All Nails Stick Out

In Japan, there is a saying: the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.   In other words, people who are different will be forced to conform. This has historical and cultural roots that I am not qualified to discuss but I want to show how important it is to be different in a world of conformism. 
You might be saying to yourself, you are the ultimate conformists.   You are English teachers in Japan!    Well we DID (in the early days) dabble with organizing disco nights, soccer coaching, opening a bar and selling basketball shirts from the USA.   But a friend of ours in an executive role at a big English school advised us to stick to English.    We were doing well at student recruitment and the other paths were too risky.

When we started our English School we wanted to highlight our unique selling points.   We didn’t want to be the same as our competitors.   We tried to be the best school in the area, making ourselves an excellent and unique school to come to.   We first toyed with ideas for the name of our school. DNA was the first name we went with.   Then someone said it sounded like a scientific company.   We also asked students how they referred to our school [knowing the importance of word of mouth in Japan] they said the called it the English place.   Then we thought, keep it simple, we are the only English speaking foreign couple in the area, use our names and faces on a big cartoon poster.  

Our children attend Japanese elementary and Jr. High School.  Despite being in a conformist society they have very few problems being so different.  In fact, I would argue their blonde hair and blue eyes makes school life easier for them.   There is NO chance of them blending in—ever.   This gives them enormous freedom.   That isn't to say others don't try to hammer them in sometimes.  Recently my 13 year old son was told by older boys that dribbling a soccer ball to school while Dad cycles behind is not allowed!  Needless to say, he still dribbles the ball every morning.

Everyone IS different.   We all have something unique about us.   Embrace your differences.    What makes you different from everyone else can also be your road to success .  Customers buy certain products because of their USP: unique selling points.    It’s the same with people, we can do well in life / in business BECAUSE of our own USP. 

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Amy (Saturday, 20 January 2018 07:09)

    From an article in the Japan Today

    “I think that foreign companies can actually be a bit more bold and direct than local companies traditionally tend to be,” said Heldt. “They do not have to do things ‘the Japanese way,’ and they can get away with that purely because they are not Japanese. It’s okay to think—and act—outside the box.