The Right Tool for the Job

The other day I was assembling a basketball hoop for my girls. I had played when I was in high school, and the girls have suddenly starting showing an interest.

As I was putting things together, I ran into a small problem. To keep the backboard smooth, the fasteners that connect the backboard to the support brackets were recessed in holes.

Using tools I happened to have available, I tried for 20 minutes to get everything tightened up but just couldn’t. My tools were too big and weren’t mean for accessing fasteners in recessed areas.

I finally wised up and went to go find the specific kind of tool meant for the situation — a socket wrench. I knew that’s what I needed, but I was just being stubborn about it because I didn’t have one with me. And I mean I was being really stubborn about it.

This is when I was reminded that my stubbornness was no match for the laws of physics, time and space. But I put up a heck of a good fight!

I finally gave up, went to the hardware store, and got what I needed. When I got back, I finished what I needed to do in not 20 minutes, but a mere 60 seconds.

Duh... there is always the right tool for every job.

Lesson learned... or more accurately, re-learned for the hundredth time.

A few days later, I needed to fix one of my girl's old tricycles. It stopped working awhile earlier and I was ready to toss it out, when the kids insisted I try to fix it.

Hardly the super handy guy, I gave it a shot using... guess what... the socket wrench. I took apart half the bike in about 90 seconds (shocked how fast that went), and then reassembled it under 5 minutes. It worked!

Yet another reminder... there is a right tool for every job.

The same is true in business as well. For every business problem you, your client or your employer faces, there IS a right tool to solve that problem.

However in business, these tools are in the form of specific knowledge and skills.

As I look over the arch of my career to date, I don’t feel I’m any more or less inherently talented today compared to when I started. However, I definitely feel that I have many more “tools” in my metaphorical business tool belt than before.

With each passing year or two, through deliberate intent and effort, the number and quality of the tools in my tool belt has expanded.

As I look back at business problems I faced in the first year of my career, I retrospectively notice different nuances and subtleties that I didn’t notice the first time around.

Problems that I thought were finance problems, I now see as compound problems that involve both financial issues and leadership failures. At the time, my leadership tools were more limited and I didn’t notice that facet of the problem.

As the tools in your tool belt get more diverse and more advanced, you will be able to see and solve problems very differently. You will be able to tackle a wider variety of challenges and more complex problems.

If there’s one thing that’s true in business, it’s this. There is no shortage of problems to be solved!

The difference between you and the CEO is not raw talent. It’s just that he or she has a bigger tool belt than you.

The building of a larger tool belt does not happen by accident. (I suppose it could, but it is in my experience rare.) If you want more tools in your tool belt, you have to be deliberate in consciously trying to obtain them.

The single best 80/20 way to get more tools in the tool belt is to work for a company, boss, or mentor that will teach you a ton on the job. Once you are on that track, there’s a self-reinforcing mechanism at play.

If you have more tools in your tool belt, you will get assigned to increasingly more challenging assignments. As you are forced to expand your skills to tackle those stretch assignments, you will be forced to add new tools to your tool belt. In turn, you get considered for even more challenging assignments, and the self-reinforcing cycle escalates upwards.

This is THE path of the rising star.

BUT, there’s a chicken or the egg problem at the start of the process. What happens if you do not currently work for an employer, boss or mentor that’s teaching you a lot on the job?

Well you’re also in a self-reinforcing cycle of a different sort. You’re stuck in a cycle of low, slow or no career growth. If you’re not getting advanced on-the-job training, the size of your tool belt will be relatively static.

You’re far less likely to get assigned to stretch assignments, you won’t be developing advanced tools as a result of working on the job, and your career progress will likely be slow or unremarkable.

The key is to break out of the negative self-reinforcing cycle and switch to the positive one. Short of landing an awesome job offer for a high-caliber role, such transitions rarely happen by accident.

It often takes a deliberate effort on your part to consciously break the negative cycle to kick off the positive one.

I plan to share more on precisely how to accomplish this quantum leap transition in your career. If you’d like to learn more about how to shift from an “average” career track to that of a superstar, enter your name and email address here:

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Path of a Rising Star when they become available.

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