Watch Out for The Lobsters In Your Life – My Lobster Parable


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Well hey besties! Today we’re taking a break from fabulous fashion, apartment decor, and gift guides to discuss LOBSTERS.

Ok, not ACTUAL lobsters (this isn’t Animal Planet, lol), but to discuss one of my favorite coaching stories to teach my clients.

I made this a Twitter thread a few years ago, and then sent it out on my email list, and I think NOW is a good time to share on my blog!

business and career coach brianne huntsman
Hey besties! Brianne Huntsman AKA “The Huntswoman” here! I’m a creative and entrepreneur, and sometimes — I’m a coach! This here blog post is a bit out of my regular content schedule. Sometimes I share really helpful past emails or frameworks that my coaching clients have found helpful. You can see more of my coaching offering here!

Watch out for lobsters in your life

Setting the Stage: We’re Lobsters in a Tank

Have you ever seen a tank full of lobsters? 🦞

The people who sell lobsters often don’t put a lid on the tank.

Seriously.  If you walk by a tank full of lobsters at a fish market or some restaurants, you’ll be startled to see that the tank doesn’t have a FREAKING LID.

The tank is just OPEN!!! No lid!!

I remember the first time I saw this, and I was like, “Uhhh, wtf?!  Aren’t you going to have, like, a swarm of lobsters all over the floor in a minute?” I pictured a sort of dramatic LOBSTER TAKEOVER, with lobsters scuttling down all of the aisles – intent on their grocer domination (or seafood restaurant domination, whatevskies!).

Then I learned:

People don’t put a lid on a tank full of lobsters, because the lobsters pull each other BACK IN.

That’s right. Lobsters effectively KEEP THEMSELVES IN THE TANK.

One lobster would need a lid — but a group of lobsters? Nope! They pull each other down and keep each other in the mf tank!

As soon as a little lobster starts getting close to escaping – his lobster buddies PULL HIM BACK IN. 🦞


lobsters in a tank at a supermarket. Text on image says "see that? There's no lid!" with a yello arrow pointing to the top of the cage
No lid on the lobster tank!

There’s a lesson here —>

A few, actually.

In life, we’re like lobsters in a tank.  And our friends, colleagues, loved ones and people we regularly interact with are *also* in our tank.

Anyone you interact with a lot? They’re in the tank with you, whether you like them or not!

And, at least in my handy dandy little metaphor here, when you aim to reach new heights and grow in new ways — the people in your life (lobsters) will often PULL YOU BACK IN.

As you *begin* to do activities like personal development and actually *start to make PROGRESS* on achieving your goals – the LOBSTERS in your life show up.

As you start changing your mindset, taking ownership of your shit, and you make moves – people in your life will try to pull you down.

lobsters in a tank at a supermarket
See that?! No lid! I’m not making this up!!

They try to [metaphorically] keep you in the tank.

And, to be clear, they often don’t REALIZE they’re pulling you down. Sometimes this activity is nefarious, but more often than not (in my experience), people are acting like lobsters out of love. It’s wild.

If you’ve been frustrated because you can’t seem to maintain progress or momentum in your life – this might. be why.

Below, I’ve shared how [using this fun lobster metaphor], you can figure out where you’re going awry.  I hope this info helps you identify the “lobsters” in your life, so you can make big progress.

🦞Lobster Level 1

People in your life will pull you down, and mask it as CONCERN.  They’re looking out for you, “Are you sure that’s safe? Ae sure this is a good idea?” They’re saying, “The cage is SAFE. Why leave?!”

This group of lobsters is often made up of family members (esp parents or your past caregivers) What breaks my heart here is that a lot of the people giving you this well-meaning advice do it because they don’t want to see you hurt. And, sometimes, unfortunately, because they’re jealous. It’s a wild area, to be sure.

🦞Lobster Level 2

The next level is pulling away. As you’re making moves, your energy will change. This makes your people mad and uncomfortable. People will start to pull away. They’re saying, “Oh, is this cage not good enough for you?!”

This group of lobsters (err, people?) is often childhood friends or people you spend a LOT of time with. You may have gone through hard times together — these could be your ride or dies — buuuut they’re not interested in making moves. What’s wild is that these people will TALK about making moves, but you have to judge them by their ACTIONS. IF they’ve been talking the talk about doing stuff, and haven’t taken decisive action…. they’re probs not gonna be supportive when *you* start making moves.

