The people who care for and hold things together are just as important as those who aggressively make change happen.
It’s been said that there are two types of people in this world: hammers and nails.
The hammers take control.
- The hammers get things done.
- The hammers don’t worry about what other people think because they’re too busy hammering.
- The hammers use the nails however they please.
The nails, on the other hand, are passive.
- The nails let someone else lead the way.
- The nails sit idly by while other people are doing things.
- It would seem that the nails are only waiting around to be hammered.
This is an oversimplified way of looking at the world, but in this oversimplified context everyone wants to be the hammer. Or, at least, the vast majority of people want to be the hammer.
The hammers experience things on their own terms. They get to showoff how powerful they are. They get to talk about how they’re “winning” using their best Charlie Sheen voice. The hammers only have to concern themselves with hammering away.
When you can be the hammer, being the nail doesn’t sound very appealing.
More broadly, this metaphor speaks to how we view the world and what we value. In many instances we value being the person who initiates the action rather than reacting to what others are doing. In many instances we value the idea that imposing our will on others is the easiest and best way to get things done.
The hammer and nail distinction also taps into the fact that we want to be in control rather than being at the mercy of outside forces. And when viewed in this context, it’s not hard to understand why everyone wants to be the hammer.
But the problem is, if everyone wants to be the hammer, there are no nails.
And if there’s a surplus of hammers and a shortage of nails, we won’t be able to build anything. We would just be a society of hammers aimlessly thrashing around. It might sound like it’s better to be the hammer, but it can be a pretty empty existence to go around blindly smashing things just because we can.
On the other hand, we might have forgotten that the nails are more than just passive participants in the hammer’s world. Though that’s a difficult concept to entertain given the way things are presented, nails are certainly more than just passive people who aren’t in control.
Because what we may not realize is that something happens after a nail is hit into place. If positioned properly, a nail can help to build something worthwhile. It can be an integral part of something bigger. And above all, the nails are holding everything together. The nails are making growth and progress possible.
I know everyone wants to be the hammer, but maybe our obsession with wanting to be the hammer is the reason why so many things seem to be falling apart.
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