The oyster metaphor

February 12, 2016
The Oyster Metaphor

There was a rock in my shoe. Not a big one indeed, some would even have called it a grain of sand. But still, it was there, and it wasn’t going anywhere, unlike me, who had to get somewhere.

This grain of sand, I carried it with me along the way. At the beginning, I wasn’t feeling it much, I really didn’t care. Why would I take the time to take off my shoe and remove it? That would be such a waste of time, not efficient at all. I had to keep going, I had to keep moving, if I wanted to get where I needed to go.

At some point though, the grain of sand started to bother me. Rubbing against my bare foot, it started hitching, then slowly the skin got more and more sensitive, and couldn’t stand anymore the presence of this intruder. Wasn’t it time to stop? Of course not. Instead of pausing to remove the unpleasant passenger, I decided to start running, to get even faster to where I had to go, hoping that running would occupy all my body, my mind wondering now about how much longer I could handle the pain in my muscles instead of focusing on the pain in my foot.

It did work for a while, but eventually, I had to stop: my foot was bleeding, and there was no way I could keep on running. At that point, it was hurt, and recovery was expected to be long. I was stopped against my will, when I wasn’t even there yet.


The Oyster Metaphor

How many of us are walking through life with a grain of sand in their shoe? How many of us have that something that is bothering them, but that we choose to ignore, as if it will simply vanish if we pretend that nothing is wrong?

I’ve chosen the great escape many times in the past. It is often the most seductive option, the easy one, as we get some relief right away. We feel uneasy, anxious, angry, sad, and then choose to ignore the signal that is sent to us that something’s wrong, prefer to keep going, as if our head knew better where we had to get to, as if our will power  was enough to get us there. We choose to take what we assume is a shortcut to relieve the pain we feel: we prefer to get a drink, crawled under TV series, do some spinning, hoping that by occupying our mind we will deliver our soul from the discomfort some disturbing event or experience brought.

By doing so, we are missing on some precious insight. If instead we would pause and acknowledge the pain, the uneasiness, the discomfort, we could address the real issue, and stop relying on some Band-aid solution.

And then, when the real issue is identified, we can get creative. That’s what innovators do. Elmar Mock, the inventor of the famous Swatch and founder of Creaholic, calls it the Oyster Metaphor. Just like the oyster which creates a pearl with an irritating grain of sand, we can use the disruptive experiences in our life to create a better world. All innovations are creative solutions to problems acknowledged by inventors who were willing to confront the real issues. They didn’t pretend the grain of sand wasn’t there. They saw it as an opportunity to propose something beautiful to the world.

Let’s create a better world: go out and create some pearls.



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