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Bret S. Beall

Seasoned Living
Jan-Mar 2005

by Bret S. Beall

Seasoned. Adj. 1: flavorful, zesty, interesting; 2: cured, tempered; 3: improved or enhanced via experience; 4: colloq: of or pertaining to the seasons.

. Noun. Maintaining life in a particular manner or style; vitality.

Life Reflection: Looking into Mirrors

The New Year is here. The winter solstice has just passed, marking both the beginning of winter, and the beginning of lengthening days. While we in the Northern Hemisphere await the return of the light and warmth (and while my favorite TV shows are in reruns), letís use the winter as a time for reflection, for introspection. Itís an excellent time to look back on the past year, the past five years, our entire lives. Living well is rather like cooking an excellent dish: we must stop to taste the recipe before adding more ingredients, and then adjust the seasonings. We need to do this with our lives.

Iíve had a LOT of practice with introspection (trust me, that ainít bragging!). Several factors led to my experience with introspection. Iím an only child who had rather insecure parents. I was very shy as a child. I was overweight ("husky" was the term we used) until I was 16, and was often teased. I spent most of my teen years living on a farm five miles out of (a small) town, without any similarly aged neighbors. I had to learn to entertain myself, and I ended up "going into" myself often, from a very young age. I achieved great focus this way.

I thought I was truly blessed to have such self-defining focus when I was so young. I was one of those precocious four-year olds who announced "Iím going to be a paleontologist when I grow up." I actually did become a paleontologist, and a darned good one, being grateful for the focus and clarity that allowed me to navigate through relevant courses and activities during high school, to select the most appropriate undergraduate school, and to apply for (and to my focused but unconfident surprise, be accepted at) the top grad school for paleontology in the country, if not the world. I traveled, I researched, I taught, I lectured, I discovered, I wrote, I published, and I got my dream job. But I did this by largely living my life safely, without much seasoning and spice.

Then the Universe decided it was time for me to change directions and focus, and what I had thought was my dream came crashing down. I thought at the time that I "must" be inferior. Only subsequent healing, introspection and reflection on the details of that period showed the exact opposite was true, and the purpose of those events was 1) to teach me to believe in my talents, 2) to refocus those talents to better society and the world, and 3) to begin living with no regrets, fully seasoned!

Part of the healing process required reflecting on how I reacted to people, situations and incidents. When we "react to something someone else does," we are actually reacting to something in ourselves. This is the "mirror effect," that effect that allows others to reflect ourselves back at us. If we could look at ourselves objectively in a glass mirror, we wouldnít need to encounter our reflections in others. Fortunately, the Universe has set up fail-safes and back up plans for each us, if we only pay attention.

I had to pay attention to the fact that my environment has always been important to me. From the time I was a small child, I spent a good bit of effort making sure my immediate surroundings were comfortable and esthetic. This including doing my own art, placing furniture and various accoutrements "properly," and growing a variety of indoor plants. When I moved out on my own, I applied that desire for comfort and esthetic style to cooking and other aspects of domestic life. I eventually came to realize that what I had done was to create a sanctuary wherever I lived; my sanctuaries provided an escape from whatever in the outside world was bothering or threatening me.

In my sanctuary, I was safe. In graduate school, my home sanctuary provided a comfortable environment to do research, synthesize data and make new discoveries. One of those discoveries was a chink in my armor of career focus! For the first time, events coalesced to lead me to consider the question, "What would I do if I didnít do paleontology?" My mind immediately harkened back to my childhood, when I wanted to see all people live well by taking care of themselves and their environment, thus making it a better world for all of us. Once that old memory imprinted among current memories, I temporarily forgot it and continued with my previous profound focus on a paleontological career.

Despite my great focus and consequent accomplishments, and despite being relatively demure and polite (certainly not seasoned and spicy as I am today!), I discovered that my lifestyle modus operandi did not receive universal approval from my academic superiors. There seemed to be an unwritten law that a graduate student must suffer. One faculty member even admitted (with questionable pride) to subsisting on the equivalent of birdseed during his grad school days. Was this the right role model for me? Was there something wrong with my visiting the farmers market throughout the growing season each year, culminating in the autumnal harvest from which I would create my now famous multipurpose ragout among other delicacies, and freeze them to enjoy throughout the winter? Apparently, there was. When a group of us students spent one (ONE!) evening drafting a petition to encourage faculty to treat a particular student with fairness and respect, we were chastised for wasting our time and not doing our research. This was yet another chink in the armor of my career focus. Did I really want to prioritize researching fossils ahead of aiding a fellow human being?

Once again, despite this shock, my focus returned, success continued, and I eventually relocated to Chicago for my dream job. I was in heaven. I was living in a city that I loved. I was succeeding on all fronts beyond my greatest imagination. I had created a fantastic sanctuary at home in a neighborhood that seemed to satisfy every need I had. All of my hard work, dedication and focus were paying off. I was on the fast track!

That is, I was on the fast track until I was derailed when a trusted individual stabbed me in the back. Iíve written about that sabotage before (specifically about letting go of the pain it caused), but that event was the final chink in my armor that completely eliminated my paleontological career focus. Once I shed both the armor and my paleontological career, I was free to pursue the goals I had realized all along I needed to pursue. Rather than pursue them later in my life as I had planned originally, I could pursue them sooner! Had I not been reflecting on my life all along, I might not have seen this as an opportunity (and even so, it took a while to make this opportunity into reality).

