Don’t look at the Hammer, look at the Nail

hammer-and-nailWhen I was a lad my father taught me something which has saved me no end of blackened thumbs. Whilst building a billy cart or something similar that an eight year old might be doing he told me “don’t look at the hammer son, look at the nail”

This is a really simple piece of advice which can help all of us in lots of aspects of our lives. Too often we get bound up in the “how” of our goals, rather than focusing on the goals themselves. An example which might serve to illustrate my point:

A potential client comes to talk to me about saving for their retirement, and all they want to talk about is the investment products I am going to recommend. No matter how hard I try to persuade them that our philosophy is strategy first (my mate Tom, made a great video on this subject here), with products used as tools to achieve the strategy, they want to focus on investment markets, rates of return, portfolio construction etc. What I would really like to talk to them about is the timing and nature of the retirement they want, so I can formulate a strategy to help them get there. Right now I don’t know whether I need a screwdriver or a hammer, much less how big the hammer should be, but no, the hammer is all they are interested in, and there is no concentration on getting the nail into the wood.

We also need to keep focus on our goals. When driving a nail you should concentrate on the end of the nail, the point you are about to hit, not on the entry point of the nail into the timber. That is to say, when trying to achieve a goal, we need to focus on what we are doing now, and get that right, once we have decided on the course of action that will lead us to our goal. Whether we are closer or further away from a goal at the time is not really important, it is whether our effort is being appropriately club

Golfers know all about this, keep your eye on the ball, swing the club, don’t look at where it is going until after you have hit it, but remember that hitting it properly is the best way to achieve your goal of getting as close to the pin as possible.

Next time you hammer a nail into some wood, keep your thumbs out of the way and try watching the end of the hammer, chances are you will miss the nail. Next watch the pointy end of the nail where it enters the wood and swing your hammer, bet you miss again, or at least don’t get as good a result as if you had focused your attention properly.

Pretty smart dude my Dad.