How many tools do you use each day in an attempt to make yourself more productive, efficient, and effective in running your business and your life?
From my Samsung Galaxy to Gmail and Google AdWords to TeamworkPM and Toodledo – there are no shortage of tools I use every single day. Without them I couldn’t do what I do.
That said, I recently got a poignant reminder that all these tools we use have serious limitations.
This reminder came while reading an incredible book – Resilience by Eric Greitens. Greitens is a former Navy Seal and the book shares a series of letters he wrote to a friend, and fellow Navy Seal, who’s battling PTSD, alcoholism, a failed business and the loss of his brother.
It’s a beautifully written book and contains extremely powerful life lessons that apply to everyone, whether you’re Navy Seal material or not.
In one of the letters to his friend he talks about tools. Here’s the gist of what he has to say:
Tools certainly help to make us successful…
As Greitens writes, “We invented spears to bring down mammoths, compasses to cross oceans, printing presses to communicate across continents.”
There’s no doubt our lives are better in so many ways due to the tools we’ve invented.
But, as Greitens points out, it’s very easy for we humans to fall in love with our tools so much that we lose sight of their place. He gives a few examples…
One is in education where we spend a great deal of effort and millions of dollars to bring technology into the classroom. Yet, as he points out, “the great majority of students in the great majority of circumstances can learn almost all of what they need to know with a supportive family, a pencil, some paper, good books and a great teacher.”
Remember… the schools that produced Shakespeare, Jefferson and Darwin simply had some writing materials and printed books.
He also talks about a similar issue with policing. Greitens had worked with the Baltimore Police Department for a few years and was invited to speak at the Major Cities Chiefs of Police Conference.
At the conference, almost every speaker talked about some new piece of technology that was supposed to help police be more effective: surveillance systems, non-lethal weaponry, robotic cameras, gunshot detection systems, etc.
Greitens writes “These tools can be helpful, but only if those who serve as police officers have the basic skills of communication, teamwork, physical fitness, integrity, courage, compassion, cleverness, and fairness.”
And lastly he talks about being a Navy SEAL and having access to the most sophisticated technology in the world. Yet, even with access to all this, the SEALs have a simple mantra:
“Humans before hardware.”
“Millions of people, in all walks of life, and in every endeavor, create distractions and excuses for themselves by focusing on tools rather than on character. They’d rather, as Socrates warned, focus on what they have than on what they are.”
Toodledo is a great tool to organize and keep track of your To Do list. But it’s much more effective when you know how to prioritize tasks and are able to identify the tasks that are truly most vital to achieving both your short term and long terms goals.
TeamworkPM is a great tool to manage a business’ team and projects. But it’s much more powerful when you have the right people doing the right tasks and who are working toward a common goal that the team believes in.
AdWords is a powerful tool to advertise a business. But it’s MUCH more effective when used by those with a strong background in good old fashioned salesmanship and direct marketing skills and can create a powerful sales message and funnel that connects with their ideal prospects.
It’s easy to get blinded by the bright shiny objects that are the tools we convince ourselves are the keys to solving our woes and making life easier and us richer, more productive, better.
But before you put that new tool to use, stop and ask yourself the hard question of whether you have the required character, knowledge, and clarity of what you intend to achieve with that tool to make the most of it.
“Humans before hardware.”