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Tools for your 21st century toolbox
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One of the ways I test anyone I may hire as an employee or contractor is to look at their tools. I've noticed that the best craftsmen usually have the best tools, so it baffles me why so many of us use out-dated or inadequate tools in our business and personal lives. It's costly, it limits us, and it makes life more difficult than it needs to be.

Let me be specific. There seem to be at least three areas where, too often, we try to build a 21st century life using out-dated equipment.

The most common example is people trying to succeed in a computer-chip world with horse-and-buggy problem solving techniques. They assume that if they haven't solved a problem, it can't be solved. Or, they keep trying to solve the same problem, using the same approach, hoping it will work "next time", or then if they try harder or yell louder. (Trust me. Beating your head against a wall hurts! I've tried it, and the wall was not impressed.)

Today's problems often require finesse, insight, subtlety, technology, and teamwork. There may have been a time when managing the family finances meant keeping money in the old pickle jar in the cupboard, but no more. When life expectancy was only 50 or 60 years, retirement planning was simple. But in the future, many of us will spend more years "retired" than we did "working." And planning has become vastly more complex. Educate yourself! Hire experts, get a coach, take courses, read books, talk to people. Listen. Try a new way.

Secondly, I talk with people who are still pretending they can have and do it "all", but that was probably never true...and it is definitely not true in the 21st century.

We must choose.

Highly successful people know they cannot do it all. They learn to focus and they invest their time and themselves wisely. They learn to delegate, ask for help, or say "no!" A friend once observed that to be more successful he would have to "use my back less, and my wallet more," meaning that in the future he would hire people to do some of the things he had always done for himself and his family. He simply could no longer do it "all."

You can't do it all, see it all, buy it all, or have it all. There are simply too many products and services available, too many demands on your time, and too little of that. Choose. Narrow the field and improve your results. Finally, take a long, hard look at your tools. Literally, look at the tools you use. Are you using tools, methods, or beliefs that no longer serve you? Have you failed to invest in your productivity? If so, no matter how hard you try, you will fall farther behind every day.

We humans are complex creatures. We are eager for the future, and yet we anchor ourselves to the past. We want the benefits and promises of the future, while hanging on to old, comfortable traditions...even our worn-out shoes. In many ways, honouring the past is a wonderful thing, and I sometimes wish we could hold on to more of our traditions, our values, and our memories.

But when it comes to productivity and performance, the future belongs to those who move quickly, stay current and have the best tools. Take stock of your tools. Inventory your assets and up-date your equipment.

The world simply will not wait.

Added: 1st November 2010

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