Crabs in a Bucket

Crabs in a Bucket

There’s a fantastic analogy that describes what happens when you put a bunch of live crabs in the bottom of a bucket.  All the crabs are smashed on top of each other, certainly aware, in whatever capacity they are capable, that they are in an unfavorable position.  Some of these crabs have incidentally landed on the top of the pile, where they can reach their legs up and over the top of the bucket, and climb to their freedom. 

Unfortunately for them, the crabs left behind latch themselves onto the aspiring escapee’s lower legs and pull them back down in the pit to suffer with the rest of the group.  Thereby, the whole population of bucket dwellers remain doomed and almost certainly end up in the stomach of something higher up the food chain. 

It screws up the analogy because they’re just crabs, but imagine the possibilities if the crabs on the bottom of the bucket would trust that their newly escaped friends wouldn’t just leave them to die, and instead would offer a claw to help them all up. 

As many people embark on new goals and aspirations, I witness this in humans to a despicable degree.  Especially this time of year. 


Whether it’s a jealous friend, a nervous spouse or a spiteful relative, it seems that there is always someone unhappy that another might succeed, potentially leaving the rest of the world cursed to wallow away in mediocrity.

This seems even more prevalent with the rise of social media.  Scrolling your way through Facebook will certainly give you a window to watch the disturbing trend of negativity towards those who are trying to rise above their current situation.  Even if it’s not a direct shot fired, it rears its ugly head with statements like, “must be nice”, “I could do that if I _____”, or “I heard ____”. 

I’m even guilty of this from time to time.  Seeing someone achieve something that I have not yet usually elicits a knee jerk reaction of jealousy and disdain.

Whether it’s CrossFit, fishing, hunting, business, family, or any of the other interests in my life.  My initial response when I see someone doing “better” than I am is to react negatively towards them.  It’s not a good look, and it’s usually fairly easy to talk myself down off that ledge, but it still exists. 

When others succeed, and we’re not acting as our best versions of ourselves, it’s tough to get slapped in the face with the reality that it is possible to reach for the stars and yank one down.  We just have to accept the fact that we haven’t done it yet. 

This is worth acknowledging two-fold.  We need to recognize it in ourselves and our own thoughts.  And we also need to remember how prevalent it is in others.

In ourselves, the feelings of rage or jealousy that we experience are entirely counter productive.  We expend so much energy and time worrying about others that it takes away from our own progress.  Imagine if all of that negative energy could be channeled towards positive.   


When you find yourself experiencing these feelings, try and re frame your internal dialogue to something that is more positive.  Remember that just because they did it doesn’t mean that you cannot.  A scarcity mindset, where others success equals your failure is dangerous and damages our progress as a species.  There are plenty of stars to reach for, even if someone gets theirs first.

In others, when you hear criticism, or you find someone you care about not supporting your ambitions, success or goals, try and examine where they are coming from, and what it feels like to be in that position.  Understand that their initial reaction or lack of support is almost certainly not because they don’t love you or that they really don’t want you to succeed, it’s only that they’re unsatisfied with themselves and their behavior.

I’m certainly not advising you to point this out in the heat of an argument, by the way.  If it’s a contentious discussion, take a step back, calm things down and reflect on what it might look like from their perspectives.  This is especially important if the issue is with someone you care about and want to maintain a relationship with.  Then, try and discuss the matter with them, delicately.  It’s important to not make accusations or make them feel even less personal worth.  Just talk it through.


Or, with those who just routinely try and squash your dreams, climb your ass out of that bucket, shake their grubby little mitts off your destined-for-success self and wave your crabby middle claw at them as you prove to them how awesome you can be.