What I learned from a lobster

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

An award-winning small business attorney in New York City, Nina is a sought-after professional speaker and Entrepreneur Magazine online contributor. She is the go-to counsel for knowledge economy and creative companies, delivering legal services and educational resources that save them time, money, and aggravation.

Posted on March 5, 2015 in All Systems Go!, Business Essentials

“We’re like lobsters,” said Nancy. “If we don’t grow, we die.”

Nancy and I are at a speaking workshop in Orlando, led by world-renowned speaker Les Brown. We’ve been through 8 straight hours of drills, one-on-one coaching, and partner feedback in a cramped conference room. I’m worn out. It’s taking all of my energy just to sit upright. The fluorescent lights begin to flicker. Or it is my eyelids fighting not to close? I’m craving caffeine. Dark chocolate. I’d even jog around the swimming pool in my pencil skirt and 2” pumps. Anything for an energy boost.

That’s when Nancy springs the lobster story.

“There’s a lot we can learn from a lobster,” she says. “Lobsters have no bones or skeletons to give their bodies structure. They have a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton. But the shell doesn’t grow as the lobster inside it grows. Instead, when the lobster feels cramped, hormones tell the lobster it is time to get rid of its shell. If it doesn’t, the shell becomes a coffin.  Once it does, though, it can take several hours for a new shell to grow. That waiting time is dangerous. Predators, water currents—all threaten a vulnerable lobster. Essentially, a lobster risks its life in order to grow. But despite the dangers, the lobster doesn’t do this only once. A lobster does this again and again—sometimes 5 times a year—until it reaches full size.”

“We’re like lobsters,” she ends confidently, like a splash of cold water. “To grow, we need to risk. But if we don’t grow, we die.”

I gasp. There it is. So simple. A metaphor and a dare.

I shed a shell 6 years ago. Got out of a decade-long business partnership that didn’t value me (and where I undervalued myself). At first, being solo was freeing. But now, it’s stifling. I can’t grow as far and as fast as I want, stuck in this too-small shell. So it’s time to shed again … and step into something greater.

And you?

Where do you feel cramped in your own business? Where do you want more, but aren’t sure how to get there? Post your challenges below … and we’ll shed shells together.

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