A few days ago, I was visiting my parents.

While there, I noticed a few home repair tasks around the house. I decided to take care of them.

The repairs ended up being much more time-consuming than I expected. I was surprised by how many trips I made to Home Depot.

(Note to Self: Buy stock shares in Home Depot.)

At my home, I have a fairly robust set of tools. My parents’ set of tools is much more limited. So much of my time was spent going back and forth to Home Depot to buy one tool or another for about $6 each, all of which I have at home but my parents don’t have in their home.

I was reminded of the old expression that there is a right tool for every job.

When you need a saw, a hammer doesn’t help.

When you need to drill holes, pliers are useless.

When you need to cut something in half, a screwdriver is of no benefit.

Every problem has a particular tool that is best suited to solve it.

This is as true in home repair as it is in every aspect of life.

I’d like to extend that old expression in the following way:  

“There’s a right tool for every job… 90% of your time is spent on acquiring the tool and going up the learning curve to use it properly, and only 10% is spent actually using the tool properly.”

I have many clients who have become millionaires in the time I’ve known them. In my mind, the achievement is not in the money they earned. It was in the skills they were forced to (and chose to) learn along the way.

If it took them a decade to earn their first million, you could take all the money away from them (but leave them with their skills), and they could very easily re-earn the same money in just a year or two.

Being incredibly savvy at navigating corporate politics doesn’t actually take that much time. So much of being politically savvy involves having an extra conversation or making a well-timed comment that the less savvy person wouldn’t know to do.

The time needed to build good relationships in industry isn’t time-consuming. It’s learning what to say, when to say it, and how to say it (so it doesn’t offend). That’s the time-consuming part. The actual meeting where you say the right words is only a few minutes.

In other words, acquiring and learning how to use the “tool” is time-consuming. Once you know how to use the tool, it’s quite easy and fast to use it.

The most successful people I know in every domain are constantly acquiring “tools” for their “toolbox.”

They are seeking out new skills, capabilities, and competencies. Early in the process, the only part that’s obvious to an outsider is the amount of time and energy it takes to learn something new.

It’s only late in the game when people with a sizable toolbox can tackle certain problems with incredible ease and disproportionately better results.

(It also helps to have self-awareness about which skills strategically make sense to develop personally, and for which skills it makes more sense to rely on others).

Every choice has a tradeoff. Making tradeoff decisions wisely is the essence of a good strategy.

As you consider which tools you want to acquire for your toolbox, I want to mention for your consideration my program on How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to Advance Your Career.

If developing your emotional intelligence fits into your strategic plan for skill acquisition, submit the form below to receive my emails about developing EQ and to be notified of the next release of my program.

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