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Living in a Bucket of Crabs?

by Shaun R Smith on August 31, 2010

I was talking with a client about her community years ago and the environment of people she surrounded herself with.  Her response was “Oh, you mean crabs in a bucket.”  I’d never heard this before.  Apparently, if a crab is placed in a bucket alone, it can easily crawl out.  But if you place it in a bucket with other crabs, they will each pull down anyone attempting to rise above them – thereby keeping all the crabs stuck in the bucket.  Here’s Wikipedia’s description of the crab mentality.

How about you?  Are you living in a bucket of crabs – pulling down anyone who tries to get ahead of you or being pulled down if you start to make some headway towards your goals?  For me, it’s not always obvious.

Camoflauge Crabs

Sometimes the crabs in the bucket are well meaning and trying to be helpful.  They’re helping you figure something out, but the end result is that you’re both stuck in inertia.  Or they want to protect you, so they discourage you from taking risks where you might get hurt.

A Ladder Out of the Bucket

The easiest way to get a ladder out of the bucket is by surrounding yourself with people who are already outside the bucket.  People who are outside of the bucket think differently and have a different world view.  They see possibility where those in the bucket only see walls.  They’ve done it, so they aren’t stuck thinking about if it can be done.  And they want to be associating with others who are outside the bucket.

New Crabs in Your Life?

Is it time to surround yourself with some new crabs?  Maybe some successful and free crabs instead of those stuck in the bucket?

Photo by: Wonderlane

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Surrounded by people holding you down? L… | Too Much Lor3nzo
September 3, 2010 at 7:32 am


Pauline Bright September 1, 2010 at 7:08 am

Shaun, I love this. What a great analogy!
I am in the process of selling off a part of my business and it was being strongly positioned by an advisor that I would need to work out how I was going to deal with a non compete clause in the contract of sale.
I caused me a very sleepless night until realised that it’s MY contract and I can make it work the way I want – so instead of a non-compete clause I will put in a “collaborate” clause.
That way the buyer will get the benefit of my contacts, experience, brand and profile and I’ll be able to truly help them leverage their “new” business and eventually have someone to carry on the legacy I created – true win/win/win
It’s great to escape from my bucket of crabs – and I’ll be leaving my advisor in the bucket!!!

Karen Putz September 3, 2010 at 7:17 am

I call those “toxic people” and I prefer to hang around those who shine joy and happiness because that spills right over into my life as well.

On a limb with Claudia September 3, 2010 at 10:33 am

I came here on a link from JF. When I read it, I thought of you. I thought of our conversations in NYC and on the phone. I think it’s wicked hard to weed out or even notice the people who hold you down. It takes vigorous work.

Great post, Shaun!

Arvind Devalia September 3, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Shaun, I too came here via Jonathan Fields on Facebook – the power of social media:-)

I love the analogy you have used and reminded me just what a challenge it has been for me to let go of a lot of crabs from my life.

Now I feel I have an empty bucket and it’s time to fill it up with some ladders – or more appropriately leaders.

Along the way, I am also cultivating the type of characteristics that I am looking for in others.

Abimbola Akanwo September 4, 2010 at 2:16 am

Hadn’t come across the term, “crab mentality” before, but I recognised the mentality from your “generous to crab mentality ” blog…

Thank you for the link to crab mentality in Wikipedia.

SittieCates September 4, 2010 at 3:55 am

Hi! Claudia was so nice to share this wonderful post of yours to me in facebook. This is a great point of view that usually happens but, sadly, is not entirely being acknowledged by most. As I’ve noticed, though – strangely, not everyone would know they are already in a bucket with crabs until they notice that nothing much seems to be going on in their lives.

Leisa LaDell September 7, 2010 at 9:29 am

Great post Shaun! Super analogy, and good writing. I’m happy to see you blogging & tweeting and look forward more. Counting you among my successful and free crabs.
: – ) Best, Leisa

Shaun R Smith September 14, 2010 at 5:54 am

I agree. And oftentimes the crabs in the bucket are well intentioned. They think they’re doing what’s best for you!

Shaun R Smith September 14, 2010 at 5:55 am

Welcome! I sent Jonathan a thanks via Twitter.

Shaun R Smith September 14, 2010 at 5:56 am

Thanks Leisa – I’ve been following your blog as well. Congrats to you too!

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