Why Buying The Best Tools Too Soon Might Cause Your Dream to Fail

Whether it’s advice about the best tools, online tutorials, or apps and software, there are so many resources to help us make stuff happen in today’s world.

But sometimes we can forget that it’s the people who use the tools that make the difference, not the tools themselves. It’s a subtle but important distinction to consider, and if we’re not aware of the relationship we have with our tools we can even end up sabotaging ourselves.

Why Buying The Best Tools Too Soon Might Cause Your Dream to Fail

Growing With The Tools At Hand

I officially started learning to play the drums when I was seven or eight. My school provided lessons and a few of us gave it a go.

When a lot of the other kids were given drum kits by their parents so they could practice at home, I received a single snare drum for my birthday that year.

It was definitely the best thing that could have happened to my growth as a drummer and musician.

It didn’t take long before loads of the children who had their own kits moved on to other hobbies. Their drums were left gathering dust in cupboards. I continued building mine.

The Best Tools Cause Us To Lose Interest

I learned the most important lessons about drumming not from my equipment, but from the process of learning itself. At subsequent birthdays and Christmases, I got new pieces to add to my drumkit. And with each new addition, I grew as a player. Cymbals, cowbells, sticks of all shapes and sizes. It was a fun (and slightly tedious) process.

Most importantly, I learned about patience, perseverance, and growth. Each new piece of equipment presented its own challenges, which I had to overcome through practice and dedication. In this way, the tools became secondary to the craft.

Getting Started Without The Best Tools

We often get caught up in thinking we need the best tools before we can start something new. But the reality is, it’s the process and time we invest that matter most.

I would hear this a lot after gigs where I used my loop pedal. People would come up to me and say they wanted to do the same thing. But what they didn’t realise (or want to hear about) was how much time and effort I had put into practising with it over the years.

It can be easy to mistake someone’s ability and unique expression as a product of the tool itself. We often think, “if only I had that equipment, I could be as good as them”. This is usually not the case.

More important than the equipment are things like practice, commitment, time, patience, and exploration of our own creative voice. These are the “unattractive” parts of the story that don’t bring instant results. Though they may be monotonous and “boring”, these are the important bits.

If we want to be an expert, it takes more than just buying the right gear. We need to put in the time and effort to practice, explore our creativity, and develop our voice. It’s not always easy or glamorous, but it’s essential if we want our goal to succeed.

A Source of Procrastination

If we find ourselves needing the best possible tools before starting a project, it may be a sign of procrastination. In most cases, any tool will do as long as we get started. The key is to embrace the power of incremental change and evolutionary growth over time.

We ought not to spend too much money upfront, as we’ll likely end up changing our mind anyway. In fact, we will actually want the freedom to be ABLE to iterate and change things as we learn what works best for us.

What Do YOU Need The Tool For?

When we start with what we have and get to know our voice, we can begin to research and figure out what we really want from a tool. This way, when it’s time to upgrade, we’ll already know what we need so we can filter other people’s subjective advice and opinions. We will be in control of the upgrade and the tool, rather than the other way around.

Understanding The Essence of The Craft

If we can improve and grow in what we’re doing while using cheap and old tools, then we’re really tuning in to the most critical aspects of the craft. Knowing the difference between tools happens when we can get the best out of limited resources. This process of full of gentle joyfulness.

This happens through working our way up and fixing things when they break. As we do this, we learn the essence of the craft and what really matters to us in relation to it.

Appreciating Better Equipment When It’s Time To Upgrade

If we’re used to working with limited resources, we can really appreciate the benefits of upgrading to better tools. When we jump straight into using the best tools available, we might not notice all the ways they make our work easier and more efficient. But when we’ve been working hard with limited resources, we can see just how much of a difference having the best tools make.

Why The Best Tools Spoil Us

We talk about children being “spoilt”, which basically means they are given everything they demand (and more).

We might think that being spoilt would mean always getting what we want, but it actually has the opposite effect. If we demand the best tools before we start it literally spoils us in that experience because it shrinks our capacity for true growth and understanding. It also makes us more likely to give up when things get tough.

Do you know people who always buy the best tools before they start a new activity? Whether it’s for hiking, camping, skiing, entertainment equipment, gardening gear, photography, musical instruments, kitchen gadgets, sports equipment etc. They are usually the same people who have lots of amazing tools just lying around gathering dust once they got bored or realised the tool was no substitute for ability.

The Distraction of Appearance

Expertise comes in many forms, and it’s often the case that the most effective experts are the ones who have focused on honing their craft rather than on impressing others with their tools or credentials. If we’re looking to grow our expertise in any field, it’s important to remember that the most important lessons are often those that can’t be found in a book or online tutorial.

Instead, they’re learned through years of experience and trial-and-error. So when we’re speaking with an expert, we shouldn’t get distracted by the appearance of expertise; instead, we might ask about the most important lessons they’ve learned along the way.

7 comments
  1. I came here for “labels” but what I found was so much better! Thank you, your thoughts on spoiling children are so true! A phenomenon which seems to perpetuate in families: reckless, superficial parents give their offspring quick access to everything they want – just because they themselves are used to press the buying button at any time – thereby producing reckless, superficial adults again… The amount of things certain households have accumulated makes me feel very uneasy! And yes, this really hinders children to explore and to appreciate their own abilities…

    1. Yeah totally! And it robs the joy out of life. My most meaningful experiences and accomplishments are underpinned by that striving and growing…and then upgrading the gear/equipment etc when I’m at the limit of what I had before. There’s something deeply meaningful and fun about that feeling.

  2. @Andy Mort:disqus I read this article a while back and just came in to tell you it’s really good and I so agree with you. I experienced this in a number of contexts – with music instruments too, for instance. I learned to play the clarinet on a so-so instrument. When I got a good one lent to me for a year, it really made a difference because I already had developed my playing skill so I could appreciate it. Likewise, I have it now with making books. I don’t have indesign or mac. I’m an artist and I use microsoft word and publisher then PDF (and photoshop for small corrections) to make my books. I needed a simple to use tool that combines text with pictures and locates them accurately and have found it in publisher. It’s not perfect but I manage to do so much with it! I’ve got near 11 books made on it already and they’re great. I’m developing my painting, writing, editing AND design skills whilst actually getting so much value out there for children and their parents. I know that if and when I do move to Indesign, I’ll have had so much experience I’ll probably really be able to benefit from it. I can really connect to the spirit of your article and wholly agree with you, how nowadays one is often made to feel bad because one doesn’t have the latest ‘app’ etc. – it’s this fallacy that without the latest app, or ‘if you’re not cool enough’, you can’t do as well as is expected by society – but who IS this society anyway that one should feel so bad about not living up to its expectations?

    1. Hi Tomer, thanks so much for your comment. It’s so cool to hear your story – I love that you adopt that attitude of doing what you can with what you have. You learn so much about the essence of craft when you have to really think about what you CAN do and why you are doing it in a certain way. Stepping up to a better tool then just enhances what you are already doing. Love it. Thanks!

  3. Great article, Andy and so true! It’s about honing a craft and “becoming”, isn’t it. Not just about having fancy high-tech tools and techniques. It’s in the “doing” that changes and develops us. Blessings.

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