The Swiss Army Philosophy

The iconic design design of the Swiss Army Knife is known the world over, and in my mind this tool is associated with improvisation and resourcefulness (thanks O.G. 1980s MacGyver). I received my very own years ago, as a gift for my 18th birthday if memory serves, and I still carry it today. Over the years, it has proven itself useful many times.

Swiss army knife open 20050612

There are many like it, but this is NOT mine

The Swiss Army Knife is the tool you have with you. I’ve used its screwdrivers plenty of times when I didn’t have a real screwdriver handy. I’ve used the scissors to cut stray threads and the pliers to remove jumpers from motherboards. The knife blades have opened more boxes than I can count and performed well enough with other cutting tasks, though I’d rather have a sturdier and locking (or fixed) blade for anything heavier. The bottle opener has come in handy many times as well.

But even though it’s proven itself useful on many occasions, I have to be honest: Swiss Army Knife tools are well made but aren’t objectively great performers (except for maybe the knife blades). All things equal, I’d rather have a real pair of pliers or screwdrivers or an actual can opener.  So how can a tool like that be so well-regarded and so associated with Getting Stuff Done™? Simple. You can carry it with you nearly everywhere, so it shows up. This, in my mind, is the philosophy of the Swiss Army Knife. It shows up. And in a world where so many people, things, and institutions are unreliable, showing up is a superpower.

This is something to apply to life. Show up. Bring the best tools you have, even if they’re not as good as others. And if what you have at the time isn’t up to the task? You can go back to the toolbox for something better suited for the job. The key is knowing when to muddle along with the Phillips head screwdriver on your trusty old Swiss Army Knife and when to put the knife back in your pocket and go get the drill or impact driver.