Finding the Right Tool

It happens to each of us: we find ourselves in need of a tool that we don't have. It could be a bungee cord, a tablespoon, or a hammer. In that moment we get caught up in the absence of the thing that's missing, the tool that we need but don't have, as if we can will it into existence.

Sometimes, only an allen wrench will do and there's no getting around it. But other times, many times, we're just hung up on a formula that actually has a dozen different versions. We're stuck thinking that our way is the way, and often times that's simply not the case. And what happens when we are stuck in the "our way" perspective is that our senses shut down. Nothing other than the missing tool registers on our radar.

I was reminded of this recently when baking a pie in a friend's kitchen. The recipe called for a food processor to grind a cup of wafers for the crust, and I've always followed recipes. The panic and paralysis that overcame me when I could not find any sign of a food processor was astounding. I came close to aborting the mission altogether, even though the pie was for my wife's birthday. Fortunately my sense of marital shame kicked in and I mustered a renewed sense of focus that helped me look for what tools were actually there. I found a rolling pin and a ziploc bag, and ten minutes later the job was done.

We can get so fixated on needing a particular thing (even if it isn't there or doesn't exist) that it keeps us from being able to solve problems, to move forward in our lives. And, it keeps us from living creatively. There's a real joy in discovering how to make something work when at first the path isn't readily apparent. Even the simple act of solving a baking challenge can connect us with a kind of mental agility that will carry over into the more complex areas of our life.

There's nothing wrong with looking for the best tool, but often times the right tool is simply the one you have.