Lessons from The Crab Shack (where The Elite eat in their bare feet)

Many years ago, I was on holiday in the Deep South of The United States.

It was a road trip and we were touring round Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

I have particularly fond memories of one restaurant that we went to. It was called The Crab Shack.

The Crab Shack was quirky, hilarious and brilliant. This was no chain or franchise: it was unique, independent and wonderfully authentic. It had that most precious of qualities: soul.

You could describe it as unpretentious: it was a wooden cabin at the end of a dirt road surrounded by a swamp.

And yet the location was beautiful. We ate outside on wooden tables overlooking the lake. They had rigged up white sparkly lights in the tree branches which made for a magical atmosphere as the sun went down on a warm evening.

The clientele were relaxed and dressed in T-shirts and jeans shorts. The restaurant was doing a roaring trade. There was a happy background hum of chat and all was right with the world.

It was not one of those ridiculous restaurants with long menus that try to do everything. The Crab Shack stuck to their knitting. They did crab, they did coleslaw, they did fries, they did cold drinks and they did it in large volumes. They knew their mission and they executed on it perfectly.

I liked the food. The prices were reasonable and the portions were generous. I liked the location. But mostly I loved the lack of pretension and the the stripped down, honest authenticity of the place.

I even loved their marketing. Their logo was (and still is) “The Crab Shack: Where The Elite Eat In Their Bare Feet”. They had signs up that said this. The waiters wore T shirts that said this. By the end of the evening, I was starting to believe it myself.

To me, The Crab Shack represented an ideal: it was high quality but didn’t take itself too seriously. It was independent, quirky, honest and unstuffy. To me, The Crab Shack represented The American Dream.

To my way of thinking, anyone should be able to eat at The Crab Shack. Entry to The Elite should be open to everyone in a meritocracy.

The Elite should reflect equality of opportunity…but inequality of outcomes. There is a huge difference between these two concepts. Equality of opportunity is important for fairness. But because different people have such different tastes, values and talents, equality of outcome can only be achieved down the barrel of a gun.

You don’t have to be a politician or a lawyer or a civil servant to be in The Elite. Those professions can be traps. You see this every time another politician self-destructs or another lawyer slowly eats / drinks their way to a heart attack. They are just more casualties of The Prison Camp…guards of the system who are themselves expendable.

An investment banker earning >£500,000 per year who can’t turn their phone off on holiday is not in The Elite. To be in The Elite requires something more than a high income, “respectability” and a prestige job. To be in The Elite, you have to have mastery over your own diary and the power to control your own life.

You don’t have to be financially independent to be in The Elite but it certainly helps. Everyone has their own take on this but if you have working class tastes and an upper class investment account, you feel as if you are walking through a lush tropical garden of abundance. You are eating at the Crab Shack and everything is on the house.

The past two years have widened the gaps between The Elite and ordinary people. Lockdowns made millions of people fearful, anxious and socially awkward and it is far from clear to me that the costs were worth the benefit (but hey I’m not an epidemiologist).

But some things are clear though. The economic gap between The Elite and The Rest has widened in the last two years as temporary, hospitality & retail workers got laid off, house prices and the stockmarket got pumped up by money printing and inflation has risen.

Lockdowns also widened the health gap between those that exercise, those that understand the benefits of eliminating sugar & processed carbohydrates, getting outdoors and getting vitamin D and natural sunlight exposure.

The modern world encourages consumption and weakness. Monk Mode is a hedonic reset and a spiritual practice by which you learn to be happy with less. But this does not mean giving up on ambition or ceasing to strive for wealth. Monk Mode is a stoic practice used by The Elite.

My definition of The Elite is different to others. For me, someone in The Elite has the following characteristics: 1) the power to control their own life 2) great health 3) the runway to take a year off work 4) they take responsibility for their own situation and 5) they have achieved mastery of self.

There is no point in being wealthy if your health is a ticking time bomb, your relationships / personal life are a mess or you do not truly know why you do what you do. There are many people like this. I do not envy the “always on call” professionals (the bankers, the lawyers etc) who do not truly choose their own path (I’ve been there, done that and know what it’s like).

What is great health? It’s much more than just the absence of disease. I’m talking about overall wellness, vitality and energy. A Jedi Knight should be able to look at you and sense that “The Force is strong in this one”.

For those that like metrics, aim for: 1) walking or cycling outdoors every day 2) lifting weights (or other bodyweight resistance training e.g. yoga, pilates) at least twice a week 3) resting heart rate in the 50s or below and 4) 10-15% body fat for guys (maybe 20-25% for women?). This is art not science but hopefully you get the idea.

Being physically fit and healthy puts you in the top 1% of modern human beings. Fitness is the ultimate luxury. Fitness cannot be bought, it can only earned with time, work and sweat equity.

Joining The Elite is, in large part, a state of mind and body. No one said it was going to be easy. But please remember that everyone tends to over-estimate what they can do in a day or a month…and underestimate what is possible over 10 years or more.

And everyone needs to start somewhere.

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  1. That made me want to eat crab!
    Last summer the Lady and I went for a day long walk along the Fife coastal trail and finished with a pot of crawfish tails each at £4 a pop on a bench outside a seafood shop in the sun.
    That’s one of the benefits of being in the elite – and it’s a lot cheaper than you’d think.

  2. Note that it wasnt Joe’s. Joe’s, location dependent, were either hellacious or disappointing boring.

    The Jville Beach one was knocking over tables drunk dancing with the staff
    Birmingham AL was shutdown because of no customers and sad sack staff. The music was a depressing time machine. No drunks.

  3. […] Lessons from the crab Shack (Where the Elite Eat in Their Bare Feet) [The Escape Artist] – “To me, The Crab Shack represented an ideal: it was high quality but didn’t take itself too seriously. It was independent, quirky, honest and unstuffy. To me, The Crab Shack represented The American Dream. To my way of thinking, anyone should be able to eat at The Crab Shack. It is a hallmark of fairness and meritocracy that anyone can rise up and join The Elite. Entry to The Elite should be open to everyone.” Seems like a fun place to go! (good lessons in the post too) […]

  4. tomasherman · · Reply

    If you like crab shack, you should check out smashing sitcom ‘my name is Earl’ if you don’t know if already 😉

  5. lifeoutsidethemaze · · Reply

    Generally I get your idea of “elite” and agree that we would all do well to live disciplined and healthy lifestyles below out means. I am also going to offer the following up. Bummer for me but despite living healthy, I got cancer which means I am not part of the “elite.” Ouch. I also agree that the mental health toll from the pandemic has been really sucky but what if everyone would have followed vaccine and mask mandates? Maybe it would have only been a few months of quarantine? What if we had done nothing? Maybe we would have 30M deaths in the USA instead of just under 1M. It just occurs to me that continuously saying we don’t need to quarantine is like continuously saying the stock market is going to crash. Eventually you’re going to be right and then use that as proof. What do you think?

  6. I remember a long time ago when The Crab Shack was just a few wooden picnic tables outside with a roll of paper towels on it. To drink was either a beer, glass of ice tea, or water. Believe one could only have shrimp or crabs. It was way back when CNN was just a baby.

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