March 30, 2022

Crabs in a Bucket: What Happens When You Take a Risk to Make Your Escape

When I was about 14, three of my brothers and I went crabbing at the Jersey Shore. You catch crabs in a net. You toss them in a 5-gallon bucket.

We caught a lot of crabs, considering the lack of knowledge about crabbing that came from our land-locked lives in Pennsylvania.

One day, as the pile of crabs accumulates in our bucket, one ambitious captive reaches up. His pincer grips the edge of the pail. He slowly does a pull-up in a daring daylight escape attempt. He looks like he might make it, but…

His upward trajectory stops.

Another crab has the fugitive’s hind leg in his pincer.

Now, I’m no expert in decapod psychology, so I don’t know if the second crab is…

  1. using the first as a ladder to accomplish his own freedom,
  2. merely preventing the pioneer’s escape out of jealousy, or
  3. heartbroken at the potential loss of his friend and trying to prevent it.

I’ll never know.

The second crab’s weight dragged the first one back down into the bucket.

They, no doubt, went to dinner together later that night.

That moment lingers, surfacing often, from my distant past. I guess it’s because crabs are people too.

Maybe you’ve been in that bucket.

You finally get a shot at lifting yourself up, above the masses — a real chance at freedom. Suddenly, you feel a yank on your hind leg.

You feel that yank in a skeptical look, a discouraging word, a negative question, a story about someone else who tried and failed, even scoffing laughter or insults.

People feel uncomfortable when a peer takes a risk or tries to rise.

It’s not just your success that makes others feel uncomfortable…it’s your boldness, your daring, your sense of adventure, your willingness to risk and break the shackles of habit and tradition.

In your escape attempt your friend sees a vision of the person he could be, wanted to be, dreamed of becoming…but did not. He’s embarrassed, ashamed, sad.

While you naturally feel compassion toward your friend, you can’t let him pull you back down into the bucket. The best, and most loving, way you can help him is by bolting for freedom with all your strength and determination.

He doesn’t know it yet, but he needs to see you try, and fail, and try again.

Even if you never accomplish what you dreamed, simply reaching for the edge of the bucket and pulling with all of your might is a better way to live life than staying still in the hopeless stench at bottom of the bucket.

Your action will inspire others.