The Path to Growth per Lobsters

Constant fear and anxiety doesn't mean you are growing but an absence of it may mean you aren't.

This litmus test came to mind from a simple analogy for shell fish.

Unlike most fish, shellfish have a very tough exterior. They have this armour that protects them, like a lobster.

But this armour doesn't grow with them. Lobsters go through a process called "molting" where they break out of their old shells in order to grow. They then go through a period of extreme vulnerability as they need to form a new hard shell while being in a soft and fleshy form. Similarly, hermit crabs have to abandon their shell homes in search for a bigger home when they grow. In that process, they have to go through a period of being defenseless as well.

During this period of growth, these shellfish are exposed to all kinds of stress that can harm them but it's a required process for them to grow into a bigger and stronger form. They risk a greater chance of being eaten in order to grow bigger and stronger.

Is this not the same for people?

At least for mental growth. We, thankfully, don't have to shed our skins to grow muscles or lengthen our bones. Nor do we need to worry about being eaten just to grow.

But to grow and develop, we need continued stressors. This process of applying constant physical stress to the body so that it becomes stronger is hormesis. We need to go through this in all aspects of our journey.

Whether it's making big moves in career or decisions in what projects to pursue, the opportunities for greatest growth come from being in states of vulnerability. I'm by no means saying that everyone should throw caution to the wind and just go all in on something that puts yourself at huge risk. Rational optimism would be a prudent point of view on what decisions should be pursued.

Vulnerability is not a simple binary metric but a relative spectrum. Much like how investors have their own risk tolerance that is impacted by their personality and environment, everyone has their own range for what they are comfortable with.

Based on how much you push up that spectrum the feelings of fear and anxiety from being more and more vulnerable will increase. It may be linear for some people but I'd imagine most will feel it exponentially.

Feeling such emotions as a result of choices you've made to be vulnerable are an indication for further growth. The stronger the feeling, the greater the opportunity for growth.

Everyone wants answers. They want to fit things into formulas. So, people will write about how doing 'xyz' is enough vulnerability to achieve 'abc' and make some bloody equation. Then every type-A tunnel-visioned-race-horse of a person decides to implement it and when it doesn't work out they blame the world. Iā€™m 100% guilty of this.

Humanity has lived with notions of religions and deities for a long time. The commonality there is the desire to believe in something and have faith in it. I think the prudent thing to do would be to believe and put faith in the decisions you've made.

It might seem hypocritical for me talk about an equation after that rant I just had but if I were to consider a framework, it would seem to go like this:

Magnitude of vulnerability x Duration in vulnerable state = Growth

Now, this is merely a framework because the kind of growth you experience and develop may not even be one you had sought out in the first place. But there needs to be empirical faith that the larger your state of vulnerability (i.e. greater risk taking in a decision) and the longer you pursue that state for, the greater your growth would be. Not saying this will equate to some kind of financial means but I think history has dictated that money tends to follow as a by-product.

I think the longer the journey goes on, the greater the fear. When I would leave jobs to enter completely new fields there was fear but it didn't last long. Back then, even 4 months felt like an eternity but as I've gone through close to 2 years of this new journey I definitely feel that the difference is magnitudes apart.

When I left my first corporate role as an accountant it was nerve-racking. I had no leads or offers. I just knew that I would learn more and grow more doing something else. There were plenty of voices from the external environment that made me feel afraid and there was also the constant ambiguity that compounded that fear and anxiety.

Now, looking back, I don't think I would have had it any other way. But the period before I moved into my next role as a management consultant, I felt extremely vulnerable.

I've continued to make decisions that pushed me into some form of vulnerability but I've never felt anything more stressful than the decision I've made to go through this current part of the journey that led to creating OMD Ventures.

As with many of my essays, this too is one I needed to write for myself. So that I can continue to push on in my current state of vulnerability. But through this thought process of mine, I hope maybe this may ignite you to think about how you can seek out that feeling of vulnerability in your life.