I tap the flashlight on my phone to illuminate the lamp switch. With squinting eyes, I see that it’s 4:40 a.m. in the morning, and not even the hotel receptionist is awake.
I’m supposed to be on vacation. After an arduous, intense month of work, I promised myself that I’d take the entire weekend off. For me, that distinctly meant a few things: no emails, no communicating, via Trello or Slack, and no business thoughts, in general.
Knowing that I’m liable to give into temptation, I even set strict rules for the trip: I’d sleep in every day; I’d read novels instead of business books, and I’d leave my performance foods and supplements at home, because, of course, I wasn’t in the performance mood.
Thus far, I’ve failed quite miserably: I’ve optimized a landing page with my designer, wrote a new business manifesto for what I want to accomplish in my 30s, and—at 4:40 a.m., on a Sunday—I’m here writing a blog for my personal brand (although I’d argue that this isn’t business, but rather my nature, my purpose).
Furthermore, it’s not like I’m behind on my work tasks. Quite the opposite: Ambra and I haven’t taken a pure vacation together in over four months.
Some people would find it sad that I’m up early banging out a blog. They’d call me a workaholic. They’d say I can’t relax.
But here’s the truth. I didn’t set an alarm today. I just woke up. The notion that I’m still productive doesn’t mean I can’t relax—I did—but the truth is I know well enough that I need a bit of stimulation each-and-every-day to feel fulfilled.
I, by no means, am advocating that someone aim to replicate my default mode of shifting between first gear and sixth, but, the truth is, I rarely experience 2nd – 5th gears. I simply don’t live in moderation; I thrive on the edges. When I’m relaxing, I’m sleeping or checked out for the day. But when I’m on, which is 90% of the time, I like to sprint, and sometimes feel a bit anxious when I’m merely running.
I’ve always been this way. It’s in my DNA. I don’t think I deserve any special merit for this, nor would it necessarily be the personality type I’d choose; sometimes, I wish I was more chilled out. And while I believe we can make modifications to our personality, a large part of it is simply the hand we’re dealt.
This Achiever personality type (which I feel highly connected to) is to a large extent who I am. I feel upset if I don’t accomplish something every single day. The task may be small or large depending on my expectations for the day, but something must be done or I feel a sense of regret and emptiness.
That’s me at my essence. It may be a blessing or a curse, but what matters is that it is.
I’m done apologizing for it; instead, I’m going all-in with it: the sooner we realize who we are, and the sooner we accept what tool we have in the shed, the quicker we can find our place in the world. If my innate nature were personified as a tool, I’d say I’m a hammer. I like the idea of thinking of ourselves as tools, since it accurately depicts our strengths and weaknesses, our advantages and limitations.
I’m fucking epic if you give me a nail. I suck dramatically if you give me a screw. I love that analogy because on the surface a nail and screw seem so similar, yet they require wildly different tools in order to be used effectively.
It’s important we begin to understand what tool we are, because only then can we understand where our specific strengths lay. Much friction and pain has been caused in my life by attempting to use a wrench to hammer a nail. As I share these feelings and realizations, I implore each and every one of you to deeply reflect on two things:
- Which tool are you?
- Where can you make the highest impact?
After some pensive thought you discover you’re a pair of pliers: Great, now what?
What has helped me a lot, recently, is to stop lamenting about what I’m not. It’s tempting to look around you and wish you were a drill. “Drills have it easier,” you think to yourself. “They get to be plugged into the wall. If only I could have that automatic power, then,” __insert how your life would be easier, here___.”
We all know it’s bullshit. The truth is that even the most successful people in the world acknowledge that their strengths depict a single tool. Indeed, what they do differently than unsuccessful people is they don’t bitch about the hand they’re dealt; they focus on how to play it the best way possible.
Consider this quote from Bernard Baruch, a wildly successful businessman, investor, and advisor to multiple U.S. Presidents.
“If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” – Bernard Baruch
If I think back on it, I’ve known that I was a hammer for over a decade. I’ve just been wasting a lot of my energy complaining about screwdrivers and trying to drill shit into the wall, instead of slamming it, like the hammer I am.
Information without action is useless. Once you discover who you are, then it’s about having the courage to say, fuck you to all the wrenches, drills, screwdrivers, and go all-in on your tool. Focus is effectiveness.
Today, I’m reconfirming for the umpteenth time, that I am a hammer. What I hope is different this time is that I finally learn to accept my tool, appreciate its uses, and, of course, occasionally put it down.
What tool are you?