Making Nails

A parable

By Harshvardhan in life thoughts

April 22, 2022

Once upon a time, there was a nail-making factory during the peak of the industrial revolution in rural England. The workers arrived there every morning at 8 am and worked till 4 pm to make nails. Just plain nails. It was a risky job: the nail sharpeners wouldn’t differentiate between the nails and fingers of the workers. On average, a worker made about 300 nails in a day — with 8 hours of hard labour.

One day, the factory owner’s son visited the plant. Studying at Cambridge, he thought the task of making nails was menial, and he could do it better. He told his father, “Papa, these men are wasting your money. I am sure I can produce more than 300 nails in a day. I see the process, and it hardly takes them only a minute to make one.” His father replied, “I see. Why don’t you try?”.

The son got on a workstation and started making nails. He pulled out his shiny stopwatch to keep track of time. The first one was done in 30 seconds. The second one in 29 seconds. Third in 25 seconds. If he could continue this pace, he’d far outgrow what these workers were manufacturing. And he did.

Two hours later, he showed up to his father and said, “Papa, see, I have four hundred nails already. I’m already more productive than your workers”. His father smiled and said, “why don’t you try another two hours?”. He did. But he only got 300 nails. He showed up to his father and said, “See, I’m a little worse but still as productive as your daily worker”. His father told him to try again. This time, he only got a hundred nails.

He showed up to his father like a whimpering kid with a hanging jaw. This time, he only showed his nails and only said, “a hundred”. His father asked him to sit down and think.

If you can do a job super fast, ask yourself if it’s the job that’s unproductive or if your excitement to do it is making you productive. Would this excitement last a week? A month? A year? Day in and day out, if you would be only making nails, would you continue making 400 nails?

Posted on:
April 22, 2022
2 minute read, 378 words
life thoughts
See Also: