The Bucket of Crabs Theory

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Have you heard to the bucket of crabs theory?

I first heard of this a couple weeks ago.

It states that if there are several crabs in a bucket, and one tries to climb out, the others will pull him back down.

Not having access to a team of live crabs to test this on, I had to rely on wikipedia. The “crab mentality” is summed up as:

“If I can’t have it, neither can you.”

If the crabs worked together, they could escape. But instead their selfishness and distrust maintains the status quo.

It’s used as a metaphor to describe human behavior.

Let’s say the bucket is your job, and you want to leave to try something new. Do your friends and co-workers encourage that leap of faith, or do they try and pull you back down to reality?

What’s your gut reaction when one of your peers takes a risk and is genuinely happy and successful? I know it isn’t the right answer, but a lot of the time for me at least, it’s jealousy.

We can be better than the crabs. Smarter. More cooperative. More encouraging.

If you want to climb out of your “bucket,” whatever it may be, don’t let the other crabs pull you down.

And if you’re happy in your bucket but see someone else making a break for it, go ahead and give ’em a boost!

You never know, maybe they’ll turn around and offer a hand up.

Side note. Did I ever tell about the time we had a mini crab feed? I did not appreciate the apparent awesomeness that is crab meat. Way too much work for way too little food, I thought.

What say you?

(image source)

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

3 thoughts on “The Bucket of Crabs Theory”

  1. In the black community they actually have a saying that goes something like “he crab barreled me” to mean exactly that. I guess if you’re “stuck” working in a place where nobody is happy and everyone has aspirations for other than said place, it’s only natural to get jealous. But the right thing to do is in fact give that boost up — maybe it could turn into a win-win for everyone….

  2. well in my Mexican family we say “él es un cangrejo” as in meaning he/she is pulling us down he/she doesn’t want us to be happy at all


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