I came across a story on LinkedIn recently. "A critical gearbox failed and no one could fix it. So they brought in a bloke with great trouble-shooting experience. He inspected the gear drive very carefully. After looking things over, the guy reached into his bag and pulled out a small tool. He gently tapped something. Before long, the gearbox was back working! The owner got his bill for $10k. What?! the owner said, you hardly did anything. Send us an itemized bill. The reply simply said: Tapping with a hammer- $50; knowing where to tap- $9950."
I cannot vouch for the veracity of the story and since another variation of the story appeared today I'd say it's surely a myth BUT there's a few lessons to be taken away whether we're referring to Craftsman type tools or the intellectual ones that we depend upon daily.
The Most Important Tool
What's the most important tool in your tool box? If you said your brain, I'd say BINGO! There are many tools available to you but none of them hold the weight of your ability to think and reason. As in the case of the "bloke with great trouble-shooting experience" the hammer did the job, but only because the bloke knew where to tap it. The brain is the tool that allows us to use the other tools appropriately.
Don't Be Oversold
Suppose the bloke didn't know where to tap but having been sold on the idea the hammer was the correct tool, he proceeded anyway. The outcome may not have been so peachy. Just because a tool is suggested (ah, the power of influence) doesn't mean it's the right one for your situation. You must apply your own logic to ensure that the outcome you achieve is the outcome you seek. Choose your tools carefully based upon what you know rather than what you are told.
Use as Directed?
Once you've decided on what tools to use, remember they were designed to be used as directed. I'm not suggesting you cannot tweak the way you use tools but if you do deviate from the prescribed use you are entering into uncharted territory. If at all possible, seek those tools that actually fit the situation at hand. If your goal is to fix something, you'll save yourself a lot of time this way.
Oh and one more thing- as cool as it sounds, it's likely you'll never get $9950 for knowing where to tap but you sure will make yourself a highly prized resource. Remember that brain of yours- it's the most important tool in your tool box.