Because if YOU can do it, then that proves that their excuses don’t hold water.

This group can also be made up of people who embody learned helplessness. They, at their core, don’t want control over their life — so they get mad when you take charge of yours.

lobsters in a tank at a supermarket
This isn’t the best photo, but you can kind of see that the lobster at the top could probably climb out — if his buddies weren’t pulling him back in.

🦞Lobster Level 3

One of my favorite quotes goes something like, “Silence is agreement.”

If you’ve ever been in a situation where a “friend” lets you know that someone is talking bad about you or your work, then this is that situation. Why did that person feel comfortable sharing those views in front of your “friend”?

These are your people who see others *coming for you* but say nothing. They’ll watch others tear you down, and they will sigh. “I tried warning them.”

These are the lobsters that let *other* lobsters pull down an escaping lobster.

They’re not pulling on you, but they’re certainly not stepping in!

🦞Lobster Level 4

Now let’s talk about sabotage.

As you start measurable and noticeable progress, some of your people will try to pull you down. Back to where they are. They will sabotage you in a myriad of ways. Some get aggressive. These are the lobsters actively pull escaping lobsters down.

So, if you’ve ever started making progress – and found yourself stalling out (or even losing ground you’ve gained!)… Think of the lobster trying to escape the tank.  

It’s likely other people in your life, people you love, are doing their damnedest to keep you in the tank.

Because if *you* can escape the tank (start turning your dreams into goals, taking action) that means that they can escape the tank. Or that you’re going to *leave them behind*, because they don’t want to leave the tank.

🦞What to do with the lobsters??

Now that you’ve realized this – angst shows up. Clients tell me, “My sister/boyfriend/old mentor/mom isn’t supporting me! What gives?” And they try to wrestle their lobsters into making change. Not gonna happen.

🦞You’ve gotta leave the lobsters in the tank. 

People try to negotiate and bargain on this point, so I’m gonna be super blunt: You can’t be IN the cage and OUT of the cage.

It is impossible for you to make progress and stay in the metaphorical tank.  You can’t be in 2 places at once, friend. And, I know from personal experience, leaving behind friends can be the most awful experience. It’s lonely AF.

You gotta PICK.

🦞Stay & Get Cooked 🦞

You’re either gonna stop trying to make progress and STAY IN THE TANK [CAGE] and wait to get cooked  Or you’re going to LEAVE THE CAGE and leave some folks behind.

We are an average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. And if your 5 people spend a lot of time complaining about // making fun of people who are trying to leave the cage? That’s a lobster 🦞 red flag, bestie <3

You cannot drag people with you.

You cannot drag people with you.

i’m not telling you that you’ve gotta stop being around people you care about. Actually, in some cases, I am. You cannot be *IN* the cage and *OUT* of the cage.  You cannot drag people with you.

Real talk, i’m not trying to be trite here with my cute lobsters. These situations are heart wrenching. Heart breaking.

And I want you to know it’s okay to choose yourself.

Actionable Solutions

In my emails, I make sure to include actionable solutions and next steps.  After all, it isn’t enough to know – we have to act!

Here are some solutions for the lobsters in your life:

Actionable Solutions
In my emails, I make sure to include actionable solutions and next steps.  After all, it isn’t enough to know – we have to act!

Here are some solutions for the lobsters in your life:

  • Selectively Share Information.  There are people you love, who likely can’t or won’t be supportive of your big dreams.  Stop sharing your dreams just for those folks to stomp on them.  Be careful in what you share.
  • Add, Don’t Take Away: Figuring out who to see less or cut back on time with can be hard and feel icky.  Instead, I recommend reframing this as, “Who can I spend more time with?”
  • Let People Be.  Honor the agency of other people, and accept their right to choose for themselves.  Share resources and info only if asked.  [This one is hard for me, ugh!]


My goal in sharing this metaphor/parable/whatever the eff this is was NOT to lecture you or make you feel bad. Rather, it was to share new language and a new framework with you — so when you encounter these types of people in your life (well meaning or no), you’ll be able to more easily IDENTIFY what’s happening — and move TF forward!

Moving Forward

I hope this blog post/article helped you have some big “AHA!” Moments. <3 I want you to know it’s totally normal to feel upset reading this (I got upset WRITING the solutions, frankly)! I shared this blog post (originally an email), because it’s become so intrinsic to my coaching practice and gotten really great feedback.

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