« 5 tips to win social media when job hunting | Main | Of course a course can be sustainable »

Stuck in the crab bucket?

Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior and emerging leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life. Crab bucket photo

While strategically defining my executive coaching client’s personal brand, and finally landing on several solid words that internal and external stakeholders would use to describe him, he offered a look of concern.

 “What’s up?” I asked.

 “Well,” he started out hesitantly, “this makes me think of a recent event I wanted to run past you.”  He continued, “An old friend invited me out for a beer. He also invited some of his old chums as well. As their conversations digressed into places I didn’t want to go, I saw clearly that my core values and my friend’s are not aligned anymore. Even worse, there was tremendous pressure on me from the chums to join in with the raucous humor. Boy was it really uncomfortable when they put me under terrible pressure to digress with them. I was concerned that someone would overhear what was being said and recognize me. Then I got really angry at my friend for putting me in that situation and I abruptly left.”  

I shared my little story about the crab bucket of life...

Have you ever noticed the more successful you become, and the more that things go “your way”, some family, friends, team members, even business partners, will do and say things to sabotage you and keep you down?  This happens all of the time but often we aren’t aware of it. It can cause us to feel uncomfortable, confused and worried about what’s going on. 

Enter the crab bucket...

We all know what a sea crab looks like.  They live near the ocean, have a shell and six long legs. They use their legs to grab and hold onto things. Their legs propel them forward on their journey across the beach. What you may not know is that crabs are social creatures. They travel around sandy beaches and shorelines in biomasses. 

Now for the interesting part. If you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket and watch them, you will see that they will begin to crawl on top of each other to get out of the bucket and back to the beach. They begin to use their little pincher legs to crawl up the side of the bucket. It is amazing to watch!

If you watch even more closely you will see that the one successful crab who makes it to the top of the bucket -- his front leg is positioned on the edge of the bucket and he is ready to propel himself over the side to freedom -- gets pulled back down into the bucket by his crab friends. The other crabs reach up, grab his leg and pull him back down into the bucket with them! The poor crab is lost forever in the swirling vortex called the “Crab Bucket of Life”.

In our own Crab Buckets, often those trying to keep us down are unaware of what they are doing. These behaviors are usually unconscious and spring from their feelings of fear and jealousy; fear that they aren’t good enough and do not measure up. Some are also jealous, coveting our success. Keeping another person down helps them feel better about their position in life.  

My coaching client immediately understood that his friends may have been jealous of his success and were denigrating him to make themselves feel better. Then he asked, “But what do I do about it?” I offered the following three-steps: 

Step One:  Recognize that it is happening and that we are being kept down in the crab bucket. Some people who claim that they care for us or want the best for our future can be the largest crabs in our bucket.

Step Two:  Remember that the best defense is an offense. It helps to keep a professional but cordial distance from those crabs in our lives. Don’t let them get close enough to pull you down and sabotage you.

Step Three:  If you are feeling like you have been pulled down, ask yourself, “Am I in the crab bucket or out of the crab bucket?”

Being inside the smelly crab bucket feels like drama and emotional chaos. It is hard to breathe and you find yourself not thinking clearly, maybe even feeling confused.   

If you are living outside of the crab bucket you smell the clear, crisp ocean air and see the beautiful blue skies. Living outside of the crab bucket is emotional freedom and it feels wonderful to be moving forward toward your goals.  

Using these three simple steps will help you stay out of the drama that others are creating and keep you focused on what is important to your success. 



Great article Rita!

Thank you for reading and commenting, Paula! It is quite a compliment coming from such a true thought leader. - RP

This is great analogy! I had never considered this perspective. Food for thought!

Denise, thank you for reading and commenting on my post. I am glad that I inspired you to look at this topic in a new way.

The comments to this entry are closed.

« 5 tips to win social media when job hunting | Main | Of course a course can be sustainable »

Technorati Bookmark: Stuck in the crab bucket?

This site is intended for informational and conversational purposes, not to provide specific legal, investment, or tax advice.  Articles and opinions posted here are those of the author(s). Links to and from other sites are for informational purposes and are not an endorsement by this site’s sponsor.