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Japanese Proverbs: 能ある鷹は爪を隠す

There’s a ton of Japanese proverbs out there, but this one in particular is interesting to me:

能ある鷹は爪を隠す (のうあるたかはつめをかくす)
Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.

The literal translation of this is “The talented hawk hides his claws”. Surely you can imagine the large number of interpretations over the years for such a quote. Here’s my take on it. Given the predatory nature of hawks, it stands to reason that their prowess grows as each year passes until their proficiency allows them to be stealthy and unassuming. In this dog-eat-dog world, we often see how people that sit in the background, watching and waiting, are merely hawks patiently waiting for their opportunity to pounce in for the kill. These “talented hawks” need not show their wares — their “claws”– because when the time is right, they will swoop in and get their “prey”.

How many boastful people do you know? Still counting, right? They talk a big game, but when it comes down to it, the skills are nowhere to be seen. This proverb is actually a powerful lesson: talented individuals don’t need to show off how talented they are. When the time comes, the “claws” will speak for themselves. Real rich people don’t run around spending money like crazy, vaunting and being ostentatious. Men and women with real swag don’t go around telling everyone “yeah, I’ve got swag”; it speaks for itself. Such are the examples that I can provide in real-life terms of this proverb.

The bottom line is that you don’t need to show off to exhibit your talent. Don’t post yourself as being “the best”. Instead, let your talent be understated, hide those “claws” and the rest will speak for itself when needed. In that, the hawk will come out on top without even batting an eye.