away, it’s best to let him go. – Abraham Lincoln
A well-known story in some sectors of coastal communities such as
where I live is that of the crab mentality. It is used to describe
selfish or short-sighted people whose thinking bends toward the notion
of, “If I can’t have it, neither can you.”
The crab basket mentality says that if you have a pot of crabs and one
is climbing out in an effort to escape then the others will pull him
back down rather than allow it to go free. The other crabs had rather
share the same doomed fate than allow another among its ranks to climb
As a leader you may find yourself in a crab basket with others who
have the same intentions for you. You get the raise or promotion and
inevitably someone is jealous and you feel that subtle tug. You landed
that coveted new account and strangely now begin to feel the claws of
others around you. Every time you make an effort to move up and better
yourself you have to resist the tug of those who would like to pull
you down and hold you back. But you have to learn to let them go. Here
are three things to consider as you climb out of the crab basket.
Let go of your past.
Before anyone in your present can restrict you in a negative way you
must lighten your load and let go of negative things from your past.
So long as you hold on to past defeats, mistakes, or bad attitudes you
will never climb to the heights you desire.
Your climb to the top of the basket begins when you make peace with
your past and place yourself in a position to climb unencumbered
toward your goals and dreams. When you let go of the past you can
create your future. Your climb up begins here. You may have to forgive
others; you may have to forgive yourself. But you will not move up so
long as you allow your past to hold you down.
Let go of bad people.
This is perhaps one of the hardest things to learn as a leader. But if
you are ever going to climb your way to the top of the basket and live
above the level of mediocrity you will have to separate yourself from
those who want to hold you down.
It may be hard because up until now you may have seen these crabs as
your friends. They have been colleagues; you have enjoyed happy hours
together, and thought of them as allies. But keep this in mind — good
people do not try to sabotage your success, they celebrate it. Good
people do not try attempt to pull you down but had rather climb up
with you. As a leader you have to wise up and recognize that not
everyone in the pot with you wants to see you succeed. Be strong
enough to acknowledge it and have the courage when necessary to climb
Let go of small dreams.
In the bottom of the crab basket there is not much room for growth and
the view is always the same. The way out is up. It’s when you fix your
eyes on larger dreams and possibilities that you begin to realize that
life in the basket is never going to change. The road to your
improvement begins with the choice to climb out.
It’s been written and asked many times but I will share it again here:
What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could not fail? What
are you dreams?
I don’t know what’s in your heart but I do know this to be true –
until you let go of your past, and let go of bad people, you will
always have small dreams. It’s time to let go of every bad attitude,
toxic relationship, and negative influence that would attempt to pull
Your way out begins with taking the first step. Let go and start climbing!
Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at