What I Learned From a Garden Slug

tl;dr: how a garden slug and meditation helped me contemplate a skill to become a better marketer…and a better person.

There is a wooden bench in my front yard.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been going outside at 5.30am and sitting on it for a meditation session.

It’s pretty quiet at that time of day. There’s a solitary light from a streetlamp and the real beauty is from the stars and the moon (when it is out).

There are only a few sounds. Chirping birds is the biggest one, but I’ve heard deer on my neighbors’ lawn across the street.

Occasionally, there is a car that drives by. There is a gentleman who walks by every morning wearing a backpack and holding his suit jacket. Sometimes I see him, sometimes I don’t, but that’s because my eyes may be closed, but I hear him. He has a distinctive walk and he’s consistent in his timing.

I once heard a sound that I later figured out what a branch falling off a tree in the park that is diagonal from my house. I concluded that, yes indeed, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, it does make a sound.

I have developed a habit of wearing shorts, a hoodie, and flip flops. Simple and really nothing else is needed.

The other day, in the middle of the session, I felt a strange sensation on my left foot. It was tingling.

My natural fear response kicked in. I opened my eyes to see a big slug on my foot.

Instinctively, I recoiled and kicked my foot so that the slug was flung off.

Accepting the Slug

I thought about the slug a few more times that day.

I thought about the concept of “interbeing.”

As I understand it, “interbeing” is the idea that every living thing is interconnected and part of a larger whole. Instead of viewing the slug as a pest or annoyance, and certainly instead of fear, I could have chosen to appreciate the role the slug was playing in the world, instead of selfishly feeling disgusted.

But more than that, I viewed the slug as an opportunity to practice “radical acceptance.”

One of the things you learn as you explore meditation and mindfulness is that it’s critical to learn to accept the world as it is. So much of our suffering, pain, and disappointment comes from our resistance to how things are.

It doesn’t mean we can’t do things to try and improve the situation, but failing to fully accept a situation causes pain and difficulty.

I started to view the slug as a challenge to overcome.

The next morning I went out and I was kind of hoping that I’d feel the slug again.

Only this time, I was determined to not open my eyes and not kick it away.

I figured that if I could continue the meditation no matter what, simply accepting the fact that there was a slug on my foot, that it would help me in developing my own ability to see reality as it is.

I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous and scared.

That was my emotional mind.

My rational mind, however, laughed at me. “It’s a slug and you’re a 175 pound human. What are you afraid of?”

The premise of so many forms of meditation is that it is possible for the mind to control the emotions. That was my intention.

Over the next few days, I felt all kinds of things (some real, some imagined) on my feet.

Now, I notice them, but I don’t flinch and I don’t obsess. I notice, accept, and move on, staying with the practice.

What the Slug Taught Me About Marketing

It may seem like a stretch to connect a slug and meditation with being a good marketer, but for me, it seemed obvious.

A large part of our challenge as marketers (and we’re all in marketing, it’s just that some of us know it), is that we refuse to accept the reality of the market.

We may not have product-market fit. Our campaign may not be working. Our leadership style may not be effective.

Yet, we persist and resist, creating tension internally and reducing our effectiveness.

Instead, we can choose to accept the market reality, just like we can choose to simply accept the fact that there’s a slug on our feet.

We don’t have to let it stay there forever.

But we do have to first learn how to fully accept that it is there.

Instead of letting our emotional instincts override our rational brain, like kicking the slug off, we can choose to fully recognize what the situation is. We can remain calm. We can think about it.

Then, at a time and place of our choosing, with a proper amount of thought, attention, and care, we can alter the situation.

I’m not an expert on radical acceptance or anything for that matter, but there’s a reason why meditation is called a “practice.”

We are practicing how to accept the present moment with all of its intricacies and resist the urge to label it “bad,” “good,” or “icky and disgusting.”

Those judgments cloud our thinking and prevent us from seeing opportunities and options in the marketplace and in our front yards.

What I Learned From a Garden Slug was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.