Keep Climbing, Crab


When crabs get caught by crab fisherman, they’re tossed in a bucket. The bucket almost always has no lid on it. Why is this? It turns out the lid isn’t necessary because collectively the crabs in the bucket will pull down any crab that tries to climb out. And if one crab makes too many attempts to escape, he risks having his limbs torn off by his peers.


But this behavior isn’t limited to crabs. This is an eerily accurate analogy of what happens when one decides to make radical financial changes in their life.

The “bucket” we live in is simply our everyday life and all the other crabs are the people we interact with on a regular basis – our family, friends, and coworkers. Most of the crabs have debt, own spacious houses, drive new cars, and dine out regularly. As long as we adhere to the norms of the bucket lifestyle, we’re at no risk of having our life questioned by our fellow crabs. 

But the moment we start making decisions to reduce our spending, pay off our debt, and start climbing out of the bucket of normal living, our peers voice their concerns. If our decisions are extreme enough, our fellow crabs may even show their claws.

Why are you selling your television? Are you seriously cutting your cable?

You’re downsizing your house? Something must be wrong.

Why are you packing your lunch now? Don’t you miss our regular $20 sushi lunches?

Here’s the thing about making radical financial changes in your life:

Taking action to improve your financial situation is often simple, but justifying your actions to your peer group is intimidating.

In fact, the prospect of changing one’s lifestyle can be so fear-inducing that it prevents most people from ever making the change. Selling your TV and cutting your cable is not scary. What’s scary is explaining to everyone you know why you’re making this decision.

The paradox of this situation is that many of our peers actually do have good intentions when they question our lifestyle choices. Our parents repeatedly ask if we’re sure about a decision because they care. They’re worried our unconventional way of living will make us unhappy. Our close friends typically have our best interest in mind. People that care about us will always try to give us advice and nudge us in a certain direction because from their perspective it makes sense to do so. They’ll encourage us to remain in the bucket because they view the bucket lifestyle as the best way to live.

Despite these good intentions from our fellow crabs, we still have to follow our gut and make the climb. This is a climb to get out of debt, consumerism, and financial stress. Unfortunately all these things are normal in the bucket. Most people are strapped with debt and have very little savings and very little freedom. Naturally the only way to break these norms and make the climb out of the bucket is to make choices that appear radical to our peers.

But at the end of the day, the people who truly care about us will still be there for us despite our way of living. It’s like the old saying “The ones that matter don’t care. And the ones that care don’t matter.” Knowing this truth makes it easier to make radical financial changes. Despite downsizing your house, selling your car, or cutting your cable, the people who truly care about you will still be there.

Be prepared for resistance when you decide to climb out of the bucket. You’ll be faced with worries, concerns, and perhaps criticisms. But don’t let that stop you. Keep climbing, crab.

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8 Replies to “Keep Climbing, Crab”

  1. Another great one, Zach. I’ve seen that phenomenon for many years, and was guilty of the crab behavior myself. Your perspectives Can benefit anyone, but I always share your posts with my millennial friends, nieces and nephews and hope they foliow your lead.

  2. You know, this is one of the reasons I practice stealth wealth. Even with advice I’m very selective with whom I go to. I don’t need their validation, but I also don’t care to argue about it.

    1. I feel the same way. If people come to me asking for advice I’m more than happy to offer help, but I no longer go out of my way to share my thoughts on personal finance with people who don’t ask. It’s just easier this way for everyone.

  3. Good analogy. You gotta keep climbing if you want to reach freedom! And that means sacrificing on things, but later finding out it wasn’t really even a sacrifice 🙂

    1. I love that phrase “And that means sacrificing on things, but later finding out it wasn’t really a sacrifice”. I think this is so true – the things we think we can’t live without actually are quite easy to live without once we give it a try. And what we perceive to be “sacrifices” actually aren’t sacrifices at all when we see the freedom we gain as a result. Thanks for the feedback! 🙂

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