In the last several years we have seen companies reduce the amount of training they offer. Employees have less time to explore ideas, to reflect and seems more often than not people are uncomfortable with their workloads, searching for comfort any which way they can. Sometimes that just means digging in and working harder. In other cases, it is burying our head in the sand, ignoring and avoiding issues. But one of the things that has suffered in the last few years are people’s ability to learn. We can learn a great deal about learning from the life of a lobster.
Yes, I said lobster. Lobsters without their shells are at really severe risk. They are soft, mushy animals and their shell is what protects them. That hard shell stops predators and allows a lobster to survive. However, in order for a lobster to grow they have to go through something called a molting process. As their body grows and that shell becomes very confining, it becomes uncomfortable. More and more pressure mounts on that lobster because it is having trouble fitting into that shell. So, at that time the lobster retreats to a safe place, typically in a crevice away from predators and goes through what is called a molting process. During this process, they form a thin shell underneath and shed their shell. They then secrete enzymes that soften the shell itself and the connective joints. At that time lobsters go through a struggle. They work diligently to get out of their old shell while absorbing water which expands their body size even more. Now, this process takes approximately 15 minutes and every time they molt and shed their shell, their size increases about 20%. A young lobster approximately 5-7 years will molt or shed their shell 25 times a year. An adult lobster will shed approximately twice a year and as they get older they will only molt every 3-4 years. After molting, the lobster will eat voraciously. In many cases, they will eat their old shell which helps them replenish certain nutrients to speed up the hardening of the new shell. It takes about 6-8 weeks before the new shell is hard enough to protect them. While the new shell is still forming and fragile, lobsters typically hide under rocks or bury themselves in the mud.
Take a moment to think about that. Growth creates discomfort. Discomfort creates the need to cast off their shell and build a new one, one that can house a bigger being. And, it’s a process that takes time, involves struggle and risks. What happens when our children have discomfort? What if they don’t fit in? They may have a medical issue or be a little bit depressed. We go to the doctor and they prescribe drugs. How do they learn when we remove discomfort?
Although, there are cases where people need to go to the doctor and they need medical help. They need prescriptions, but you can look at our society now and we are over prescribing to a population.
What happens when people struggle with things at work? We don’t have time for struggles. It’s called lack of performance. We don’t see it as a learning process. We see it as a problem. When we do ask people to grow in many organizations, we ask them to ignore weaknesses and focus only on strengths. Where is the struggle in that? How does that help us grow and learn? Organizations use who only focus on employees’ strengths use that as an excuse not to address real issues. When focusing on one’s real strengths is a way to avoid the struggle, then we have a problem. We need to build back into our lives and work environment room for that sense of struggle, time for that discomfort. We need to view stress from a different angle. Of course, there is stress that is not productive, but some stress helps us throw off our outer shell. Some stress helps us rebuild stronger, better than we ever were before. Some stress and discomfort help us grow. If you think back about any time you learned a great deal it probably was uncomfortable. We rarely learn when we are comfortable. We almost always learn when we are uncomfortable.
Isn’t it time you molt? What do you want to grow into?