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Top 10 Items For A 21st Century Toolbox!
Skilled workers of every age have prized their tools. I recently visited a Museum
of Natural History and was amazed at the craftsmanship and precision of the sextants and
chronometers that allowed explorers to map our world in the 18th and 19th centuries. Such tools must have cost many years' wages for the average person! I was reminded
of how my Grandfather prized and cared for the tools he used on his farm. I vividly
remember his showing me how to work a haybaler or oil the harness for his team of horses,
tools from an age that is long-gone. But it brings up the question: What are
the tools for our age, and what are the skills we will need to keep them "sharp"
and useful? I suggest the following tools for your 21st Century Toolbox:
- Extreme Self-Care: Just like early explorers took extraordinary measures to
protect their compass and sextant, keeping them in beautifully finished wooden boxes, so
in tomorrow's world we will need to be well-oiled, rested, polished and precisely
- Response-Ability: In an earlier generation, a farmer could experiment with
new crops or buy a "new-fangled" tractor over a period of several years.
In the 21st Century, change will occur daily, and the ability to respond instantly will be
the difference between success and total "crop failure."
- Resource Management: In the 1930's the American Dust-bowl disaster was
caused by a belief that the land was endless and resources were boundless, so farmers
destroyed the sod, laid bare the land, and the wind simply blew it away. In the
next century, the most successful will be those who manage their resources and have the
most efficient reserves of creativity, time, space and energy.
- Character: My great-uncle was known for the beautiful walking sticks he
made by hand, carving them during the long winter months. Each one was unique and
they have become family heirlooms. In the 21st century we won't leave our mark on
wood or stone nearly as often as we will leave our mark on the memories of those who buy
our products and services. But I expect the quality of our character will show
through just as clearly as the marks he carved into those sticks testify to his patience,
strength and dignity.
- Fence Mending: Robert Frost wrote a poem about "mending wall",
and said, "good fences make good neighbors". For a thousand generations,
that meant piling rock upon rock, or stretching wire from post to post. In the 21st
century, the principle remains the same. Boundaries, roles and responsibilities must
be agreed upon, be clearly marked and be maintained.
- Simplicity: I once heard that until the end of World War II, it was rare
for any human being to eat anything that was not raised and harvested within 25 miles of
them. Ask anyone who lived through the Depression if they remember the miracle of an
orange, brought by special shipment all the way from Florida, as a Christmas treat.
It happened once a year! In the 21st Century, those who achieve extraordinary
success will be those who, in the midst of clutter and chaos, choose to simplify their
lives, focus on their priorities, and pursue their goals.
- Insatiable Curiosity: Something drove explorers to risk falling off the
edge of a "flat earth". The "Mountain Men" (and women) explored
the American frontier, and every child asks, "Where do babies come from?" or the
eternal, basic question, "Why?" Curiosity will remain an essential tool
for the new age. It will drive some to look, listen, experiment and learn new
skills, while others will quickly be left behind.
- Risk Management: This is a 20th century term for an ancient
principle: Those who are too timid, get left behind, while those who are too
impulsive, usually die young. In the 21st century, we will rarely face risks that
are life-threatening, but those with the ability to accurately assess the risks and
potential rewards in a new situation will flourish, while those who blindly resist change
or blindly run after every new fad will quickly fail.
- Contextual Creativity: My grandfather had no use for "modern
art". He scoffed at the luxury of throwing paint at a canvas or using
"gutter language" in poetry. For him creativity was grafting a branch from
a pear tree onto an apple tree, and art meant growing more wheat per acre than any other
farmer in the county. In the 21st Century, the most valued creators will remain
those who can work with what lies at hand, and fashion something new and useful from what
others have discarded as old, familiar and useless.
- Lofty Aspirations: In every age, ambition counts for something.
During the Depression, there was no more devastating allegation than that someone was
"lazy." I remember my Grandmother scoffing that a neighbor "will
never amount to nothing, he doesn't expect to!" Perhaps, in the new century,
the most important of all tools will be the expectation that we can succeed, that we can
contribute, that we can make a difference. Past generations expected life to be
difficult, but they also expected to endure and overcome, and that expectation was
tangible, it was as real as spring after the winter, and it kept them going.
Aspiration is a powerful tool!
Whatever items you choose for your personal toolbox, choose wisely! To make a
living and provide value to those around us, requires the ability to start with a vision,
blend it with skill, and produce a result that has value in the real world. Almost
always, whether it's the artist's paintbrush or the surgeon's scalpel, that means using
tools. Please consider these ten for your toolbox!
Phil, Mary, and the Staff at
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© Copyright 2003 by Philip E. Humbert. All Rights Reserved.
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