This past December marked a year that I have been in Maine working as a carpenter. One day, early on, I was feeling particularly anxious and frustrated and of course, as my mind so easily does, I was presented with this thought—I wouldn’t be struggling if I had the right tools. It was a very deceptive thought, because like all deceptive thoughts, there was just enough truth.
I must have been making comments about how if I had the right tool, things wouldn’t be so hard. A co-worker and a friend of mine, quite casually pointed out that the carpenters who built the very building we were in had no power tools. Yet here we were standing in that building some 200 years later. He said when he started he had the same thoughts but had to learn that you can’t use tools as an excuse or you’ll never finish.
Back then, they had no laser levels, pneumatic air guns, no modern fasteners, no batteries, and no electric tools. They couldn’t pop into Home Depot or hop online to watch a Youtube tutorial. They had hand tools, their minds, and their will. They built buildings that have lasted hundreds of years, buildings that today, even with our modern tools, we would be hard pressed to re-create with the same quality.
Look at the detail and craftsmanship in this home—all achieved with no power tools or computers.
Reflecting on this, I wondered why my mind automatically presented me with the thought that the way forward was to consume my way into solving a creative problem?
I could blame it all on American marketing, because it’s true that it has virtually re-wired us to think that every solution requires a purchase, when it doesn’t. However, it just comes down to excuses. The truth is I didn’t know how to use the tools I had and I was feeling anxious and embarrassed. Our minds, at least mine, opts for the path of least resistance unless we bring it to heal. Left to my own devices, I might have given up, but I had moved all the way to Maine and didn’t really leave myself much of an out.
Finishing something is a function of time, effort, and resolve—not tools. Why? Because given enough time, you can make the tools you need or come up with other creative solutions. Indeed, a better tool can make a huge difference, but ultimately it’s the man or woman that must resolve to finish the task at hand.
In everything we must do the best we can with what we have—a simple but important lesson.