A few weeks ago I finally added a cast iron skillet to my cooking toolbelt. Since then, I’ve nearly burned myself several times, struggled constantly with its significant weight, and obsessed over the delicate cleaning and maintenance it requires. I’ve also made some of the best food of my life.
One of the most common formulae for a successful entrepreneur is to build a product or service to take the pain and difficulty out of some task. Often though, what’s given up for ease of use is flexibility, functionality, or power that is essential when going beyond the most basic tasks.
Most of the time, this is fine. Warming up some food for a quick bite before you run out the door was not so easy when we didn’t have microwaves. But when you want to go beyond the basics, and really do something challenging, your tools built to be easy to use can hold you back.
The iPhone camera gets better every year, but serious photographers will still need their many lenses, their wide depth of field, and countless other powerful features you can’t (yet) get on an iPhone.
That’s not to say all that is difficult to use is better. It’s notoriously difficult to shoot and develop quality photos with traditional film, but most photographers now believe film is not the best tool for most cases.
Sometimes, the “simpler” tool comes with a new feature useful everywhere. Part of the reason shooting photos with the iPhone is easy isn’t just the small form factor or simple interface, but how easy it is to take that photo and send it wirelessly to your computer, or straight to the internet. Many professional level cameras now have WiFi to enable this same thing.
Difficult tools aren’t difficult for no reason. They’re difficult in order to be powerful, and flexible. They’re difficult so that once you do know how to use them, they won’t hold you back.
So when you just need to get something done, by all means, make things easy for yourself. But when you want to make something great, it might help to make things a little harder.