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Pete, The Green – A Business Parable

Many years ago while settling into our new loft space, a praying mantis appeared on the inside ledge of my office window. Understanding that he was clearly out of his element, I tried to encourage his departure. It wasn’t long before the rest of the group joined me in a mission to save this lost animal. We began by attempting to coax him back out of the open window, but because we were all afraid of him, no one wanted to touch him, so that didn’t work. That’s when one of our guys found a dead stink bug, tied it to a string, and tried to lead him out. But the mantis just looked at us like we were nuts! Finally, in a last attempt, I sat down on the sill to maybe talk some sense into him. He was a good listener, but in the end, all he did was smile politely and wipe his eyeballs with his claw thing. That was a real turn-off. By now it was clear to all that the animal, for whatever reason, wanted to stay. So, we went shopping. We bought him a palm tree, a spray bottle, a tiny water dish, some bugs, and a plant light that made the palm tree look really cool. With his new apartment all setup, the only thing left was a name, and after some brief deliberations, the guys came up with Peter. No one objected, and so our company mascot was christened Peter The Green.

It didn’t take long for Peter The Green to become a cherished member of our creative enclave. Every night before leaving, we’d release a few bugs around the base of his tree, we’d even give him a spritz bath, which he loved. We knew that because he would shake his wing things with great gusto, creating a slow-motion hot-girl-in-a-car-wash-effect, which we loved. All in all, these were happy abundant times for Peter The Green, he wanted for nothing, not even love.
Every once in a while, usually on a Friday, we’d bring Pete something a bit more exotic to eat, instead of his usual crickets, the thing he loved the most was those little fat, juicy, green caterpillars. We’d set them down around Pete, hoping for a gladiatorial-style slaughter. We’re advertising people after all. Sadly, Pete didn’t move an inch. What we came to understand about him was that like a true advertising executive, he liked to kill quietly with no witnesses. Often we’d go into the studio part of the loft, and when we returned, all that was left of the green caterpillars was a few slimy parts, intermingled with cricket legs, and arms.

Sometimes, late at night after everyone would leave, I’d sit and watch Pete. I’d wonder about his motivation, and why he showed up here in an environment completely different than his own. Did he possess some sort of inner bug sense that told him that the people he chose would take care, and never hurt him? Maybe he was sick of his world, maybe he suffered some unimaginable loss and in the depths of his despair, he decided to take a leap of faith through an open window? Maybe it was just some kind of cosmic connection that neither I or Pete could ever understand. I don’t know how he got around because I’ve never seen the thing move, but whatever prompted Pete to hop, crawl, walk, or fly through our window will forever be a mystery, yet somehow in the quiet night it was enough to know that Peter The Green chose to be with us.
We were about a year into our peculiar relationship when one snowy afternoon I looked over at the palm and noticed Pete, and even though the animal never moved, I knew instinctively that he was dead! I could see quite clearly that the light had gone out of his eyes. I called the rest of my crew into the office, we all looked but no one touched, as we were all still kind of afraid of him. Finally a gentle nudge with a paper towel roll, and it was confirmed Peter The Green was gone forever.

While the whole office took it hard, for me, Pete’s death caused a crisis. For some reason his death made me question what I was doing, and how I was doing it. Maybe because he showed up on the day we moved into the loft, or maybe because I was in a weird place in my life, it made me look very hard at the business I was involved in. Somehow in my head, Peter The Green became a metaphor. Somehow he was no longer a bug on a plant in a loft with a spotlight, somehow in death he was elevated, his status elevated, he became a cautionary tale. I realized that Pete made a decision to trade the jungle he knew for another type of jungle, one not so easily to understood. The jungle he chose lulls you in with the promise of easy food, plenty of water, and fat green caterpillars. Unfortunately for Pete, there was no sign by the window warning those who entered that what may appear to be an easy life is, in reality, a trap. Pete was unaware that when you cross that ledge you give up your wild hunter side, your sight dims, your edge softens, your instincts dull, and your situational awareness clouds. Peter The Greens death helped me to understand myself and my motivations a whole lot better, and while I loved Pete, I realized I wasn’t like Pete. You see, I’m happy in my jungle. To me, success and accounts are my crickets, and although they can be elusive and hard to get, I know they’re out there and it’s worthwhile to keep hunting. I thrive on moving through the jungle turning things over searching for what I want. It’s a kind of perverse excitement knowing that if I don’t find what I need, I don’t eat. It’s true that these are harsh rules, but somehow they suit me. The adventure of it all thrills, and getting what I want satisfies.

I suppose that if someday I start to think about a window sill for myself I’ll have Peter The Green as a reminder of what can happen to those who think that those little, fat, juicy green caterpillars come without a priceFinally, if someone were to ask me in short to explain what I learned from finding a Praying mantis on my windowsill? I’d simply answer that those little, fat, juicy green caterpillars don’t come without a price.

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