How many times have you been talking to other people in your field — designers, developers, marketers, just about anyone — and had the conversation turn to what apps you prefer for your job?

Sure, we all love to talk shop. But more and more, the questions I get from inexperienced developers and designers lean toward wondering what the best apps are to help them succeed.

Unfortunately, these aren't the questions that will help you succeed.

A skilled carpenter can build a beautiful, sturdy shed with hand tools. A bad carpenter could use the most expensive power tools on the market, and they'd still build a terrible shed.

Apps are tactical. Improvement and success are born from strategy and execution.

I didn't get good at project management because I use Basecamp. I got good at project management by studying really good project managers, trying different approaches, and honing my skills through practice. Basecamp is a part of that strategy, and it helps me keep things in order, but the value of it is incredibly marginal relative to actually doing the work of learning project management.

If you've spent hours trying to find the best app for something, you're chasing the wrong answer.

Pick one. Literally any app that you've heard of. And then get to work.

When people ask me what tools I use, what they're really asking is how can I achieve the same results as you, without doing the work?

We obsess over tools because we love shortcuts. How many first-time cyclists buy $5,000 Cervelo bikes, thinking that it'll make them faster than the veterans?

But expensive bikes aren't true shortcuts, and neither are apps.

On the MojoTech cycling team, we have a saying that we use when people are swooning over other bikes: it's the engine that matters — in that case, the engine is your legs. In this case, the engine is your brain.

Next time you're tempted to quiz someone on their favorite tools, try asking them for advice that will truly get you ahead.

What did you do to get so good at _____?

Chances are, you're not going to get a lot of app recommendations. But if you listen to the answers and execute on them, you will improve.

— Nick Kishfy (@kishfy)