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How Being a Crab in a Bucket is Causing You to Fail

A crabHow being a crab in a bucket is causing you to fail in a bucket. Now that brings up an interesting picture doesn’t it?

We all want to be successful…at our careers, in our families, in our relationships…and often, we try everything to achieve that success.

We read books, we go to seminars. We invest in programs for success. We learn. Yet…often… we fail.

A Crab in a Bucket Story

There is a story. Once there was a young man on a beach, watching people catch crabs. A young man put a crab in a bucket, with a tiny bit of water on the bottom. The crab promptly scurried out of the bucket and jumped back into the ocean.

He caught another crab and put that crab in a bucket…and the same thing happened. It escaped and happily returned to the ocean. A wise old fisherman came up to the boy, and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

A wide smile crossed his weathered, bearded face and he said, “Son, you have to put two crabs in a bucket…that way…when one tries to get out…the other will pull him back in. Then, you won’t have to worry. They’ll keep each other in that bucket. They’ll be trapped…without you having to do anything else.”

The boy thought that was crazy. Then he did it. He caught one crab and then another. He put the first crab in a bucket, and then quickly put in the second crab. He was amazed. When the first crab tried to get out, the other one pulled him back in. And when the second crab tried to get out…the first one pulled him back in.

Does any of this sound like your life? Have you had the same kind of experience?

My Crab in a Bucket Experience

I have had many experiences in my life that could be classified as “crab in a bucket” experiences. One that stands out in my mind was when I was employed in the financial services sector (a temporary blip on my life screen).

One of the requirements of the job was to purchase a life insurance policy. I casually mentioned that the policy that my boss suggested wasn’t going to be any good…because I wanted to get married again and have another child.

He laughed at me. He said that I had more chance of being hit by lightning…than the chance of remarrying and having another child.

Now, I was 38 at the time, not dating anyone, had been officially divorced for a year, and had 4 children. It might have been illogical for me to have that dream…but it was my dream…

He wasn’t the only one who thought I was a fool for having that dream.

I got the policy that I wanted…and a short three months later, I met Shane…we have been married now for 17 years (this June)…and have a lovely 15 year old son…because I believe that dreams are possible…and that dream was definitely in the realm of the possible, wasn’t it? ; D

When the People in Your Life Don’t Support Your Dreams

…they become the crab in a bucket that pulls you down…down to the level that they are comfortable with. The limiting beliefs of others can tear our dreams apart…but only if you let them.

You have a choice. You can believe them. Most people are in this bucket. They are told they can’t do it…they can’t have it…and here are all of the good reasons. It’s subtle sometime…those saboteurs….

If you find yourself in that situation, build yourself a ladder out of the bucket. Here’s how:

  • Change your limiting beliefs at the core
  • Have faith in your dreams…if someone else can achieve them, why not you?
  • Cherish your dreams
  • Get the big picture of what you want in your life…make it bigger, brighter, and bolder…
  • Understand that you might need to let go of some of those crab in a bucket people…if they continue to try and pull you down…and you know…they often show up when you are successful…and don’t remember that they tried to keep you small.
  • Surround yourself with the people who have your back.
  • Lend a helping hand to others once you’ve gotten out of the bucket…

So don’t let others drag you down…the dream stealers…it can cause you to fail…

You can stop being a crab in a bucket…you can be the master of your own fate…it really is a choice…and when I look at the faces of my husband and son…I am so glad that I didn’t believe that dream wasn’t possible…

“Drive your own life…you deserve to, don’t you?” Sherie Venner

P.S. Have you had a crab in a bucket experience that you pulled yourself out of? Let me know…in the comments below!

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I am a Relationship Coach who helps others create happy, healthy, loving relationships…including the relationship they have with themselves…by breaking through those blocks and barriers to success. I use various techniques gathered through training as a Master Practitioner of NLP, timeline, hypnosis and common sense gathered through life experience.

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  • panic attack treatment February 20, 2014, 10:46 pm

    This is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.

    Brief but very accurate info… Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  • James Robinson October 3, 2013, 7:36 am

    Sadly, sometimes these crabs are the people closest to us.

  • Helena March 17, 2013, 7:02 pm

    I’ve had more of those crab in a bucket type people in my life than I care to think about. Sometimes it’s really sad to have to leave people behind, but I’d rather go for my dreams than always wonder what would’ve happened if I’d stayed. Thanks Sherie!
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    • Sherie March 17, 2013, 7:38 pm

      Sometimes, we do have to leave people behind…and often, we can’t see how positive it was until we look back. Appreciate your comment, Helena!
      Sherie recently posted..Why St. Patrick’s Day is So Special to MeMy Profile

  • beachmama March 14, 2013, 2:25 pm

    Great post Sherie! I use the crab in a bucket analogy all the time with my 16 year-old son.

