May 25, 2023

Fewer problems versus more tools


There are people who want fewer problems, and there are people who want more tools.

Which one describes you?

Personally, the former is sounds much more soothing. Someone or something that can just make all my problems disappear like a rabbit in a hat, that sounds like one hell of a magic trick.

However, the second option has become more and more appealing to me as I’ve gotten older. Because it’s more empowering and satisfying. On two levels.

First, I find it exhilarating to observe myself taking out my tool kit and predictably pop myself out of a state of fear, overwhelm or numbness.

But there’s also second level to the growth process that’s even better. Which is, adding to my arsenal by creating the tool myself.

This is one of the reason I’ve become so attracted to artificial intelligence. These innovations are so compelling because they’re meta tools. They’re tool for creating more tools. They help to extend human cognition beyond our brains.

Scientists who develop such groundbreaking technology aren’t solely building artificial intelligence to accomplish some end, but to offer reusable functions and frameworks for people so they can reduce overhead in future development.

And the good news, we don’t need to have to have a doctorate in engineering to perform this process. Computer nerds don’t have a monopoly on gathering and buildings more tools. Each of us can and should save some creativity for our own needs.

We pay ourselves first. It’s a matter of time and labor, but also of attention and intention.

Looking back, the most important evolution in my own work as a writer, thinker and strategist has been the process of meta tooling. In the past few years, I’ve spent countless hours building out a framework for converting intellectual capital into functional assets.

Not merely converting the applications of my unique expertise into principles and theories, but taking the insights even further. Spinning them into tangible tools that anyone can use, anytime, anywhere. And I find the secret to getting skilled at this process is building my solution taxonomy. T

hat really unlocked a new level of growth for me. Once I realized there were classifications of tools, like mindsets, approaches, behaviors and assets, soon building new tools became second nature.

My taxonomy was the meta tool because it allowed me to define bespoke models which could now be used to create tools to help me achieve future outcomes. All you have to do is layer the inquiry of taxonomy over your experience.

Let’s make one together.

Say you experience some kind of death in your life. Maybe you lost your job to companywide layoffs. Or an elderly relative had a stroke and died. Or one of your longtime friendships faded during the pandemic when a companion moved upstate to be closer to family.

Events like these will always happen, and they’re always going to be sad, lonely and sobering. That’s not going to change. Especially as we grow older. There is only going to be more death, loss, grieving and mourning as life marches on.

As such, the best thing we can do for ourselves from a growth standpoint is to make more tools. After a period of loss, and reflection and meditation on the difficult events, we can start wondering to ourselves.

What’s the tool? What mindsets, approaches, behaviors and assets seemed to help me? What did I do to get through this thing?

Keep in mind, this might sound a bit clinical to someone who is not used to deconstructive learning. But once you get into the habit of doing it regularly, not only is deeply fulfilling, it’s also really fun.

This is going to sound masochistic, but you almost can’t wait to have the next difficult experience, just for the purposes of getting new tools out of it.

In my experience, knowing I have a meta tool buffers my suffering. I can more easily trust myself to make it out alive, knowing that my resources will support me. No matter how shitty things gets, you better believe I’m going to crawl out the muck with a new tool in my hand, goddamn it.

That’s how meta tools work. You say to yourself:

Well, this summer of unemployment is going to suck donkey balls, but I know I’ll come out on the other side with a few dope arrows in my quiver.

Here, I’ll give you an example.

In the solution taxonomy I mentioned above, there’s a tactical category of tools called behaviors, which are specific ways in which you act or conduct yourself. The behaviors include an exercise, which is a skill building maneuver; an intervention, which is an act to improve a situation; or a subroutine, which is a specific course of small action.

Knowing I have all these classifications of tools in my solution taxonomy, all of which are available to me at any time, that’s the meta tool. When a strange or challenging event goes down in my life, and I stumble across an interesting or useful way of coping with it, I now have a trusted a framework by which I can label that tool for future use.

Remember, there are people who want fewer problems, and there are people who gather more tools.

Once we commit to being the latter, there’s no telling what kinds of leaps and bounds we can make in our own growth.

Whenever something happens to you, ask yourself what the tool might be.

Layer the inquiry of taxonomy over your experience.

If somebody built an artificial intelligence program that simulated your brain, what questions would the computer ask?