This was one of the greatest shocks of my life. When an event of such improbability occurs, it behooves us to pay attention, and spend some time reflecting on its meaning. In my case, thanks to hindsight, I can see that I had to attain a certain level of education and expertise, and that my focus had to be shifted to do my true lifeís work. Being as focused and resolute as I was, the shock HAD to be significant, or I would have ignored it. As I wrote above, substantial healing was necessary from this final chink in my armor, but I am grateful. Everything happens for a reason!

And I am grateful that reflecting on life and looking into mirrors also provides an opportunity for the occasional "atta boy!" (or "atta girl!"). Celebrate every day! Sometimes you truly have to stop and assess all of the good youíve done in your life. Iím talking about the little things. Iím talking about that friendly smile for the clerk at the grocery store. Iím talking about treating everyone you meet with respect. Iím talking about forgiving the frustrated driver who thought that cutting you off was a good idea. Iím talking about acknowledging that you are a good person, and you deserve to celebrate that fact while you are on your Path to personal growth.

So, here we are in the present. I am comfortably in my sanctuary, and hopefully, you are in yours. Grab a cup of hot cocoa (Iím enjoying some Mexican hot chocolate as I write this, frothy and redolent of cinnamon) and reflect on your life. Pet your pet(s) (itís good for them and good for you; my Persians Lugh and Luna are both purring while competing for a space under my desk lamp), and reflect on your life. Hug a loved one, and reflect on your life. And be grateful! I know that I am grateful for my Seasoned Living!

© Copyright 2005 Bret S. Beall.  All Rights Reserved.

Bret S. Beall
Bret S. Beall, MS, PhD (Cand). As the CEO of GOD-DESS, I help people live fantastic lives with minimal time, effort or money. I have used my rigorous scientific training to synthesize psychology, sensory input, and logic, with global cuisine, dťcor, lifestyle concepts, indoor gardening and travel for each individual in an easy-to-understand, easy-to-create and easy-to-maintain style. For more information, please visit my website, www.god-dess.com, or call me at 773.508.9208, or email me at bret@god-dess.com.

Letís start at the beginning, though. I was born in Californiaís San Francisco Bay area and lived there until I was seven. During this time, my family often took vacations to the seashore and to the redwood forests. There, I first felt the great interconnectedness of all life. At seven, I moved with my family to St. Louis, Missouri, where I continued my environmental interests (including growing houseplants). When I was twelve, we moved to the Ozarks of southern Missouri, where I lived on a farm and witnessed intimately the cycle of birth, life and death. We raised cattle, ducks, geese and rabbits, and I worked on our neighborís pig farm; we also grew a variety of produce and I first learned about preparing and preserving food. It was also at this time that I truly began acting on my interests in art, design and esthetics.

I did my undergraduate work in geology at the University of Missouri - Columbia, graduating with general honors and honors in geology; my coursework included a typical array of liberal arts courses (art, philosophy, history) along with the sciences (geology, physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology). By living in an off-campus efficiency, I learned the basics of simple cooking and living. After graduation, I went on to Masters and PhD work in evolutionary paleontology at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; my studies included geology, paleontology, biology, ecology and evolution, all presented within the framework of proper scientific methodology.

Ann Arbor has a terrific Farmerís Market, which inspired me and helped me to act on my interest in ethnic cuisines and entertaining; this had to be done on a budget (given my graduate student salary) and efficiently (given my graduate student time requirements). I satisfied my artistic inclinations by doing extensive scientific illustration to accompany my original research. Teaching courses and speaking publicly at student seminars, at national and international meetings, and at various clubs and organizational meetings provided a level of excitement I had not experienced previously as I shared the information and data that I had collected. ďSharingĒ was the key, I realized, and this is when the seeds of GOD-DESS were planted.

I left Ann Arbor for Chicagoís Field Museum of Natural History to accept a position as Curatorial Coordinator of Mazon Creek Paleontology. My long hours working on both museum responsibilities and my own research required living both time-efficiently and cost-effectively. In a very short period of time, I realized I did not want to spend the rest of my life within the academic world. I had already experienced a high level of international success, praise and recognition, for which I am grateful (including making it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and having Johnny Carson make a joke about my research on The Tonight Show). I eventually left the rarefied world of paleontology. This is when the seeds of GOD-DESS began to sprout and grow.

I spent the next decade in the field of not-for-profit healthcare association management, honing my skills in efficiency maximization, streamlining, prioritization, customer service, budgeting, organization, communication and simplification, and applying the rigors of my scientific training to the needs of my clients. My clients experienced extraordinary growth and profitability.

Although my salary was better than it was in academia, I still practiced my cost-efficient living, including preparing meals at home to eat at work. The hours were often very long, so time-effectiveness and efficiency-management continued to be important, if not vital. I traveled extensively in my various roles (including organizational representative, event organizer, executive manager, and lecturer); often, I tacked on vacation time to cost-effectively explore the various cities and regions that I was fortunate to visit, which further enhanced my travel planning skills. On my own time during this decade, GOD-DESS grew into a fledgling company, relying on the empiricism of my own experiences and my research.

After more than a decade of helping my clients experience almost 900% budgetary growth, 900% membership growth, 400% meeting attendance growth, and enhanced visibility that cannot be quantified, I knew it was time to become my own boss and devote myself 100% to GOD-DESS.

I believe we are always in the right place at the right time. Because of that belief, everything that I do, whether paleontology, or executive healthcare management, or lifestyle counseling, I do well, to the absolute best of my abilities. A lifetime of experience and research has now created GOD-DESS and everything it can do for you. I am grateful.





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