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Practice > Tools

Tools aren’t important, it’s the practice that makes good content.

From Warren Ellis

My problem with this emerging narrative is that doing a podcast is a relatively low-tech, cheap enterprise. Beg or borrow a microphone and a laptop. Use a smartphone and earbuds with a mic. Process in something free like Audacity or Garageband. Look at apps like Opinion or Anchor before spending real money on Libsyn or a WordPress front end. It can be easier than you think. If you have something to say or do and audio is your thing, don’t dismiss podcasting just because other people are telling you it’s becoming professionalised.

Figure out what you want to do. Pre-record three episodes and upload them all at once as your launch. Keep it simple, always. Get things out into the world. And then tell me about them, please. Thank you.

I saw the excerpt from Warren Ellis’ newsletter on Twitter earlier and it made me think about a similar post I saw.

The tools aren’t important. Practice is important.

Can I get a jump?

Sunday was a long day. My wife and I had walked around Niagara Falls on the Canadian side all day. We covered about 15 miles and explored the immediate area on foot.

We visited a casino (a great place for a free Coke and some relief from the heat). We went through a haunted house that didn’t result in a single jump scare. And I spook easily. We went through the Guinness World Record museum. It was a total bust. We saw room after room of plaques talking about the world records, but very little in the way of art or artifacts from those records.

We went through a wooden maze. I don’t know why I agreed to it. They always look fun. But given my inability to navigate around my neighborhood, I don’t know why I think places where I’m purposefully lost would be fun. That’s my entire life!

The highlight of the day may have been the Niagara SkyWheel. A huge Ferris Wheel that towers 175 feet over the area. From the SkyWheel we were able to see Niagara Falls from a whole different perspective. It was neat seeing the attractions from the sky.

Niagara Falls from the SkyWheel
After exploring the area, and doing our part to give to the local economy, we returned to our car. It was getting dark and we wanted to rest our feet before the evening’s fireworks.

As we approached the quickly emptying field-turned-parking lot, I was flagged down by two older men. They asked in a thick Indian accent if I had jumper cables. I did. I always have jumper cables. Ever since I got my first car and was given jumper cables for it, I’ve dutifully kept them at the ready.

I spun the car around, hooked up the cables and got their car going for them on the first try. They thanked me profusely and we parted ways.

My wife asked the question I had thought too, “Who goes on a trip out-of-state without jumper cables?” A better question. Who drives around without jumper cables at all?

This is the third time this year I’ve jumped someone who did not have cables. And each time I find it curious. How can you not have jumper cables? If I’m stranded in a parking lot, especially in a place foreign to me, relying on the help of strangers, I’m going to surely have the one tool I need to do the job.

If you do not have jumper cables right this very moment, stop reading and go buy these. They are $11.10 with free Prime shipping on Amazon. Go buy them. Put them in your car. Stick them next to your spare tire.

For bonus credit, go buy a Juno Jumpr. This lovely little brick will charge your gadgets and jumpstart your car. Buy the brick, keep it in your bag to make sure your phone has power and use it to get your car going .

Sure, it is expensive to buy these things. Not jumper cables, there is no excuse for not having jumper cables. But there are other expensive tools. But when you need them, they’re worth every penny you paid for them.

Be prepared. Don’t rely on the kindness and preparedness of strangers. Be the good Samaritan. Help people with your jumper cables. And when you need a jump, you’ll be prepared.

These poor guys were stuck hundreds of miles from home. They didn’t have the proper tool. They had to not only find someone to help them, but also someone who had jumper cables.

Don’t leave yourself unprepared. Have the tools you need. And jumper cables!

Embrace your tools

It’s exciting to work with people who see technology as a tool to do great work. It’s exciting to see them embrace a new tool for what it can do. For what they can do that before was impossible. It’s exhilarating to be a part of that excitement.

So often I see people nitpicking software for what it can’t do. You didn’t use the right tool. That’s a bad solution. This and this and these are all better.

You know what? Having a tool for the job and using that tool to do a great job is all you need. Use the tools you have. Stop pining for a slightly better version of what you have.

Stop criticizing the tool for what it can’t do. Do great work with the tools you have. They can be bent and molded in surprising ways.

Your meeting platform can be turned u to a video teleconference system. A previously inaccessible event can be made available to the public. No longer would it require air travel and interrupting your life.

We can bring the events of an auditorium in Washington DC to people around the country. And that is magical.

It is so easy to get caught up in the debate about tools. But that’s a losing play. It doesn’t matter what tools you have. It matters what you do with the tools you have. And if you can make something great then do it!

Beyond the Reboot #10: Build a Toolkit

Build a Toolkit

Everyone has a toolkit and I’m often asked what I use. I am quick to offer up tools that fill a specific use or tools that have saved me many hours over my career. But I never say that one tool is the absolute best. I offer what I use and that it’s worked for me. There are many tools that do the same thing. The tools are as varied as the technicians who use them. Everyone has a tool they like and it’s likely to be different for everyone.

When asked for recommendations, I recommend resources I use to find the tools I’ve added to my kit. A good technician should be comfortable with their tools. I am comfortable with all of my tools because I’ve tested and used them. When I find a new tool, I open it and play with it to see how it works and if it will work for me.

There is nothing worst than being at a customer’s desk working on their computer and fumbling through the tool I’m trying to run. I make sure I know the tools I use.

Build your own toolkit. You will know your tools and as a result you’ll get more use out of them and they’ll make you better. And don’t be afraid to revisit your kit. There is a fine line between constant swapping and tinkering, but when you hear about a new tool that solves a problem you’re having it’s worth looking into it.

Make a note of it, then go back to it later when you have time. I keep a file in Evernote called Apps To Remember where I save anything I come across that I think is neat. I may not have a need for it now, but I could see it being useful in the future, so I save it. Then I know it’s there and I can check that list when I’m trying to remember what it was called, or when someone asks me if I know of a tool that does something and I can refer to my list.

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