Tools Are Just That

We’re lucky to have an abundance of tools—insanely great ones—to use in our daily life. Consider the technical feat of some of your tools. I use a MacBook Air that’s 0.68 of an inch thick and not even 3 pounds, an iPad that has the most incredible screen in a consumer device that didn’t even exist two years ago, and an iPhone that has more computing power than PCs from recent years in the palm of my hand. These devices run incredible software that are created, often, by independent developers that care about how people feel using the apps and have the accuracy of pixel-perfect design.

We’re spoiled. The quality of these tools makes it easy to be distracted from the fact that they are just tools. Yes, they make our lives and work easier, they can make it more meaningful, and can connect us together. Even with this, they are just the medium or method that we do and create.

You aren’t your tools or even the output of your tools. I see developers listing their choice of Textmate, the newest, most expensive Adobe suite, and whatever other dev tools they use on their website just as prominently as the work they’ve created, like somehow the apps they pick make them better at what they do. Clients don’t care about your tools, they care about your work. Don’t define your work by the tools you use. A great writer can sit down in front of any tool and write—paper and pen, Apple Extended Keyboard II, typewriter, or distraction-free whatever. Their tools are a method to create and what comes from their tools is a product of their genius, not some software.

Still care about your tools. Use the best that you can but understand that better tools don’t necessarily make you a better creator. Use them in ways that liberate you to create. Don’t let the fear of damaging your tools stop you from using them as they were intended. A wrench doesn’t get left in the toolbox just so it doesn’t get scratched up; yet it shouldn’t get left in the rain. See tools as the gear that equips you to create but not the sole thing that enables you.

Own your tools—know them and care for them—but don’t let them own you.