The Tool Trap

Quilters, woodworkers, programmers, writers, singers, and gamers. These people all do something different, yet there’s one thing bringing all of them, all of us, together. The one thing we can all agree on. We want more tools.

We want more tools and we want better tools. We want better computers, better cameras, better rigs. We want a new keyboard, a new display, a new pen. New wheels, new parts, new boards, new needles, and new threads. Only then we will finally get to do what we want.

After those first two paragraphs, you probably expect me to tell you tools aren’t actually that important. Or that they’re just another way we fool ourselves into unhappiness. Sorry, not today. Tools are important.

Without tools, you can’t get your craft done. Full stop. A writer without a pen can’t write, a programmer without a keyboard can’t code. Anyone telling you tools don’t matter is fooling you. You’ll usually hear it from the people who do have the tools. They don’t remember what it’s like not to have them.

If you use a keyboard 10 hours a day, it’s worth investing money into a good keyboard. If you get income, or joy, from singing, it’s worth getting that microphone. Tools enhance your work, and make a serious difference. Tools amplify your craft multiple times over.

That said, tools won’t change you. We buy shinier tools thinking they’ll help us change who we are. And this is the tool trap. They don’t. Better tools make your craft better, but they won’t make you better.

I fell for the trap many times over, and got overpriced tools for nothing. Maybe you can relate. My computer is painfully slow, for example, so I thought getting access to a new one would instantly make me stick to a weekly schedule of new YouTube videos. It didn’t. I wasn’t making videos before, and I’m not making videos now.

If I were into making videos in the first place, then yes, it would have made sense to upgrade. The new computer would have made my craft better. But if you’re not interested in something in the first place, a new tool won’t do it.

I find it useful to keep this heuristic in mind whenever I feel like buying something new: Will it help me change my craft, or am I hoping it will change me instead? If it’s the latter, then, close the tab and move on.