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The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered - A Japanese Proverb

'The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered'

'The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered'

“The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered” is an old Japanese saying, and is one of the most famous Japanese proverbs. I personally liked this quote a lot as it is a pretty sensible and logical one. But I have a conflict with this saying as well; and that is what I will try to pen down in this article. The main purpose of this article is to have as many opinions as I can, about the two contrasting views that arise in my mind regarding this proverb.

To carry on with the debate, first I will try to discuss the points, to which I agree with, about this proverb and then I will try to list down the contrasting points i.e. in against with the above mentioned saying.


The first thing i.e. to agree with the saying that the nail that sticks out gets hammered is, it is pretty logical. As there is another saying that goes as “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Means at some place, you have to compromise and adjust even if it is against your will. There is not point to oppose things as a rebellion every time. You have to blend in, in order to survive. Especially, if you are a foreigner in a country, a dependent kid in the family, so on so forth.

But I saw this proverb with the eyes of a writer, who judges and evaluates both sides of the coin. If I instantly agree on the above paragraph i.e. in compliance with the proverb, then where vanishes the question of creativity and thinking-out-of-the-box approach?


I reckon that when a person thinks out of the box and imply and apply his thoughts in the real world, he is supposed to be that nail that sticks out. But if everyone believes the saying and do nothing out of the box and blend in with the people; in the society they exist, then there will be no extra-ordinary innovation, no creativity, nothing at all!

People who brought revolution and innovation in this world usually tended to be somewhat different from us. Different in a way, that they had the courage to bring a change. It means that they were those nails that stuck out and were ready to get hammered but still they pushed their efforts all the way to success and glory.


So the two opinions that come into my mind regarding this saying, I mentioned above. It is a matter of debate and different views and opinions. After reading my article about the two different ideas we can perceive from this saying, I would like if you people choose your views in the below given poll, and reason and justifies your thoughts in the comments section and let us gather as many different views as we may get about the difference of opinions.



ew0054 on May 31, 2014:

Very good article and I agree. As with everything there is always proper a time and place. Life has taught me that when in school or at a job, it is NOT the time to be a nail sticking up, even with good ideas. If you have an idea for a new product or method, it is better to become a "midnight engineer" and go it alone, and see where it takes you.

MOEFLATS on November 27, 2013:

Frankly, the conformity required to be accepted by this society is so constricting that it's a rip-off at the very least and a 21st-century inquisition at the worst. People are being: stressed, molested and tortured un-necessarily to attain a state of synchronicity that resembles an ant colony more than a human society. Yelling fire in a theatre? You can get mentally-invaded by only God-knows what all at once for simply having the wrong attitude. The fire is on! If you value your mind, watch yourself. It should not be this way: but it is.

Tim on November 21, 2013:

I feel you have to keep the proverb in context to the funtion of the nail. All the nails are used to keep the roof in place so serve the funtion of protecting the contents of the home. You cant have free thinking or spirited nails just doing whatever they wish. There is a time and place for conformity. It is extreamly important and needed in society. Without it NOTHING will get done. A work force. The military. Yelling fire in a theater. I can go on and on....

Uzma Shaheen from Lahore,Pakistan on April 23, 2012:

nice hub,voted up and shared.

Uzma Shaheen from Lahore,Pakistan on April 23, 2012:

Scroll to Continue

I agree with both opinions, as some times we need to adjust with situation and society and sometimes we need to rebell. It depends upon the wisdom of a person that how he/she decides, when to blend in and when to reteliat?

tlmcgaa70 from south dakota, usa on September 24, 2011:

very nice hub, but i couldn't vote on your poll because i think it is both. we must blend in to a certain degree in order to get along...and we must be individuals to a certain degree in order to survive.

MOEFLATS on August 27, 2011:

Oh, I take the "heat" for real, but in a techno-fascist regime like we better know how to dodge a bullet. These weasels tried to convince me that I was going to die one morning about a week back. I took several 40 mg Propranolol, a little Kratom and listened to music to ESCAPE this attempt on my mind (if not my life!) I laid there while they pulled most of my upper-body muscles, caused me to have weird pains in the chest and subliminal thoughts or impending death. I ignored all this crap, focusing only upon the music and any pleasant thoughts my mind could think of.

Before the "fake heart attack", they made me listen to "Hotel California" for 4 hours. It sounded like it was coming from every direction. During this time, I was getting all these thoughts that I would die. These dorks have a flair for the dramatic, but I outwitted them.

