How to Move the World

I spent the last couple days repairing the concrete in my aunt’s basement, and because I don’t believe in learning how to do something without knowing how it works and why you’re doing it the way you are, I was teaching my 11-year-old stepson the physics behind why a chisel works the way it does.

I explained to him the arc of the hammer head, the payload force delivered to the head of the chisel, and the further focussing of that energy to the tip, which has the force to split concrete.

As I explained it to him, a tool multiplies effort.

You could never split concrete with your bare hands, but with two oddly-shaped pieces of steel, you can split it with ease. When Archimedes said, circa 250 B.C. “Give me a place to stand and a long enough lever and I will move the Earth,” he was referring to the power of a simple tool.

Since tool use is one of those noteworthy things that separates us from animals, humans are big fans of tools. We do very little without them. Even when we eat, we use forks and knives, we rarely walk, and we watch tv or surf the net instead of entertaining ourselves with storytelling.

Milo at Clear-Minded Creative, told a very pointed story a while back about a little old man on a simple one-speed bicycle cycling the steep and winding hills of Wales. Milo compared this man to other ‘cyclists’ he knew, who shelled out for the lightest, fanciest bike, paid for expensive training, and generally did everthing except actually cycle, the one thing that would make them true cyclists. (I thought that’s where I read the post, but I can’t find it, so I could be wrong. Speak up if you recognize the story.)

Milo drew the obvious comparison, and if you are anything like me you will wince a bit as that point hits home.

Tools multiply effort. They do not produce or replace effort.

So before you start hunting round for the right tools for the job, perhaps you’d better think about whether you’d really put in the effort, or if you just want to look like a serious cyclist.

Productivity tools are notorious for this. You buy them and put some time into learning them, hoping they will make you tenfold more productive. As time goes by, you see that it didn’t and you conclude the technique doesnt work. Did it? Or did you just hope it would be effortless? Remember, no matter how much you multiply by zero, the answer is always ZERO.

I’ve been guilty of this more than once. I moved into an apartment with a diswasher, and there are just as many dishes on the counter as there ever were when I lived in a dishwasherless house. I don’t want to do dishes, and I don’t exert even the minimal effort to deal with them.

On the other hand, when I’ve been struggling with a high-impact task that simply takes up too much of my time, I’ve had good success with applying tools. I use Boomerang to deal with client followups and to keep in touch with my extensive correspondents. I use Goalscape as a two in one tool for both planning and tracking progress on projects.

So rather than finding tools that will make the things you don’t want to do easier, perhaps you should look at where you’re expending the most effort and find a tool that will multiply your efforts. I’ll bet you can find the leverage to move the world.


3 thoughts on “How to Move the World”

  1. This article is so true! I am so guilty of doing this. My favorite sentence: “So rather than finding tools that will make the things you don’t want to
    do easier, perhaps you should look at where you’re expending the most
    effort and find a tool that will multiply your efforts.”GREAT advice!

    1. I think we all can relate to trying to `tool’ our way into doing things we don’t really want to do. Thanks for commenting! You might want to check out the Principle Characters page and introduce yourself…

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