We looked at the story of “black crabs” shared by Robert Kiyosaki in his book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The premise of the story is that after crabs are caught by “crabbers” patrolling the beach for a fine dinner, the crabs crawl all over each other in the bucket. Once in a while, an ambitious crab reaches over the lid, attempting to escape. But the other crabs pull the would-be escapee back down into the bucket.
The punch line, of course, is that we can learn a lot from this story when applied to the human condition. Let’s pursue the analogy.
What Did You Just Call Me?
You are the crab seeking to escape the bucket. Something drives you to reach for more out of life. You struggle with a strong sense, even compulsion, that beyond the confines of your current life-experience, there is a wide-world out there, full of opportunity and adventure. So, in your metaphorical bucket of black crabs, you twist, you turn, you stretch, you reach. And…you succeed! Firmly grasping the bucket’s lid, you hoist yourself up and up, moments from setting yourself free to encounter life in a brand new, exciting way.
And then one of the crabs nearby hauls you back down into the bucket. Your dreams are dashed because of a dream-deprived loser, suffering from negativity and fear.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a tremendous amount of insight in this notion that it is important for us to be mindful–even vigilant–about who we interact with. We can’t assume that others will support our dreams and our efforts to reach them. It is possible that they will even, intentionally or otherwise, get in our way. It is a very real question: am I allowing others to hold me back?
But as this sculpture by Ed Massey shows so baldly, this “black crab syndrome” works both ways.
Reflect for a moment on whether you might be the black crab to someone in your sphere of influence. In your efforts to move ahead toward a new adventure or an invigorating future, are you doing so in a way that enhances other’s similar efforts…or hinders them? Does it make any difference to your own success?
Share a time when you were hauled back by a “black crab” in your life and how your dealt with it. Or a time when you may have been the “black crab” to someone else.
Dan Miller, in his terrific book, The Rudder of the Day; Stories of Wisdom to Kick Start Your Workday recounts the story in Robert Kiyosaki’s, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, about black crabs. If you have ever gone “crabbing,” you can easily visualize someone ambling down a beach, toting a bucket of fresh, vigorous crabs. Once you have learned the trick of catching crabs, it’s pretty fun to go collect enough for a special dinner.
The premise of the story is that the crabs crawl all over each other in the bucket. Once in a while, an intrepid crab will reach up to the lid, working hard on an escape to freedom. But the other crabs won’t have that, and pull the would-be escapee back into the bucket. This, of course, leads all of the crabs to the same fate.
The moral of the story, however, is that we all have “black crabs” in our lives, people who negatively influence our performance, intentionally inhibit our attempts at success or actively impede our enthusiasm. These people can be family, friends, or coworkers. Dan writes,
Small thinkers find it much easier to tell you why something won’t work than to help you find a solution. People who feel trapped and are struggling at a low level of success are seldom ones who will cheer you on to a new endeavor.
Crab R Us?
Before I’d heard this story, black crabs meant nothing more to me than crabs darker in color than the ones I used to go crabbing for. But I immediately recognized the “black crab” characteristic among some of the people around me!
In my family, countless times that I expressed a desire to try something, the idea would be challenged—and sometimes mocked—by an older sibling. Or by a friend. Or a teacher.
But, it is hard to imagine that anyone hasn’t had a similar experience. In fact, I wonder who hasn’t experienced the “black crab” syndrome in their life? Of course, it is important to put these kinds of comments—and the people who make them—into a context where they don’t hold us back from striving for something more, something better than what, where or who we are at this moment. It may take time to grow beyond the naysayer’s point of view. But it does no one any good to empower those “black crabs” and allow them to control our choices and limit our reach in life.
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced “black crab” people in your life? If so, how did you deal with them?