Do You Know Where to Tap the Hammer?

A parable.

A business owner is horrified to discover one morning that her company’s server is broken. Won’t boot up, won’t turn on. She calls a computer repair expert to come out and see what he can do.

The expert shows up, looks at the machine carefully, and even gives it a careful listen. He runs his fingers lightly on the side of the computer, and then taps it with a small hammer. The computer starts right up, the business owner is happy, and the expert goes away.

Hammer with light streaks

If I had this hammer, man, I could fix ANYTHING!

Two days later, the expert’s bill shows up. “Computer repair, $500,” it says.

The business owner calls up the expert, angry. “$500?! All you did was tap the computer, and you charged me $500?! I need to see an itemized version of your bill, to see why you thought that was worth $500.”

Two days later, the new bill arrives in the mail. “Tapping the computer with a hammer, $1. Knowing where to tap the hammer, $499.”

Knowing Where to Tap the Hammer: The Moral

Once, I was talking to a freelance writer friend, and she was worried about charging too much for her services.

“I don’t see how I can charge that much an hour, just to write a single press release,” she said, like she was worried she would be found out as a fraud, or that people would realize anyone could do it.

“Do you have special knowledge that enables you to write that press release in under an hour?”

“Oh sure, I’ve done so many of these, I can write them in 30 minutes sometimes.”

“And do you think your clients could write that same release in under an hour?”

“No, they take 3 or 4 hours to write one.”

So I told her the computer hammer story.

“You know where to tap the computer,” I said. “Your job seems easy to you because you’ve done it for years. But to someone who has never done it, it seems daunting. But then if they see how easy it is for you, they assume it’s that easy for anyone. But if they don’t know how to do it, it’s still a mystery.”

What can you do better than anyone else? What is a special piece of knowledge that you have that could be valuable to someone else? What are you putting your energy and time into?

For me, it’s writing. For Lorraine Ball, it’s PR for small businesses. For Paul D’Andrea, it’s portraits and event photography.

For us hammer tappers, we’re always learning new stuff, new tools and techniques, new ways of doing things.

Knowing where to tap the hammer is what sets us apart from those of us who will try the same things over and over — flipping the computer off and on, trying it in different plugs, shaking it — before declaring it impossible to finish.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).

Photo credit: KyleMay (Flickr)

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.


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