It’s not about the tools

rusty spanner (or wrench if you're American)
It still works

There is an easy tendency in most disciplines to fetishise the state of the art tools, endowing them with the magical power to make your work (whatever it is) wonderful. Tools are important. If you create things with them and spend a lot of time using them the minutiae of their good and bad points magnify in your mind, but the quality of your work has little to do with the quality of the tools you use.

There is an obvious caveat that the technical quality is defined by the limits of the tool. You can’t shoot HD video on a 1.2 megapixel kids camera, but you can make a good video with one.

There’s a video of Dave Grohl playing on a child’s drum kit after signing it for some promo shindig and the drum kit is a toy but he makes music with it. Sure if he was playing a Drum Workshop custom shiny wonderkit it would sound better, but you can make music on a child’s toy.

Of course it helps if you’re great at your discipline and there is a threshold of quality that helps in learning a skill. It is a lot easier to learn to play guitar on an instrument that stays in tune and you’re not going to play Mendelssohn’s Spinning Song at much of a tempo on a piano with sticking keys but you can make music on poor instruments.

Moaning about the tools seems to get louder the better the tools get. Well, perhaps until you have the absolute state of the art and there really is nowhere to go, but that might be an imaginary land as there’s always something to improve even if it’s your chair or the paint on the walls. Yearning for, faster computers, bigger monitors, more plugins, better lenses, or whatever it is that sticks in your craw that you don’t have is just getting in the way of doing whatever it is you do. Continue reading It’s not about the tools

Ideas are like piles, sooner or later every a**ehole gets them

man fixing steam pump

Ideas are just a starting point. The real trick is taking an idea and making it happen as well as possible. Derek Sivers defines ideas as a multiplier and I think that’s a useful way to look at it. He even gives some definition to the values with a so-so idea worth half as much as a good idea and that in turn being worth half a brilliant idea.

The real trick is the execution. That’s the tough part. You can’t phone in execution from your hammock in Bimini despite what Tim Ferriss might tell you, at least I’m not convinced. Execution is the perspiration generating part of the job and ultimately it is what makes things happen.

This is clear if we’re thinking about a business idea but I think this is a useful model to apply to any aspirations we may have. Writing a song is more than plucking an idea from the bosom of Euterpe.
To start with the idea needs to be captured somehow, written down on paper, sung into your cellphone or tended in your memory until it can be preserved somewhere. Then the execution can really begin. The idea needs to be developed unless you’re lucky enough to have dreamed up a complete work, melody, lyrics, chorus, bridge etc.

Sure a great idea can make a song better, but a rubbish arrangement will kill it stone dead for sure. Value good ideas but recognise them for what they are, a starting point and value the execution.