Changing Shells

Jun 28, 2021 2 min read
Changing Shells

A lesson on vulnerability, learning, and growth.

"Do one thing everyday that scares you. Those small things that make us uncomfortable help us build courage to do the work we do."
- Elenor Roosevelt

Let's take a moment to look at the tiny hermit crab. Once they grow out of their current shell, they leave it behind, vulnerable to prey while transitioning to a newer, larger shell.

In the book "The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performace" by Josh Waitzkin, he elaborates on how, just like the hermit crab, we go through a vulnerable state while learning a new skill.

When we learn something new, for example, learning how to ski, we will encounter unfamiliar terrain, foreign movements, and new experiences. This learning phase is difficult, and there will be plenty of wipeouts as your skills slowly develop until your breezing down the black diamond slopes with ease.

If we take a broader look at this concept, there are two states we either reside in:

  1. The Growth State
  2. The Complacent State

The growth state is where you want to be; it is also the more challenging state of the two. We are in a more vulnerable state when learning new ideas and have a higher probability of failure.  However, being in this state means you are growing and developing into a better version of yourself.

The complacent state is what we want to avoid. In this state, we are not learning new skills and avoiding situations where we encounter failure or discover new things. It's easier to stay in this state because your mind and body tend to enjoy the familiarity and avoid resistance.

Going back to the hermit crab, imagine how much of an issue it would be if they refused to move to a larger shell. This could be lethal to them, and being in a state of growth is hard-wired into their DNA. Even though this is not a matter of life and death for us, being in a state of learning and growth can provide new opportunities to lead to large life improvements.

Staying in the growth state

Since we now know that the growth state is the area we are aiming for, how do we continually stay in this area?

Well... it looks different for everyone, but here are some general suggestions for focusing on staying in the growth state.  

Follow curiosity. When you are curious about something, learn about it and maybe even write about it. This is getting you more and more comfortable discovering and being in a position where you are constantly growing and learning.

Write down a list of skills you want to learn but are currently too afraid to try. Start by trying small things and build up to learning more extensive skills as you start gaining momentum.

Here's some of my list as an example:

  • Learn to sell products (in person)*
  • Learn to sell products (digitally)
  • Start a public blog*
  • Start a newsletter*
  • Learn how to develop a website from scratch*
  • Start a personal business


Quick Key Takeaways:

Let's conclude with a quote by Mac De Pree that perfectly encapsulates what this message is all about:

"We cannot be what we want by remaining what we are."
  • Avoid the complacent state and aim to always be in a growth state.
  • Start small and develop a habit of being in a growth state by embracing curiosity and making a list of skills you want to learn.
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