be necessary for them to find their purpose.

Thus,

John was a drifter, but he certainly didn't fit the stereotype of a drifter

could be used of a hard-working but aimless, or seemingly aimless, person.

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There is the phrase spinning your wheels which means

to use a lot of effort without achieving anything

Cambridge

However, this term does not necessarily mean you have no purpose, just that your efforts are not getting you anywhere. Often one spinning his wheels really does have a goal, just not the appropriate means to get there.

Similarly, running in place

Work or exert oneself without noticeable change or progress. For example, I've worked on this project for months but feel I'm running in place.

thefreedictionary.com

  • Do you think there is enough information in the original question to answer it? For example, it was tagged "noun," but this suggestion is not a noun. – sumelic Jul 2 '16 at 18:59
  • @sumelic I agree it is weak and vague. – bib Jul 2 '16 at 19:30
  • Sorry if its vague. Those help... Im looking for a noun to use in a description of someone who genuinely works hard and does well. He just doesn't know what he wants to work towards so he generally just settles for something. Definitely not lazy. Trying to finish this sentence: "...but he certainly didn't fit the stereotype of a (....)." – Molls1906 Jul 2 '16 at 20:08
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    You need to expand your question, providing more detail, or it will be closed. – bib Jul 2 '16 at 20:40

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