Pro Tools

It's a natural part of pursuing a practice, whether professional or hobby, to crave the trappings of success. You want the clubs Tiger Woods uses. You want Hemingway's notebook. Michael Jordan's shoes. Neil Gaiman's fountain pen. Whether consciously or otherwise, we think of them as talismans, explaining in part where the success comes from, and how something like it might be achieved.

Some of these things are just quirks of taste for the professionals that use them. Even once you have found your own little groove, from a distance it can be still be tough to tell the difference between a tool and an affectation. Regardless which of these an accessory is, it can be problematic to place too much importance on it.

Adopting something that turns out to just be an affectation for the pro you idolize is at best a distraction that prevents you from focusing on the practice. It's a waste of time, and probably money.

Some things are clearly tools. Take Tiger Woods' clubs, for example. He can't golf without clubs, and he chooses his clubs because they help his performance. But that doesn't mean they'll help your performance.

People tend to think that professional grade tools are the tools that make professionals so good. But that's not how they work. One of the most important qualities of a pro tool is that It gets out of the way. An expert is someone who knows when to go off the map or break the rules to get the job done. And an expert's tool is one that will let them do it.

What you really want--unless you are the Tiger Woods of woodcarving, or whatever--is to remove defects from your practice. In golf, you want to hit the ball straighter. But what Tiger wants is to be able to put the ball any dang place he chooses. And for that, he doesn't want a club that's going to help him "fix his swing". He wants a club that gets out of the way to let his superior control do its thing. When his swing is "wrong", it's very likely because he means it to be, because he knows that will get the result he wants.

We all, from the freshest neophyte to the most rarefied expert, use the tools that help us reach the next level of our practice. Your next level is probably very different than that of the folks at those extremes, and the best tool for that job is different too.