So the lesson from THIS is: it isn't enough to persevere and "take your knocks" I'm sure many of our potential: prophets, revolutionaries and social reformists have either had their brains crushed by this Brainwashing "treatment" or else committed suicide.

You'd better be as crafty, slick and mentally-elusive as possible unless you want to be dead or brainwashed. I've got my I-Pod earphones in and I even SLEEP with this music on BECAUSE most of the ELECTRONIC HARASSMENT comes in through your ears. This nail is sticking out, bobbing and weaving, hiding in the woodwork, mocking the hammer and wearing teflon. To save the world, you must first know how to save your ##s!

Syed Hunbbel Meer (author) from Karachi, Pakistan. on August 27, 2011:

@Karkadin: Excellent point you raised up in there. You are pretty much spot on when you said "All innovators get hammmered when they first start out. It is just the warning for who can take the heat and stand up till the end."

100% agreed, and those who take up the heat, only their names are written in history :)

Karkadin from Middle of Nowhere, USA on August 26, 2011:

I couldn't vote in the poll because I think there is a third side to this argument. All innovators get "hammered" when they first start out. The ones who can persevere until they succeed will change history, but they have to learn to live with the hammer strikes. I think the proverb could be seen as a warning to innovators of what they will have to overcome in order to succeed. In other words: If you can't take the heat don't light the fire.

I also agree with Jennuhlee. Really successful innovators know when to rebel and when not to.

Great discussion. Thanks for posting it.

Syed Hunbbel Meer (author) from Karachi, Pakistan. on July 27, 2011:

@Jennuhlee: I'm glad that you liked it :)

Jennuhlee from Pennsylvania on July 27, 2011:

Interesting hub, I do agree there is a time for conformity and a time for rebellion, many people go overboard rebelling to anything and everything, in situations it doesn't even make sense.

Great hub thanks for sharing:]

Syed Hunbbel Meer (author) from Karachi, Pakistan. on July 22, 2011:

@SubRon7: It was a pleasure to hear all your life-worthy experiences. I hope I also get the same experiences you did. I was a player of martial art too by the way :)

I used to play Taekwondo in my early teens. I was a green belt by then, I had a really good time then :)

James W. Nelson from eastern North Dakota on July 21, 2011:

Enjoyed your hub, Hunbbel Meer, and I do love the oriental philosophies. I spent time in the Orient while in the navy, and came to love the people, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Filopinos, and, later in life, the Vietnamese. I took two 6-month trainings in Taequando (sp?) and earned the first belt both times, and would have loved to continue, not just in the martial arts but in the philosophies that go along with the martial arts. But "time" points me toward other priorities. Thanks for the good hub and the follow.

MOEFLATS on July 21, 2011:


Syed Hunbbel Meer (author) from Karachi, Pakistan. on July 20, 2011:

@Binaya: Thanks for the appreciation. And people will always think of us a distinctive nail when we do not adopt the same way as theirs.

Binaya.Ghimire on July 20, 2011:

Interesting read. I do agree with the saying. But harder part is that if someone thinks you a nail.

Syed Hunbbel Meer (author) from Karachi, Pakistan. on July 20, 2011:

@ MOEFLATS: Very insightful comment indeed. You scratched out the root-causes, the problems and the solution and you pretty much NAILED down the topic :)

Thanks for taking the time out to participate in this difference of opinions' sort of hub :)

MOEFLATS on July 20, 2011:

Well, we now live in a government that allows it's citizens to be tortured for merely expressing opinions contrary to the "utopia" they are attempting to build. Psychological warfare, Electronic Harassment and Gangstalking are used on anyone who does not fit the Procrustean demands of the new: "unspoken, un-written Laws".

I could not vote either way because it takes a little bit of both to "make waves" and keep going. One thing you get "punished" for is your "attitude". You are only "punished" while you exhibit this the wise thing to do is what our ancestors did back in The Revolutionary War: attack this "Shadow Government" by showing people how to defend themselves (psychologically-speaking)and then believing that everything is absolutely fine. As long as you are convinced that "All is Fine" and have a positive attitude towards the people you are around, this "hammer" quits hitting you. You may have to move slower and think virtually nothing to make the hammer "miss" you.

In conclusion: the nail that sticks out will have an attempt made to strike it, but if it can duck into the very woodwork (think differently), the hammer will "the nail that sticks out" a chance to stick out again when it has the inner-reserve to do so!

Syed Hunbbel Meer (author) from Karachi, Pakistan. on July 20, 2011:

@ Naima: Thanks :)

Naima on July 20, 2011:

very nice, indeed =)

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