Grandpa's Toolbox Paradox

Thoughts on how our environment shape our creativity.

We all have our own version of grandpa's toolbox. It's the place where the detritus of hundreds of projects go to die, small parts waiting to be resurrected from purgatory to live again in a form they were never intended for. Ironically, we never have time to organize the toolbox, but we always have time to start another project (that's a paradox for another time).


The paradox is that grandpa's toolbox never has the exact part you need, but when you really need a solution, you can always find one in grandpa's toolbox.


This paradox highlights the importance of the mental environment we embrace when working through a project. When you go into grandpa's toolbox, you never expect to find the exact part you need. Instead, you change your mental environment from searching for perfection to searching for viable solutions. In essence, opening grandpa's toolbox is opening the door to the creative environment in your mind.


The alternative is following step-by-step instructions. This is similar to building a LEGO set or IKEA furniture. We go into autopilot, thus closing down our ability to think for ourselves, let alone to think creatively. This mental environment may be fine if you're seeking to replicate something exactly or do something completely unoriginal, but the moment an obstacle is thrown your way you are done. Stuck.


Our journey with sport and fitness often starts the LEGO or IKEA way. We listen diligently to our coach or we read a book in the hope that someone or something can tell us exactly what we need to do.


There is nothing wrong with this approach, especially in the beginning. It will probably work for a while. The problem is that one day you'll discover you're missing a few parts, or the parts you have don't fit together as promised.


Don't get upset, or think all is lost. Instead, open grandpa's toolbox, find a creative solution, and get back to work.


- Antonio Gonzalez

March, 2023


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