“It is a poor workman who blames his tools.”
This is a fortune cookie I first read years ago. This one has stuck with me because it has stuck in my craw. There are many ways to interpret this phrase, and none of them sit well with my needs-to-be-assuaged-of-guilt soul. Is the skillful workman lacking in resources and unable to meet expectations? Or is he lacking in workmanship and putting the blame on his tools?
I’ve never quite reconciled with this. I’ve always felt that I could do well with the right tools. But I’ve always held in my mind the idea that anybody who is determined enough, has enough fire, has enough desire and need, can make do with whatever tools he has. If I really, really, really want to make music, I could do so with a trashcan and a kazoo. And then sometimes I myopically don’t use my tools in whatever way is necessary to do the job, which leads me to wonder if I ever had the desire in the first place. People in companies are praised for being resourceful, and this fortune cookie reminds me that I just might not be resourceful if I’m finding fault in what tools I have available.
Really, can a man be held accountable because he’s not exceeding the potential of his tools?