Last Updated on September 21, 2017 by karwisch

If we are focusing on intentional interactions with others, it is necessary for us to know what it would look like to succeed at intentionality and what it would look like were we to fail.

Today we add the concept of The Crab Mentality.

Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket (also barrel, basket or pot), is a way of thinking best described by the phrase, “if I can’t have it, neither can you.”[1] The metaphor refers to a bucket of crabs. Individually, the crabs in the story could easily escape from the bucket, but instead they are described as grabbing at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise.[2][3][4][5] The analogy in human behavior is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envyspiteconspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress. – Wikipedia

Pushing and Pulling Down

So if I am someone who wishes to, at best, lift up someone else within an interaction, I must also know that at the very least my goal is not to pull/push down.

Pushing down happens when we are in a better state than the person in an interaction and we choose to put them in a worse position than when we encountered them.

Pulling down indicates that we are either in the same position or worse than the person in an interaction and we choose to put them in an even worse position than when we encountered them.

Pulling Down is where the crab mentality kicks in.

If I am in the same position as someone else, I can do something that helps them up to another level, but it will leave me in the same position as before. I may decide that I do not want to use my opportunity, talents, or network to lift the other person up. I may think to myself that if I cannot have this thing, then why should I lift them up to reach it?

However, If my basic needs are provided for and my situation will not be made worse by helping someone else, then Lower the Ladder and Only Lift Up pushes me to do it and to be genuinely happy for the person who got the ladder and the lift.

What causes us to want to Pull Down?

At the end of the Wikipedia introduction, it mentions envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings. I like this break-down a lot because it covers the darker side of our motivation fairly well.

Envy – a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Spite – a desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone.

Conspiracy – a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

Competitive Feelings – having a strong desire to win or to be the best.


So when I am in the middle of an intentional interaction I must remind myself of my goals:

  1. Ensure that I will not be put in a bad position by lifting the other person up.
  2. Ensure the other person will not be enabled or pushed down by my well-intended lift up.
  3. Lower the Ladder to them so that they can help themselves out under their own power.
  4. Empower the other person to rise up a level even if it means they will now be higher than myself.

What situations can you see yourself hesitating to help out of envy, spite, conspiracy, or competition? What can be done to prepare yourself to ignore these instincts and follow through with lifting up?

Shoulders of Giants (what does this mean?)

 Jason Scott Montoya’s blog post called Push or Pull? An Insight To Leading People inspired me to add The Crab Mentality to my philosophy of Lower the Ladder and Only Lift Up.

 Image courtesy Half Size Me