    When I divorced a male ‘friend’ told me that the odds of me meeting and marrying again at my age (then 49 years-young) where slim to none. Thankfully I ignored his narrow-mindedness. I met and married my husband and just celebrated our ninth year together.

    I have too many crab-in-a-bucket stories to relate. Sadly, it’s seems to be human nature. But we have a choice in the matter. I choose not to not participate, tolerate or perpetuate this mindset. I purposefully do the opposite with people, encouraging them to follow their dreams and listen to know one ~ listen to their heart. Anything less is inhumane.

    Thanks for always encouraging us Sherie!

  • Sharon O'Day March 14, 2013, 1:42 pm

    Sherie, I’ve written articles about how people (especially friends and family) want to keep you where you are because they’re afraid of being abandoned … afraid that you’ll grow and change and leave them in their own “stuck-ness.” Truth is, you DO want to grow and change … but your greatest hope, most likely, is that they do the same for themselves! Maybe you can hand them the ladder after you get out of the bucket? 😉
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  • Meryl Hershey Beck March 14, 2013, 10:43 am

    Sherrie love this story. I am so glad you held on to your dream. Thanks for a great post!
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  • I love your crab in a bucket analogy – I’d never heard of crabs doing that. I loved your steps for building a ladder out of the bucket. And congratulations and good for you for sticking with your dream and finding a happy marriage with Shane and having another wonderful child.

  • Forrest Graves March 13, 2013, 7:44 am

    Crabs, leeches … not much difference in tha respect. GREAT post!
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  • Explode Your Business Online @Norma Doiron March 13, 2013, 3:35 am

    Love the crab story. What a great way t show what happens to the dream stealers… Thanks!

  • Barbara Griffin Billig March 12, 2013, 1:24 pm

    Great story. I asked some of my “friends” to help me publicize the free giving away of my novel to memorialize the anniversary of Fukushima.
    I was surprised by some of the people (that I felt I had done a lot for over time) that refused. I was also surprised by some of the people who went out of their way to help. So now I know who is a “crab in the bucket”. Thanks.

    • Sherie March 12, 2013, 8:35 pm

      I hear you on that, Barbara. Stick to it and keep publicizing to get your novel out there. I am glad that I got my copy from you (and thanks for the very generous giving away of it) and can hardly wait to read it. I tweeted about it and shared on Facebook. Just keep going…: D
      Sherie recently posted..How Being a Crab in a Bucket is Causing You to FailMy Profile

  • Lorii Abela March 12, 2013, 12:39 pm

    I absolutely love this post Sherie. Crab mentality is very common in a world where competition is present. Your tips are great and valuable. I would never let someone take my dreams!

  • Carolyn Hughes March 12, 2013, 8:49 am

    Love the combination of humour to get across a serious point Sherie. I’ve blamed many of my failures on ‘crabs’ in my life, but then I realised that people can only keep you down if you allow them to get to you. I try to keep my life ‘crab-free’ now!
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    • Sherie March 12, 2013, 8:32 pm

      Right on, Carolyn! And that’s right…it is a choice. Thank you so much for your comment!
      Sherie recently posted..How Being a Crab in a Bucket is Causing You to FailMy Profile

    • beachmama March 14, 2013, 2:28 pm

      Excellent point Carolyn!! We can make a choice. I do have to say that if you’ve been in abusive relationships it can be difficult to recognize the signs. Learn the signs of abuse. If you’re in an abusive relationship get help, get out NOW. It won’t be easy but you’ll never look back : )
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  • Lorrie March 12, 2013, 7:18 am

    Sherie, I am from Baltimore, a town known for crabs. I grew up crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay. As an adult I work in neighborhoods helping create programs to assist with the improvement of the community. There seemed to be a constant experience of a core group of people who worked against any of these programs. I used this exact metaphor to put their behavior in context. so good to be reminded of it again. Good work!

  • Kathy Robinson March 12, 2013, 12:58 am

    Sherie, I love the analogy. Around 15 years ago I landed a very important job as editor of our town’s newspaper. One of my brothers told me I’d never be able to do it and who did I think I was even attempting it. My hubby and my two primary school children told me to go for it, I’d do a fantastic job.

    I held that position for 10 years and there was a public outcry when I resigned. I loved what I did and I did it well.

    I’m still happily married and my now adult kids are my best friends. I haven’t spoken to my brother in years. 🙂
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  • Moira Hutchison March 11, 2013, 7:00 pm

    I love this story Sherie – I’ve had many crabs *try* to pull me down – but then I have to channel my “inner tough Scots Chick” and get back on track!
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  • Yvonne March 11, 2013, 3:49 pm

    Funny to stumble over this post (on FB) at this point in time…

    I just cleaned up some crab(p)s 😉 thank you for showing me I did right!

