What’s in your toolbox?
There are two kinds of tools. Multitools, and Specialist tools. You can do lots of things with a multitool. They are easy and convenient to carry around with you. I generally carry a couple of multitools with me, a ‘leatherman’ type tool in my jeans pocket, and a Swiss Army Knife in my pencil case (yes, I know having a pencil case makes me sound about 12, but I’ve got one, and I use it!). I can’t tell you how many times a pair of pliers, a screwdriver or a small blade has been useful.
Specialist tools are, however only good at one thing. But they do that one thing brilliantly, they make it easy, and often the job simply cannot be done without that particular tool. Circlip pliers are a good example. A better, but more esoteric example from my own experience is a Lambretta Clutch Puller. (I own a vintage Lambretta scooter, in case I haven’t mentioned it). A Clutch Puller is only really useful for one thing, (go on, guess what it does…) and you pretty much can’t do the job without it (well, if you’re really mechanically minded you probably can, but it would be extremely difficult, and you risk damaging your engine).
So, where am I going with this? My analogy is with the way you work. Are you a specialist, or a multitool? Do you do lots of things well, or just one thing really well? Personally, I think I’m a bit of both – a “Jack of All Trades, Master of Some”. I can do a lot of tasks well, and some (not to blow my own trumpet) really well. To labour the tools analogy, I’ve got a couple of multitools in my pocket, and some specialist tools in the garden shed.
Knowing when you need a specialist tool is the important bit (don’t try to pull a Lambretta clutch out with a Swiss Army Knife). This is one skill that separates professionals from amateurs. Another thing about specialist tools is you don’t tend to use them that often. Even if you have a Lambretta, you don’t have to pull the clutch out every day! And you don’t want to invest a fortune in something that you’ll only use once or twice.
In the workplace – you don’t need to invest a ton of time in mastering a skill you’ll only use rarely (unless you enjoy that kind of thing). There is always someone you can hire that will do a better job than you – and free you up to work on what you specialise in.
In my professional life, I’ve got access to a whole range of brilliant people (I’d call them ‘specialist tools’ although that’s not a very polite way to refer to them!), A bunch of highly skilled professionals who I can call on for such specialists (to me) tasks as coding, sourcing promotional merchandise or print, photography and videography, copywriting and illustration, etc., etc., … all of whom do will do an excellent job, for me, and hence for my customers. Needless to say, for my customers, this process appears seamless, I just get the job done.
Are you spending your time trying to do something that’s not in your toolbox? Would you be better outsourcing it, and focusing on what you are really good at? If it’s the stuff that’s in my toolbox, or I can access those specialist tools for you, please let me know.
This post was inspired by a question asked at the end of a Seth Godin Podcast – and a LinkedIn post by my online pal Victor from UnfairCopy.