A Lobster Theory of Reinvention: The Power of Vulnerability

Reading: A Lobster Theory of Reinvention

Personal Growth

A Lobster Theory of Reinvention

Lobsters shed their shells 30 times before becoming adults. It’s the power of vulnerability that creates growth

By Lesley Jane Seymour

Consider the lobster. In the first 5 to 7 years, she will outgrow her hard exoskeleton shell between 20 to 30 times before she reaches one pound in weight. Each time she molts and sheds her hard exterior, she will have to scuttle along the ocean floor naked and vulnerable to predators. This is one of the reasons lobsters live alone and seek shelter among sea grass and rocks. 

Now imagine if you had to shed your entire exterior every time you grew and changed. Imagine that it happened so often that it was like buying shoes for your adolescent son: the tags are still on when he’s already outgrown them and needs another new pair. (This actually happened with my son JJ. Between the ages of 16 and 17, he slept nearly 24 hours a day and grew six inches.) 

Imagine being totally exposed every time you made a change — and in a way that threatened your survival. I know what that feels like. When More magazine closed in 2016 and I decided to leave publishing — the only business I had known for 38 years — I felt exactly like that ugly, transparent, vulnerable piece of protoplasm skittering along the ocean floor, all alone, trying to figure out who I was and what was next for me. 

The Power of Vulnerability
It was a time of immense vulnerability. But it was also a moment of tremendous growth. 

Here’s a fact about that moment of uber exposure: When you have no shell, you have no preconceived identifier. When you have no preconceived idea of who you are and what you want to be, you step into true freedom. This is when you can really reinvent. What do you want your new shell to look like? Maybe it’s blue. Maybe it’s green. Maybe you decorate it with a paisley motif. You decide. You are growing and learning and changing. And that feels good.

And here’s what is even more amazing: When women of all professional levels shed their exoskeleton during that molt, when they bare their souls and admit they feel lost and unsure, they realize that everyone is, in fact, the same.

(It’s something I’ve noticed with the hundreds of women who have come through CoveyClub and successfully reinvented themselves.) 

Yes, the Wall Street scion and the kindergarten teacher are suddenly equals. The CMO and the freelance writer are both required to begin anew. The divorcee and the empty nester are both required to attain a beginner’s mindset and start fresh. 

Every one of us is mushy and unformed. 

That’s because reinvention is a great leveler.

How to Embrace Change
Consider what happens if you don’t embrace change: You will be stunted and never grow. You will remain that teeny, tiny insignificant mini-being that must run and hide every time a bigger fish passes by. You might have a life, but you may never be seen or acknowledged. 

So here, I think, are your options, my friend: 



Swim deep into the sea (this is a must: 90 percent of near-shore lobsters end up on someone’s plate!).

And get bigger. 


Live up to 100 years of age like some lobsters do.

Or, avoid change and end up never being that big, beautiful, claw-snapping beauty you were meant to be. 

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