Crabs, learning, and vulnerability

I was reading a book by a chess grandmaster who became a Brazillian Jujitsu champion, Josh Waitzkin, about how to learn. Being a champion in two completely different fields gave him a unique perspective. How did he start over and learn an entirely new skill?

He said that learning new skills was like being a hermit crab. If you don’t already know, hermit crabs don’t grow their own shells. They take abandoned shells from other animals and use them to protect the soft and delicious parts of their body from predators. And it works well.

However, as the crab grows, it has to find new shells and, each time it switches shells it’s vulnerable and exposed.

A crab can stay in a smaller shell for a long time by starving itself and growing slowly into the shape of the shell which will eventually cover just a tiny part of the exposed portion. Not a good long term plan, but definitely the safest route in the short term.

Every time you try something new, you’re like a crab moving to a new shell. Running naked and unprotected between your old self and your new self. But, to grow, you have to take that chance.

A lot of people never take that chance. Once they find their safe shell, they stay there and make an effort not to outgrow that shell. Are you starving yourself so you don’t have to change?

To grow quickly, it means changing shells often. That means leaving yourself vulnerable to being a beginner, admitting you don’t know things, and failing at something. The stakes are probably lower than you think. You might damage your pride or be embarrassed for a while, but it isn’t life and death.

Take a chance on vulnerability today!

7 responses

  1. Good stuff, David!!!

    From: Creative Creativity <comment-reply@wordpress.com>
    Date: Saturday, Feb 02, 2019, 12:27 PM
    To: Aycock, David <david.aycock@ubs.com>
    Subject: [External] [New post] Crabs, learning, and vulnerability

    David Wahl posted: ” via you’renotthebossofme I was reading a book by a chess grandmaster who became a Brazillian Jujitsu champion, Josh Waitzkin, about how to learn. Being a champion in two completely different fields gave him a unique perspective. How did he start over “

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think that it is very interesting that instead of becoming more open to change as we age and gain experience, we can easily do the reverse and fall into fear and comfort of habits. Experience can broaden our perspectives and yet also make us comfortable in our habits. Great post and food for thought today!

    Like

  3. Yes! Back up and blogging! I’ve missed your posts. Chess Master to martial arts champion it was a pretty big shell change! Great book. I try to integrate some of his ideas into my teaching (he has a web-site on how to teach his learning philosophy). Anyway time for me to go find myself nice, big, shiny, blue shell!

    Like

    • Thanks, Damien! It’s interesting that with some people it’s not that they have to learn how to learn, but be convinced that they need to learn. It’s creating that tension to get them to move at all…

      Liked by 1 person

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