The Bucket of Life

My five year old daughter has taught us a lesson in positivity over these past few months that has really resonated with us so I wanted to share.  And it begins with a simple question:

Are you a bucket dipper, or a bucket filler?

It is a simple concept and I’m sure that you understand it completely once you’ve read that line.  This is what makes it so powerful.  It resonates with people and everyone just “gets it” immediately.  Even a room full of five year old’s.

Bucket Dippers

Bucket Dippers take from the bucket, more than their fair share.  While this typically translates into having a poor attitude, or negative energy, this can take a number of forms:

  • Talking back or foul language.
  • Stealing
  • Hurting somebody, physically or emotionally.
  • Not sharing. Hoarding things for yourself.

Nobody wants to be seen as a Bucket Dipper, always sucking energy out of the environment.  Always taking and never giving.  Habitual Bucket Dippers are not nice and people don’t like them as much.

Bucket Fillers

Bucket Fillers on the other hand tend to give more than they take.  They bring positive energy into situations and focus more on the group then themselves.  Some examples of Bucket Filling behavior are:

  • Holding the door for somebody.
  • Smiling at people.
  • Being polite; saying please and thank you.
  • Sharing, and including others.

Bucket Fillers provide the energy needed to keep things moving forward in a positive fashion.  Other people like to be around them and they are an asset to any team they are on.

Finding Balance

Nobody can be a Filler or Dipper all of the time; there has to be a balance.  After all, if you continually fill the bucket it will eventually overflow, so you need to take from it on occasion.  Take too much however and you will find it empty when you really need it.  But the goal should be to fill more than you dip, give more than you take, create more than you consume.

Every action you take has a net positive or negative effect on others, your environment, or yourself.  By being mindful of keeping the bucket full then it is possible to create a positive, healthy environment around you.  But if there is just a little bit sloshing in the bottom of the bucket then you’ll find yourself in a negative environment, surrounded by unhappy people.  This is known as a toxic environment.

Studies have shown that people would rather work with somebody with a positive attitude and mediocre job skills, than someone who is a superstar at work but a hard person to be around.  These are known as Competent Jerks and Lovable Fools.

Emotional Intelligence

The Bucket analogy is really describing Emotional Intelligence.  In contrast to IQ, which measures your intellect and reasoning skills, EQ is a measure of your Emotional Intelligence; your people skills and ability to read situations.  Interestingly, it has been shown that people with high IQ’s tend to have lower EQ.  In fact there is a company built on this very premise – Scorpion Computer Services.  They are in the business of solving general strategic problems.  Any funded problem.  And they accomplish this by pairing problem solvers with very high IQ’s to a “handler” with a high EQ.  This person is the interface between the customer and the talent.

Sounds like a great balance of Bucket Dippers and Fillers to me.


I’ve thought about this concept for a few months now, ever since my daughter brought it home.  It is so powerful precisely because it is so simple.  Ask a child “Are you being a Bucket Dipper or a Bucket Filler?” and they will immediately grasp the concepts of emotional intelligence, social responsibility, and good behavior.

All knowledge should be as simple to communicate as this.  It’s just about finding the right words.

At its core, this is about making a commitment to the type of person you want to be.

So; are you a Bucket Dipper or a Bucket Filler?

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