Sunday, 22 April 2018

C Columns

Challenging Faith: The Black Crab Syndrome (Part 1)

 By Joel Lund


This past June, we spent a long weekend in the Seattle area for a combined business trip and family vacation. Having grown up in the area, I wanted to stay “near the water.” That could mean either finding a hotel near a lake (there are several to pick from) or Puget Sound. I chose a hotel nestled into a business park next to the Amtrak rails in Edmonds. It turned out to be a great place from which we launched long walks to the Edmonds beach, right next to the ferry terminal.

A favorite item of ours to look for on the beach are crabs. It seems to be almost a universal attraction, since we saw lots of people reaching down, then standing up with something pinched in between their fingers. Then a moment later, their hand would twitch back and forth wildly, and a crab would sail into the air with a direct flight back to the sand below.

After chuckling for a moment, I was reminded of a story about crabs. Not just the 10­legged variety. It revealed the most problematic of all crabs don’t always live at the beach, and they only have 2 legs.

Mutant Crabs

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 searching for black crabs on the beaches of Hawaii. You can easily visualize someone ambling down a beach, “crabbing,” toting a bucket of fresh, very lively crabs.

The premise of the story is that crabs crawl all over each other in the bucket. Once in a while, an intrepid crab will reach up toward 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. Because all of us have 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. For many of us, we have all three types pulling at us, with pinchers snapping disagreeably. If not worse.

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.”

Before I’d heard this story, black crabs meant nothing more to me than crabs darker in color than I used to go crabbing for. But I immediately recognized the “black crab” characteristic among some of the people around me!

No Beach Required!

When I was young and expressed a desire to try something, the idea would be challenged — and sometimes mocked — by an older sibling. Of course, this would happen on the schoolyard,too. Even as an adult, the pattern persisted, because this version of “crabbing” is far too popular a pastime for friends, relatives, colleagues, bosses, teachers, and even clergy.

The “black crab” problem seems so pervasive that it is hard to imagine that anyone hasn’t had similar experiences. In fact, I wonder who hasn’t experienced the “black crab” syndrome in their life?

Of course, it is crucial to put these kinds of behaviors — and the people who do 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. That context might mean shorter holiday visits with family. It may be wise to create some distance between you and a friend that can’t consistently encourage you. Perhaps it’s time to contact the Human Resource department at your workplace.

It takes time to grow beyond the naysayer’s point of view. It requires work to recalibrate our worldview, as well as our place in it, when we’ve been yanked back into the bucket of fear and uniformity. Not uncommonly, finding healing from prior hurt or crab damage calls for professional help: therapy or counseling might be an excellent choice.

Breaking Free = Uncomfortable

But it does no one any good to empower those “black crabs” and allow them to control your choices and limit your growth and impact in life.

Imagine you are the crab seeking to escape the bucket. Something drives you to reach for more out of life. You sense that beyond the confines of your current life­ experience 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. succeed! Firmly grasping the bucket's lid, you hoist yourself up and up. You’re just moments from setting yourself free to encounter life in a brand new, exciting way.

And then some crab nearby hauls you back down into the bucket. Your dreams are dashed because a dream­ deprived person in your life suffers from negativity and fear.

Don't get me wrong. There is a tremendous amount of insight in this notion that we 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?

Et Tu, Crabby

But we must be honest with ourselves. This “black crab syndrome” works both ways. Reflect for a moment on whether you are the black crab to someone. In your efforts to move ahead toward a new adventure or an invigorating future, are you doing so in a way that empowers others' efforts to do the same? Or are you dragging them back into the bucket?

Be Set Free

We are called to live our lives on purpose. With purpose. And for a purpose...that is bigger than we are. Including helping other crabs out of the fear bucket.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced “black crab” people in your life? If so, how did you deal with them? Have you been a crab? What can you do to remedy that behavior?

NEXT TIME: Black Crabs, Vampires and Bullies

Joel Lund is a certified master coach and business marketing expert. Are you a business owner? Check out his newest enterprise,, an online business accelerator. Owners and entrepreneurs using the academy quickly break through to higher revenues, with less work and more fun. Download his (free) simple 10­-step guide for living with more purpose and joy:

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