Taking Risks To Grow – What Can We Learn From A Hermit Crab?

I absolutely love hermit crabs; I have since childhood.  They are so intriguing and they have a lot to teach us about taking risks in order to grow.

A hermit crab not taking risks but staying put.
Herman Hermit in a compact and bijou “house.”

A Hermit Crab’s Life

Unlike other crustaceans, Hermit Crabs don’t grow their own shells when it is time to expand. Instead, they take up lodgings in a shell that has been cast off, such as a snail shell. It’s an efficient system, made more so by a procedure of co-operation and management of resources. This BBC video, narrated by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough, shows how a housing chain is set up when a large “des res” becomes available.

 

All the time that the Hermit Crab remains in its shell it is safe, but it will eventually need to take a risk and move to a new house, if it is to grow.  Whilst it is moving to another shell it is vulnerable to attack. However, if it doesn’t move it will die, as the shell becomes too small for it.

What Can We learn?

Our Hermit Crab taking a risk and moving house
Herman is taking the risk and making his move.

To grow, survive and thrive, we have to face up to taking risks:

  • to try something new
  • to say no to a request when we usually say yes
  • to say yes to an opportunity when we usually say no
  • to change jobs
  • to leave a relationship
  • to challenge bad behaviour
  • to move house

All these things take a certain amount of risk as we step outside of what is familiar and safe. Taking a risk stimulates our Limbic system and we feel fear – as if we were under threat of death.  I’ve written about some of this here.

But unless we face these things, we stagnate, shrink even. Our outlook shrinks, our options shrink and our opportunities shrink. To make the most of what we have, we need to take chances and risk what we have. Sometimes we lose, but even if we lose, we gain learning.

 

So What If We Do Lose?

Mark Twain said

“Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.”

When we get things wrong we learn. When we get things right we grow. But if we never try we gain nothing.

Our Hermit Crab settled into a new house
Hooray! Herman has moved in and loving his new life.

A Hermit Crab hides in its shell for safety, but sometimes it leaves that safety in order to gain something new and of value. We could learn a lot.

 

 

 

Cartoons by Janet Webb, who had a go at something new.

For The Future

I spoke at Chichester College’s Professional Student Graduation ceremony last night about the future. Students from Marketing, Accountancy, Human Resources and Learning & Development received their certificates and then contemplated what’s next. As the guest speaker, this is the heart of the advice I gave them.

1 – Say Yes If You Can

When life offers you an opportunity, grab it with both hands even if it isn’t part of your plan and not what you were expecting. This is particularly important if someone else is saying “I think you would be great at this.” Doing a wide variety of things opens your horizons and makes you more effective.

Opportunities don’t always work out well but they are never wasted. We learn from the bad times as well as the good times. Say yes and make it yours.

2 – When You Say No, Let It Go

If you have to say no to an opportunity don’t waste your time wondering what would have happened differently – you will never know.  Sometimes we come across two paths and have to choose which one to go down. Whether you choose the path “less travelled by [1]” or the massive motorway, travelled by a million people before you, let the other path go.

3 – Stay A Student Forever

You will learn things today that in the future you will discover are not true. You must keep looking, studying, learning, challenging, testing yourself and what you know. Never give up being a student; it hasn’t finished, it has only just begun.

 

You can’t see the road ahead, only what is now and what has gone before. You can scream with excitement or you can scream with fear. Your choice – choose excitement.

 

[1] Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Breaking Out

Here is the third entry into the VERY occasional series, responding to the Artwork of My Friends – the first being here and the second here.

I asked my friend Doug Shaw to select a piece of his work for me to write about. Here is my response.

Painting by Doug Shaw

Breaking Out       by Janet Webb

Warm, familiar, not loud, not bright,
This comforting place is my delight.
This shell keeps me secure, held and still,
Away from the cliff edge, safe from ill will.

These bars protect me from unknown harm,
Enclosing with nothing to cause alarm.
They stop me from doing what’s foolish, what’s rash,
Protecting me from what’s harsh, what’s brash.

But painfully bound to a familiar game,
Repeating, repeating, repeating the same,
The solid walls smother and stifle the din
And I shrink and contract; my outlook looks in.

So I break from this jail that’s safe but a bore,
Cut the rope that tethers and learn to soar.
Looking over the edge I see a different view
And risking the fall, I learn something new.

I’ll leave the comfort of what I know
And explore what is hidden in order to grow.
To climb like a vine and snatch at the sky.
And if I fall? Well, for a moment I’ll fly.