  • Dawn Lanier March 11, 2013, 3:19 pm

    I loved this story Sherie! What a great analogy. I think we’ve all been there if we’re honest. I especially liked your last 2 suggestions – to surround yourself with people who have your back, and to make sure you lend a helping hand to others once you’ve gotten out of the bucket. Great post!
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    • Sherie March 11, 2013, 8:28 pm

      Dawn, thank you! We all need to have a great support network filled with people who believe in us and are our cheerleaders. Thank you for all of your support, my dear! : D
      Sherie recently posted..How Being a Crab in a Bucket is Causing You to FailMy Profile

  • Aimee March 11, 2013, 3:14 pm

    I didn’t know crabs were so unsupportive. Wonder why they don’t want the other one to leave, because once it does, then it can leave too. I guess that’s the same as people, instead of helping a leader so that we can all benefit, we’d rather keep us all stuck.
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    • Sherie March 11, 2013, 8:29 pm

      It is a surprise that the crabs would be like that…but they are…just like some people who hate to see other people move forward and get on with their lives. Thanks so much for dropping by, Aimee, and reading the post! I appreciate that!
      Sherie recently posted..How Being a Crab in a Bucket is Causing You to FailMy Profile

  • Liz Bigger March 11, 2013, 1:31 pm

    GREAT post!!! I actually had a family member tell me that I will “never be able to make money from my sewing”…I am so glad I didn’t believe her : D…

  • Daniele March 11, 2013, 11:31 am

    I just love your analogy about the crab in the bucket! I try to steer clear of those in my life, but I would be lying to say I never had one drag me down before…:-)

  • Tricia March 11, 2013, 11:27 am

    I am so good at teaching other women not to let the crab people keep them down, but not so good at listening to my own advice?

  • Pat Moon March 11, 2013, 11:10 am

    Sherie, I love the story about the crab in the bucket. I have had many crab in the bucket experiences.. often I am the crab (my own worst crab). One person in my life you believes I can do anything I want to do is my mother.. she is now 92 years old and I am 69 years old. She is always encouraging me to not stay in the bucket and has all my life. She is truly a servant of God and right now has lung cancer but guess what, it hasn’t pulled her into the bucket.. she is continuing on as she always has.
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  • Elizabeth Maness March 11, 2013, 10:59 am

    Sherie.. I’m so glad that old Boss Crabby didn’t keep you in the bucket! I love this story! I did not know that about you and I loved that you shared it!
    I have come across a crab or two that tried to keep me in the bucket! 😉
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  • Alexandra McAllister March 11, 2013, 10:56 am

    Oh, I know the feeling, Sherie! It takes a while to recognize them and to let them go! Thanks for the reminder.
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  • Tom H March 11, 2013, 10:32 am

    Hi Sherie,
    Nice article. What advice would you give to folks who don’t realize that they are in a bucket full of crabs pulling them down? Sometimes it is hard to realize you are in that situation.

    • Sherie March 11, 2013, 8:37 pm

      Sometimes, it is difficult to see that, Tom. I think when you have a clear picture of what you want…and if you aren’t getting it…you need to become aware…to listen to and see what is going on around you. So…I advise people to take a step back…to have time to reflect…and when they do that…and ask themselves “What is really going on here?”…then it can become clear. Make sense?
      Sherie recently posted..How Being a Crab in a Bucket is Causing You to FailMy Profile

  • Martha Giffen March 11, 2013, 10:22 am

    What a wonderful and inspiring story! Those naysayers are the pits! They show up in the most unusual places. Congrats on your dream, your marriage, and your child!
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  • MamaRed March 11, 2013, 10:02 am

    Oh wow, do I get this one and know that identifying them can be a challenge, especially when it is someone you love dearly, and yet they are that first crab. Learning to love first, no matter what, then making the best choice I can has been my next do-able step!
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  • Karla Campos March 11, 2013, 9:44 am

    I love this! Thank you so much for sharing, I know this feeling all too well and it is very hurtful especially when it is coming from close friends and family. Out of the bucket we must break if we are to accomplish our dreams.
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  • Shari March 11, 2013, 9:06 am

    I remember reading a book about a young inner-city man who made it to the Ivy League, and the author employed the crab-and-bucket metaphor to great effect. It’s a vivid image. I especially like your suggestion that we should extend a hand to others once we’re out of that bucket. Thanks for another great post, Sherie!
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    • Sherie March 11, 2013, 8:40 pm

      Shari, I think if we all started lending a helping hand…when we can…the world would be a better place. Thanks so much for taking the time to drop by, read the post and leave such a lovely comment! : D
      Sherie recently posted..How Being a Crab in a Bucket is Causing You to FailMy Profile

  • Rob Hodgins March 10, 2013, 12:32 pm

    I’ve had a few crabs pull me down. 🙂
    Fortunately, not too many.

    These are great steps to stop the crabs. The hardest part is recognizing who is pulling you down and letting them go.