Our Obsession With Tools

Seth Godin likes to tell the story of when Stephen King goes to writer’s conferences. It never fails, he says, that at some point during the Q&A someone will ask the question, “What kind of pencil do you use to write your books?” While it could just be curiosity, Godin worries that these aspiring writers think using the same kind of pencil as Stephen King will help them write like Stephen King.

About a month ago, J. K. Rowling made a passing comment on Twitter about her MacBook, and someone wrote back asking what a broke yet passionate writer should do if they cannot afford a MacBook. Her response was perfect:

I am not going to argue against tools. In fact, I write about tools frequently on this blog. They make work more efficient. They make things easier. They amplify or extend our ability to achieve something. But they have to have something to amplify, extend, or make more efficient.

For example, I use two different writing apps — one that helps with focus and another that helps with organization — but neither one does the writing for me.

We have this obsession with tools, and trouble arises when we see certain tools as a barrier for entry.

Our church will never reach young people without a cool coffee bar and a hip worship band.

I will never be able to preach as well as <Famous Preacher> without technology like that.

That leader/church only has that number of people because they have <fill in the blank>.

Again, certain tools might actually help you achieve your goal, but I have seen too many ministry leaders waste time or drag their feet as they look for some tool they think they’re missing (myself included).

Are there any tools you have become obsessed with?
Is there some tool you have that you think you can never live without?
Is there some tool you wish you had and feel like you’re being held back by not having access to it?

Take a deep breath, and think about it:
What does that tool do?
How does it or would it help you?
What do you put into it?
Is your input the best it can be?
What goal does this tool help you achieve?
Are there alternative tools or even different ways of thinking about the issue?
If this tool never existed, what would you do?

If the tool is truly that important, you now have a rationale for figuring out a way to invest in it. If it isn’t, you are now free to let go of that obsession and move forward.

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