What You and a Hermit Crab have in Common

hermit-crabWe can’t live freely. No one can. We need self constructed rules, so our brains don’t explode.

We all need rules in order to feel comfortable. Even your favorite A-list movie star lives within rules that a regular person can’t even fathom.

You tell yourself that you can’t ask your boss for a raise.

You tell yourself that you can’t find a better job that matches your superpowers.

You tell yourself that you don’t need to love what you do.

You function well within this mental cage. You don’t want to be able to live a fully unrestricted life because it would be too free.

The problem is that your self-created cage is too small. You don’t see the little door behind the couch. The door that opens up to the perfect playground. Those cool monkey bars that challenge your muscles. Those cool puzzles that challenge your mind.

Usual Walk

As I walked my usual walk with my dog, I thought of taking a different route. However, the more I thought about it the more that I didn’t like the idea. I wanted to take the same route. I liked the houses I walked past. I liked the same trees. I didn’t want to walk a new route. I didn’t want new houses and trees to distract me. I need to think and let my mind unravel.

The regular route allows me to tap into my subconscious.

We complain about cubicles, co-workers and bosses, but many of us really need these things. We need them because it’s what we are used to. At least for right now.

This may seem bleak, but we can’t always be bold. Sometimes it hurts too much. We need to pick our spots. We choose actions that give us the best chance of at success. Most of the time we are cautious. We don’t want to put ourselves too far out on a limb to only end up failing.

This isn’t a terrible thing. We don’t want to stick our arms out of the cage in the darkness and get them bitten off.

We want to reach out and grab a dream that makes us happy. However, if we grabbed after every dream our heads would spin right off. So we allow ourselves to be wimpy and to take the easy route.

99% of the time this is a good thing. We make the safe choice and we get to keep our hand.

Picking Your Spots

We begin to have problems when we take the safe route too often, going through the unknown door to satisfy our curiosity is a much needed part of a career. We look around at our self constructed cages and say, “This is quite nice. I have a refrigerator with some decent snacks, a working toilet, a 401k, a Wii, and a car that helps me feel like I’m escaping my cage.” We tell ourselves that we don’t really need to see what’s behind the door.

But we are just fooling ourselves.

We pretend we are happy because we are afraid of getting hurt.

Your cage may be fine right now, but at some point you should go find a new shell. One that’s going to help you grow.

Yes, as you’ve probably guessed, I’m talking about your career. If you aren’t challenged by your work then you aren’t using your superpowers to help others. You’re coasting along enjoying the cozy confines of your cage.

Your Cousin the Hermit Crab

You are no different from a hermit crab. You need new shells to help you house your new superpowers. You need to open that door and check out some new shells. You can always go back to that old shell. I promise.

If you are happy just coasting, then don’t stop, but if you aren’t happy then what are you doing about it?

What are you learning that helps you find a bigger shell with a better view?

Nathan Hangen and I created a new program that focuses on helping creative people bust out of their shells and unleash their superpowers. Click here to find out more. This is for you, if you’re tired of that same old shell, and you want to create a life and business where you can unleash your superpowers.

* I have some quality guest posts out there and I need to create a post dedicated to spreading the link love, but one of my favorites is on Jonathan Fields blog. It’s called Stop Resisting and Start Creating. Leave a comment and join in on the conversation. Thanks.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like these too:

> What Would You do Differently in Your Career?

> How to Discover Your Superpowers

Image courtesy of paix120

16 thoughts on “What You and a Hermit Crab have in Common”

  1. This is a flawless analogy Karl! Nice work. I think we are often afraid to take risks, raise our standards, or find new shells because these things are outside of our comfort zone. They are the unknown – so we often fear them, instead of embracing them.

  2. Karl – I like the hermit crab idea. As a lifelong coastal denizen and regular hermit crab hunter with my kids I appreciate the analogy.

    I find your point about people’s cages to be spot on. So many of my students and clients are trapped. Sometimes there are real structural reasons they can’t move on or change circumstances, but almost all the time there is something you can do to at leat expand your personal space.

    I also like the analogy because it implies gradual expansion, experimentation and discovery. I am a big believer in “crawl, walk, run”. Burning the ships on the shore of a new venture is for a small number of committed entrepreneurs. Most people need to feel their way through change.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
    Here’s something I wrote a few years ago that relates: http://www.phils-career-blog.com/2008/10/exploring-interests/

  3. Hi Karl,

    This is a great article. The general theme ties into a a fascinating 2 part lecture by Bruce Lipton on cell biology and the biology of belief that I was watching over the weekend. The bottom line is that if we perceive the world as scary and change as threatening (even if the change might actually bring about a more nurturing, growth oriented environment)our bodies’ cells go into protection mode which then brings about a host of other changes that are damaging to our health and well-being, including our ability to think straight!

    If we change our perceptions or beliefs about the world, our cells and behaviours will also change accordingly. I’ll be happy to send you the link to Lipton’s talk so you can post it for readers.

    I wouldn’t advocate taking crazy risks right off the bat; I would suggest taking small steps that are likely to bring some positive results and get some support or guidance along the way. It’s also good to change up your routine every so often because that’s what puts us back in a state of mindfulness and intrigues our muse/curiosity, etc.

    Have a great day and don’t forget to switch your walking routine once in a while.

  4. My husband and I just finished reading your article. As we are sitting here and thinking we are Hermit crabs but that is ok, because at our age we just leave our cage few times a year and then right back to the same cage. We are so amazed how well this is written and interesting.

  5. Karl,
    This is an awesome post. I love hermit crabs;) I know your super powers will help many many people find and use theirs. I’m going to find your other article at Jonathans.
    Congratulations on all you are accomplishing.

  6. Hi Karl — I think there’s deep insight in what you said about rules being necessary to exist in the world, and with rules inevitably come restrictions on what we can accomplish and how much we can enjoy ourselves. It seems like becoming consciously aware of those rules, and the fact that some of them can change, is the important takeaway.

  7. I had lot of hermit crabs growing up (in fact, one of them had the same shell you got in the picture 🙂

    All the ones that moved on to their next shell, lead a healthy Hermit crab life … the ones that stayed stuck in their shells died.

  8. This is a wonderful piece. You’re talking about careers but you could as easily be talking about the subject dear to me–fitness and health. As a personal trainer, I find that people rationalize their growing girth the same way. Yet barriers seem to fall away once a client steps through that door you describe so well. Glad I stumbled onto your site. Cheers!

  9. One more thing..in her essay, “High Tide In Tucson,” Barbara Kingsolver writes about a displaced crab named Buster. In subtext, she’s writing about our instincts for survival: “Every one of us is called upon, probably many times to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move…it’s impossible to think at first how this will all be possible.”

    Resistance to change isn’t always our struggle–but adapting to it is. Sounds like you’re providing tools to make those life transitions tolerable…or better still, desirable!

  10. Karl,
    Ahhh….that cozy cage. It can become a very comfortable place to be (even if we’re not fully living what is possible within us). And when we get (and stay) in that place – we lose out on other possibilities…especially when they are ones that reach into our heart.

    Good stuff…and good stuff to really think about (and then act upon).

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