Discovering Tools In Your Toolbox

I didn’t know I was going to need that. 

Not the middle school math whine of “when am I ever going to use this,” but a statement. There are all these little things we pick up along the way that can change your life later.

In the WTF Ice Cube interview, he talks about how skipping a guidance counselor meeting puts him in a typing class and a film class. Not only does the typing class show him how to type, but he starts rapping thanks to a classmate who is also finishing assignments early. In the film class, he gets exposed to the classics which help him talk to a young John Singleton years later, helping to launch his own movie career. 

He didn’t know he was going to need that.

This is how we discover the tools in our toolbox we didn’t even know where there. 

What about you? What didn’t you know you’d need at the time that you ended up needing later?

I’ll share the tool I keep thinking of later – I went through a real “quiet” phase in my mid-20s to mid-30s. I went from being surrounded by creative people and book readers and, you get the idea, to starting a corporate job and being way too busy with busyness. 

I’m pretty sure one of my brothers got me a copy of Shootin’ the Sh*t With Kevin Smith for Christmas in 2009. I had already dabbled in podcasts, but mostly music stuff (shoutout to NPR who used to put whole concerts and Prairie Home Companion episodes up).

These were the days of having to connect your iPod to a computer, download the podcast files, move them to your iPod, which you inevitably had to make room on because it was always out of memory… and it was a PROCESS. Streaming and AirPods are sliced bread now, but we used to gnaw unleavened crusts in those days.

One gifted book, a nudge of expanded interest (along with extra iPod memory capacity), and my commutes to work and dish-washing/laundry folding routine was suddenly filled with SModcast, EconTalk, WTF, and more. 

You know how they say you can feel like you’re friends with people just by hearing their voice? It’s true. I didn’t know anybody else who was listening to this stuff like I was, but these people had an audience in me and I was absorbing it. Kev and Russ and Marc and others were the creative friends I was missing in my life.

Play it forward another several years and the habit expanded. Listening turned into reading more again. Reading turned into finding audiobooks. All of this demanded note taking, which improved smart phones made even easier. The continued – and escalating – busyness and lack of a creative friend circle led to “why not start some note sharing,” and somewhere along the line, this blog/newsletter was born. 

I thought I was just feeling the lonely stress of the post-college, pre-middle-age-crisis formation years. But life was busy putting a whole new set of tools into my toolbox. Without them, I wouldn’t have changed my… no, just changed. Full stop.

Without the tools, there’s no change. 

ps. EXTRA Blind Melon/’92 CD collection vibes.

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