We love to learn new things. I think it is what has led us in the direction of being entrepreneurs. Learning new stuff can be fun and can get you started on great new projects. But it can also be very easy to get stuck in your day to day routine…doing things the same way over and over again, even if it isn’t the best way to get it done.
There are many articles published on software or website tools available to the entrepreneur (we actually have one of those coming soon!), but the idea of using the tools you already have-experiences you’ve have had or people you know-is incredibly powerful and will serve you well.
A couple of years ago I was on a photo-shoot working on an exterior image that was tight and rather interesting. Usually I use large lights and other gadgets to create great looking images, so I was trying to figure out which of the boxes I need to get out of my car and if I had enough extension cords to get the little bit of fill light I needed. It felt a bit excessive, but it is what I usually do so I was going with it. Fortunately, I had an assistant that asked if I had a flash in my camera bag? Eureka! I did! And I did a great shot with one of the smallest and most overlooked tools in my bag. That happened about 9 years ago, and still sticks in my mind as a “use your tools” moment.
Whenever I am involved in something that seems overly complicated or different that I am used to I often think of this moment and review my toolbox. What do I know that I can use here? What in my years of schooling, experience or varied professional roles could help me make this smoother or simpler? Often by giving myself a little time out to review, I find something. If that fails, I also think about who I know that could walk me through this process.
These tools could be something that is very close to you and what you are doing. The other day I was struggling with something in Photoshop. Of course, the stubborn part of me fiddled around with it for a while and when that didn’t work I began to think…Oh yes, I have the book from when I originally learned this process and had the problem solved in a couple of minutes.
The tools could also be something that isn’t part of your world much at all. Did you know that Southwest Airlines used Nascar to get better at turning airplanes around? It may sound silly, but there are solutions everywhere around you. In my mastermind group we have a round table portion of the meeting where we each get to share something specific we need help with or advice on. It always amazes me when I get great ideas about how to handle a situation in my life when I hear the proposed solutions to other members problems that have nothing to do with what I do. Don’t think just because a tool isn’t specifically designed for your business that it won’t work for you.
My favorite professor of all time, Denver Lopp at Purdue University, told us that we could use anything we wanted during his exams (keep in mind this was before we all had the internet at our fingertips with our phones…) because in the real world we are going to be able to use reference materials. He warned us though, we had better know where they were because the exams were going to be hard. That last bit is what stuck with me. We can use everything available to us, we just have to know where it is and how to access it. That last part certainly has become easier in recent years, but organization is key to being able to use that toolbox efficiently.
Just because you have been doing something a certain way for a while doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way to go about it. So keep an open mind and an open toolbox.