A tool is any aid to accomplish a task. From a hammer, drill, robot or car to a process, method, equation or your own mind. A plan, a preconceived idea or an expectation are also tools. As long as a toll remains under your control, you’re fine. But when the tools start running you, responsibility and control suffers. Let’s kick this off with the dictionary definition of “tool”:
TOOL (Mirram Webster)
1 a : a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task
b (1) : the cutting or shaping part in a machine or machine tool (2) : a machine for shaping metal : machine tool
2 a : something (as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession [a scholar's books are his tools]
b : an element of a computer program (as a graphics application) that activates and controls a particular function [a drawing tool]
c : a means to an end [a book's cover can be a marketing tool]
d often vulgar : penis
3 : one that is used or manipulated by another
4 plural : natural ability [has all the tools to be a great pitcher]
Origin of TOOL: Middle English, from Old English "tōl"; akin to Old English "tawian" to prepare for use — more at "taw". First Known Use: before 12th century
Let’s focus on definitions 2a and 2c here.
I could go on and on explaining the usefulness or necessity of tools, the joy of my tools (HyperList, my HP calculators, my PC, my mind and my penis), or the troubles that ensue when your tools starts taking over. I could explain how troubles in life most often come about when your mind starts running the show, rather than you remaining in control (the essence of irrational behavior). I could point to the article “Processes, Automation and Human Potential“, and show that automation must remain under someone’s responsibility, lest it will bereft the user of will. Etc.
But for the sake of succinctness, I will leave you with a scale of “free will“:
- No Tools
- No tools needed
- Tools used freely
- Tools used compulsively
- Tools needed
- Only tools
When you are in prison, you are at level 5 or 6 – the effect of tools (the prison system). When you are scared shitless of a spider on the floor, you are likewise at level 5 or 6 as your mind has taken over the control. When you use a calculator to figure out an answer, you are on level 2, 3, 4 or 5 depending on whether you could have gotten the answer without the calculator. When you use a slide show in a presentation… levels 2-5, unless you have no choice at all – as when your boss has ordered you to run those exact slides (then you would perhaps serve at level 6). When a process or method or ideology becomes more important than the result it aims to achieve, you operate at a level below 3.
In different areas of life and at different times, we are operating at different levels on this scale. Our need for tools depends on our inherent abilities, our confidence and our love of the tools we use.
Of course, tools are part of any game. To master a game, you must master the tools, and that implies being able to use the tools freely, if at all. When you are struggling in a game, you are struggling with the tools, you are unable to use them freely. And that includes your mind.
Personally, I am on a quest to nudge myself towards the top of the scale on most any area of life (except for my HP calculators). It seems to me that freedom is gained through regaining the ability to freely use the tools in a game, and by the subsequent shedding of the tools involved.