Nails in a Fence (337)

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In this episode, I talk about a sort of fable, a parable, called Nails in a Fence.  Some of you may be familiar, but if not, I draw some real-world parallels that I think you might appreciate.

You won’t want to miss this episode. Enjoy!

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Nails in a Fence (Episode 337)

Thu, Oct 20, 2022 10:20AM • 7:44


nails, fable, fence, boy, holes, temper, newsletter, hurt, episode, podcast, dad, friday, hammer, progress, offense, interested, share, impact, overachiever, son


Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta  00:18

Hey, it’s Mike. And this is the “How’d It Happen” Podcast, the solo series. So it’s a Friday, and every Friday, I do a solo episode. And I talk about something that I’ve experienced, someone that I’ve met, an idea that I’ve had or been exposed to, a story. And I feel like my goal with this is to share something that’s interested or impacted me in hopes that it will interest and or impact you, as well. So these are short episodes, they’re generally less than 10 minutes, I think this one will be less than 10 minutes. But I think something there that you can take away and use and or just be sort of entertained and share. But regardless, I hope you enjoy it, and this episode I’m calling “Nails in a Fence,” Nails in a Fence, and I first became aware of this sort of fable/parable in Howard Gibson’s newsletter. Capital Logics is the name of that newsletter. He does a nice job with his newsletter. He provides a lot of links, gives a lot of information. And this was one that I saw and then I investigated it a little bit further and was not aware of this fable, and I don’t know, it had a big impact on me. So I’m going to share it with you today, so Nails in a Fence. 

A boy has an anger problem. He gets ticked off and he reacts often without thinking and later regrets his outbursts. He asked his dad for help, and dad gives his son a bag of nails, or a box of nails. Sounds better as a box of nails. He tells him to hammer a nail into the backyard fence every time he loses his temper. On the first day, the boy is an overachiever, and he hammers 37 nails into the wooden fence in the backyard. And it’s a lot of work. And over the next few weeks, the boy growing tired of hammering the nails and being surprised by how horrible the fence has begun to look, learns to manage his anger and his temper. And the number of daily nails he pounds dwindles, eventually to zero. The boy’s impressed himself. He finds his dad and proudly shows him what he’s accomplished. Congratulating the boy on his progress, dad now suggest that his son pull out one nail for each day that he can hold his temper. After a few months, the boy had removed all of the nails from the fence. The boy’s impressed himself again. He finds his dad once again and proudly shows him what he’s accomplished. Dad looks at the holes in the fence. Son, he says, I’m proud of you for making such great progress controlling your temper; that will serve you well in life. But you know what? I can’t help seeing all these holes in the fence. They are evidence of your progress, yes, but the fence will never be the same. The holes will always be there. I’m sorry about that, Dad. The boy said. Would it have been better if I left the nails in the fence? No, son. What would be better is if you never had the need to say you’re sorry. If the nails had never gone into the fence. What dad understood and his son learned was that whether you hurt someone with anger, or you hurt them physically, like driving a nail in the fence, for example. They remain hurt. Yes, you can apologize, and we all need to do that from time to time. And you may be forgiven, but what you’ve done cannot be forgotten. Or there’ll always be a hole left behind in something, or in someone.

 I’d be interested to hear what you think about that fable. Because it really made me think about, you know, people who, even myself and people who, you know, you just lose your temper or you hurt someone you know, it could be explained as spur of the moment, it could be explained as, you know, jealousy, rage and all of these other things, but it can also be controlled. Maybe you could also not do it. Because once you’ve done all the undoing, you know, maybe the undoing will happen, maybe it won’t happen. I think that’s the story in this fable, maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but there will always be a hole. Even if someone forgives you. Even if you’ve apologized, there will always be a hole. So rather than trying to fill holes, let’s try not to create them in the first place. 

So there you go, Nails in a Fence. I hope you got some value out of this. And if you did, please share it or ping me and tell me what you think. I’d be interested to know. And if you haven’t yet subscribed to the podcast, please go to Apple, go to Spotify wherever you like to get your podcasts and find it and hit the Follow button or the subscribe button so you’ll get it every Friday, at least a solo episode every Friday, and every Monday you will get a longer form with a conversation between me and, you know, very successful people about how it happened for them. But more importantly, why it matters to you, what can you learn from it? How can you increase your capabilities, your confidence, your success or whatever it is that you want more of in your life. So until next time, thank you for making time for me and please maximize your greatness.

Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta

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