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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 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 they called it the English place. Then we thought, keep it simple.   We are the only English speaking foreign couple in the area.   So we 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 few problems being so different.  In fact, I would argue their blonde hair and blue eyes makes school life easier for them.   There is little chance of them blending in—ever.   This gives them enormous freedom to be / act how they want.   Not to say, that others don’t try to hammer them occasionally.    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’s still honing his soccer skills on the way to school.


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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