Don't rush for the microscope, son.

In grad school, when I'd get some new sample to look at, I was always excited to analyze it with the coolest new toys I'd been learning to use.  But my advisor would tell me, "don't rush for the electron microscope."  You might miss the forest if you're focused on the, you know, amoebae.

His very concrete and sensible suggestion was to start by looking at a new thing with your bare eyes.  Learn what you can - what color is it?  Is it heavy?  Then put it in the miroscope--the optical microscope, at minimum magnification.  Turn up the mag step by step.  Then maybe the scanning electron microscope.  Then, and only then, the transmission electron microscope.  The atoms can wait, they'll still be there.

When you're handed a task at work, do you just carry out your job description, or do you check for inconsistencies to make sure your time wouldn't be wasted?

When you contemplate a new cell phone, it might behoove you to ask first not how fast its processor runs, but rather, "would it get signal in my house?"