Awareness: How The “Lobster Effect” Holds Us Back


  I rationalize non-completion – that’s what I call it when I let a project die on the table.  This doesn’t mean that I accept the label of “failure”.  What I do is give myself permission to let the idea go without going to pieces.

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I still get depressed because of another lost opportunity (at least I believe so).  And sometimes I know I am just making excuses because I know another idea is coming down the pipe waiting for me to act upon it.  But it sure leaves a trail of ‘dead carcasses’ along this trail I leave called life.

Over my lifetime, I can assert with confidence that I have had several hundred ideas that were (and still are) marketable and possible.  Be it music, business idea, product invention, or service methodology – I have lots of ideas.  Even with the mere fraction that I’ve acted upon and completed, I still have a long record of achievement. I’ve even put together file folders together (hard-copy before computers) just to keep track of them.

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For many of the inspired and motivated, we are NOT a part of the so-calledOne Percent” crowd with resources readily available at our fingertips.  We tend to face a lot of challenges (problems) and growth opportunities personally during every stage of our idea/career/life/dream development that money could otherwise buy, rent, or hire by the wealthy to make the problems go away.

As the One-Percenters see it: Don’t worry about the business plan – hire an expert.  Or how about selling your art – rent a small space in the village.  Trying to break into a close-knit industry – no problem, just headhunt someone who is already successful.  You would figure they’ve got it made.  Easy street paved with opportunities.

Yet >>> we see examples of missed achievement all the time from all across the spectrum of society.  Even when someone can literally buy his or her own (perception of) success, they miss the target.

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Why?

Regardless of where we grew up, the personal culture of our families (an off-shoot of the greater culture) was from where we learned about life. Those life lessons were imprinted into our brains and created the foundation from where we would seek to live our lives through these values and beliefs we learned.

So, for example, if you grew up in poverty like myself, the chances are you will be taught beliefs about money that represent power, oppression, and opportunity.  Money represented the answer to problems.  Education meant getting a secure job.  Security meant swallowing your pride.

Likewise, someone born from wealth (to which I’ve been exposed), s/he may hold beliefs about people as tools, automatons, or collateral damage.  Money is a tool to create more money.  People will do anything for a price.  Most people are weak and insecure.

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Regardless of our social location in life, the values and beliefs learned and held are skewed because they came via values and beliefs borne out of experiences and opinions from another time, place, and person.

The saddest and greatest injustice of it all
is that most of the time; we are the last ones to see it
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Yet, we don’t often see the emotional and psychological effects that stain and blot our actions in our everyday lives. And because we practice our biases every moment, there are always plenty of examples from which to choose in order to validate our hurtful thoughts and actions towards ourselves and others.

Actually, we are taught/conditioned from all our social influences (education, media, family, friends, etc) to NOT see it.  A fantastic example of social values and beliefs gone awry is the television show from the 1970’s.

It was a sitcom about the challenges between living in the past with biases and prejudices and how it conflicted with more openness to human dignity.  If you are North American and over 40, you will still vividly remember “All In The Family”.  Check out some episodes by clicking here.

Oh yes, the “Lobster Effect” …

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I use the following example of cooking lobsters to illustrate how we are caught in the trap of denial and lost opportunities.  When a lobster is prepared for human consumption:

  1. We find a large pot suitable for holding several lobsters.

  2. We fill the pot with water and heat to boil.

  3. When ready, we put the lobsters in the boiling water while still alive.

  4. As the lobsters get boiled to a slow agonizing death, the ones closest to the surface try to escape the deep pot.

  5. The other lobsters underneath, knowing they cannot escape, pull the lobsters at the top back into the boiling water.

  6. Eventually, the top lobsters give up resisting the others and accept their fate.

As humans, when we are up to making changes in our lives, the same thing happens.  Let’s substitute the objects in this analogy:

Lobster at top              =            you, me

Other lobsters             =            society, family, friends, media

Boiling water               =            the challenges/problems/issues you/we face

Pot                                =            project, dream, idea, personal change, etc.

When we prepare ourselves for personal achievement:

  1. We discover our goals and dreams and decide to go for it (the pot).

  2. We prepare our lives for the changes that will happen (the water).

  3. When ready, we dive in and start to fulfill our dreams.  We have no idea how dangerous or painful it will be, but what the heck …

  4. As the dream starts to develop, we are confronted with issues, challenges and problems.  The plan is delayed; need more training; money is not there; etc. (boiling water).

  5. The people and influences in our lives begin to notice changes in us as we try and escape the bonds of our current life.  For whatever reason, they relentlessly tug at us to stop putting ourself through all this pain (the pulling-back).

  6. Eventually, we (the top lobsters) give up the struggle and accept our fate that maybe everybody is right (the slow death).

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So, how do we let this happen to ourselves?

We listen to others and their opinions on what we are up to.  Worst thing – often they are uttered with the best of intentions and love towards us.  People who love us don’t want to see us fall.  Worse still, we listen to and trust them when they tell us (not usually as blunt):

  • I am making mistakes – not enough education.

  • I can’t do it – not enough experience.

  • I don’t have past evidence of your expertise.

  • It’s already been done before.  Try something else.

  • It will make me different – I’ll end up being an outsider.

  • I will get hurt because there are a lot of cheats out there.

  • I’m setting myself up for failure – it happens all the time.

  • I’ve tried before – just get a secure job.

  • Money is tight and the economy is rotten.

After being bombarded with negative influences from everywhere over time, we begin to question ourselves.  We look at the normal and natural challenges that come with change, compare it with what people are saying, and measure the results with our goals.  Here are some of the things we usually do by this time:

  • I begin to doubt myself – “what if they are right and I am just fooling myself?”

  • I become afraid of the risk (I knew what was involved) and start to grow the concerns to justify my fears.

  • I become afraid of change and only look at the negatives of the work of chasing dreams.  “Short term pain for long term gain”.

  • I begin to look at my previous attempts and start making “checklists of futility”.

  • I can become angry at the world for conspiring against me to achieve happiness.

  • I get depressed from thinking that maybe I just wasn’t destined to be happy“.

Then … well, you know what happens next …

We return to our safe world

and accept that we will

DIE a Brutal and Slow Death

waiting willingly each day

for change to happen

TO our self

instead of

making change happen

FOR our self.

Then, after 50 years and several attempts to reaching for our dreams; we realize we are living a world of “should-have’s, would-have’s, and could-have’s”.  And we eventually die realizing the world has missed an opportunity because of our own mistaken fears, values, and beliefs.

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What to do?

Here are some thought patterns I’ve created and practice for myself so that I can continue on the road of dreams.  They are not mind deceptions or games I play with myself in order to carry on.  That would be unfair to me because I’d be just living in a false world.  Instead of chasing a dream – I’d be chasing a pipe-dream.  These are the things I remind myself about when I’m working on a project or idea to keep myself on track:

  1. Regardless of what happened in the past, it is the past.  It has no relevant bearing on my current dreams.

  2. Whatever I erred on previously were learning experiences towards getting it right.

  3. People don’t mean to be negative – they just don’t want to see me ‘fail’ because they care about me.

  4. People don’t know any better.  They’ve had their own setback and challenges in the past.  They just want to impart their knowledge to help.  As well, they are conditioned just as I have to just play it safe in life.

  5. There is a path to everything.  If it’s never been done before – then I’m the first.

  6. If I feel uncomfortable as I do the work – then I’m on the right track.

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