Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

It's All About What You Want to Do

A multitool

A few years ago, I was chatting with a co-worker and our conversation turned to bicycles. At that time, her son was thinking about buying a bike but couldn’t decide what kind. His needs were simple — he wanted to get from home to work and back with the minimum of fuss.

I suggested that her son get a folding bike. I’d been riding one for about a year at that point and really enjoyed it. I still do, in case you’re wondering. A folder seemed to be a good choice for her son’s needs.

She said that was one of the options her son was exploring, but that A friend told me folding bikes are useless. The friend who pooh-poohed folding bikes, it turns out, was an avid mountain biker. Someone who regularly hit the trails, something my co-worker’s son would never do. The friend was someone who couldn’t see beyond his niche.

I’ve run into this conceit many, many times over the years. The idea that unless a something suits the needs of a particular person, that something is universally useless.

One person’s useless is another person’s useful. Is, say, a ballpeen hammer useless because it can’t pull nails? Of course not! That’s just bad, blinkered thinking.

When looking at anything — whether a productivity tool, a computer, a pair of shoes, a bicycle, or a portable camping stove — you need to view it through the lens of what you want to do. Your needs are what matter, not the opinions of an expert or a guru or a blowhard.

Why? Your needs are different from theirs. Chance are, you’ll be using that item differently than they do. Those experts and gurus can nudge you in the right direction. What works for them might not work for you. It could be, for example, that you only need Todo.txt rather than Todoist or Remember the Milk to track your tasks.

By focusing on your needs, you’ll wind up with something that best suits those needs. You won’t be stuck with something that’s too complex or convoluted for your purposes.

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