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Bret S. Beall

Seasoned Living
A Quarterly Column
Winter 2006-'07

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.

(Realizing That We Are Always In The Right Place At The Right Time)

I love autumn and the beginning of winter.  I always have, and probably always will.  For me, this time of year represents a much-needed relief from the oppressive heat of summer … I just don’t handle heat well, and I dislike air conditioning immensely.  The lower temperatures of autumn and winter invigorate and energize me, so my seasonal activities (reorganizing my files, decorating for the holidays, engaging in experimental cooking, planning travels) increase exponentially.  Not only am I physically invigorated, but also mentally, and while I’m working on my seasonal projects, my mind often goes into overdrive, developing new ideas while also contemplating the deeper meanings of life.

Perhaps the single most significant meaning of life that I’ve learned is that “I’m always in the right place at the right time.”  Looking back, I smile at the decades it took for me to learn that lesson, but that looking backward also provides verification for the lesson.  If you doubt me, let me provide you with some poignant examples from my own life.  I’ve had one of the most wonderful lives I could imagine, but it certainly didn’t go as planned!

As a child, I wanted to save the earth.  In fifth grade I started a student environmental organization, Save Our World, or SOW (I wasn’t conscious of marketing in those days … “SOW” as an acronym isn’t very inviting, is it?  I’ve subsequently learned that acronyms need to be well considered, like GOD-DESS, for Global Organic Designs – Discovering Earth’s Science & Spirit).  I wanted to help people live more in tune with the earth, to be environmentally- and ecologically-sensitive.  Since I was four years old, I knew I wanted to be a paleontologist, so I “planned” to become a world-famous scientist, and once I had enough prestige, I would be able to convince people to adjust their lives to respect the earth and its non-human inhabitants.

I threw myself into preparing for a career in paleontology.  I spent long hours in elementary school, junior high school, high school, college and graduate school building a vast body of knowledge not only in the sciences, but in all disciplines (except for PE; I was never much of a jock).  I did my course work, pursued independent study, traveled the US and Europe to conduct research, and gleaned awards and recognition.  I recall the excitement of beginning my collegiate experience at the University of Missouri, forging a foundation of diverse disciplines.  I remember the joy I felt at The University of Michigan, being among an incomparable group of students who shared their knowledge and life passions.  I was in the right place at the right time.

Eventually, as I was completing research for my doctorate and writing my dissertation, I was rewarded with a job offer from Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to do my dream job.  I relocated to Chicago, and threw myself into my curatorial work, my personal research, my teaching and public presentations, and additional scientific travel.  I remember walking down the street outside my apartment, and feeling such a profound sense of joy and euphoria.  I was still in the right place at the right time.  I was pursuing SCIENCE and TRUTH!  I was gaining an international reputation with my scientific career, and the future looked bright.

Unfortunately, nobody mentioned that this career would be imposed upon by POLITICS, EGO and JEALOUSY!  No one mentioned the possibility that a trusted advisor would sabotage the career I had worked so diligently to create.  There was no hint that my loyalty would be betrayed so irreparably, such that defending my doctoral dissertation would become impossible.  In 1989, I left academia and my paleontological career behind, though I did continue to teach, do research and publish papers.  It was at this time that began to question whether I was indeed in the right place at the right time.  I was adrift, and confused.

I have written previously that the anchor I seized during this upheaval was the seed of GOD-DESS that had been planted a few years earlier.  So, I could see my future, and conceived a plan what I thought would be a logical plan to achieve that future.  Sadly, that Path didn’t immediately involve income, so I had to find some way to paying the rent and putting food on the table.  I took a job in the business world working in not-for-profit healthcare management.  I saw this job as beginning of my goal to help people to live better lives, as it involved working for organizations that promoted better healthcare via a variety of means, including education, advanced technology, and lobbying.  But, I naively I assumed that the motive of the business world was enhanced profit, the proverbial “bottom line.”  I was wrong (again!).  The motive once again was POLITICS, EGO and JEALOUSY.  When these motives combined with a mind-numbing, stomach-turning workload, I continued to be quite unsure whether I was in the right place at the right (or even wrong) time.

During the first part of the eleven and a half years I spent in healthcare management, I began to seriously doubt myself, wondering how and why I had let the vision of GOD-DESS be pushed onto the back burner (and off the burner and behind the stove, literally!).   I began to doubt my understanding of how the world worked.  I couldn’t believe that everything I had planned could spiral so out of control!  I’ll even admit to more than one “pity party” … “Why is this happening to me?” was my mournful, self-pitying query to the Universe … if only my motivation for this questioning had been one of personal and spiritual growth, I would have been asking the most profound question one can ask to improve oneself as a human being.   I was so upset that the stress made me physically ill.

Everything shifted in 1995.  I snapped.  I adopted an “I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take it any more” outlook.  I demanded a 25% salary increase adjustment from my employer, and got it.  I then moved into a home much larger than my previous home, with the dream of creating an office, workshop and showplace for the ideas of GOD-DESS.  I connected with the individual who would eventually guide me to healing my inner demons.

With a larger paycheck, a larger home and a more rational, healed outlook on life, I was able to regain control on my perspective and my plan.  I was able to see the forest for the trees.  I was able to once again view the “big picture.”  You might even say that I was able to reconnect with “life’s deeper meanings.”

Essentially, once life became less stressful, I had the luxury of returning to the introspection that I enjoyed as a child and a student.  As I continued healing, I was able to look back and, with the 20/20 perspective that is hindsight, gain an understanding of the more spiritual aspects of my life up to that point.  I was able to begin answering, “Why is this happening to me?” which I asked THIS TIME with a goal of growth rather than self-pity.

I worked to figure out why, from a spiritual perspective, my life had gone the way it had, and to determine whether I truly had always been at the right place at the right time.  I recalled being very upset when my family moved to Missouri from California.  Arriving first in St. Louis where we spent five years, and then moving to the Lebanon, MO, in the heart of the Ozarks, for six years, my world was turned upside down.  Still, I had experiences in Missouri that I don’t think I would have had in California.  I had learned a lot about the natural world while living in California, and that learning continued exponentially when I moved to Missouri; all of these experiences helped my paleontological career more than I ever would have imagined.  My time in Missouri also laid the foundation and expanded my talents for cooking, gardening, and general good living, and that was the foundation upon which GOD-DESS was constructed.

Also in hindsight, I realize it was important, even vital, for me to get out of California.  I had so desired returning to California that I was determined to go to UC Berkeley, as they had the only undergraduate program in paleontology in the US, and I would be able to return to my beloved California.  I wrote off for an application … that never arrived, and I missed the application deadline (I later learned from faculty there that the paleo program at UCB had a secretary at the time who often discarded or lost applications).  I bemoaned staying in Missouri, but in hindsight, I realize 1) I got an incredible foundational education, and 2) I stayed alive.  These are both good things.

Are you doing a double take?  Did he write, “I stayed alive”?  Yep.  I am convinced, had I moved back to California, or if I had never left in the first place, that I would be dead from any number of causes today.  The details aren’t important, but when all of the evidence is evaluated, I “know” that I wouldn’t be here today, writing this column.  I have been in the right place at the right time!

I also recognized that there was no need for me to continue as a paleontologist as I already had garnered enough respect to know that I had done that job well.  I could happily move forward to do the work I am currently doing.  That academic Path gave me the unparalleled educational and logical framework that forms much of the evidential basis of GOD-DESS and the ideas that I present to readers and clients.  I can even view the individual who sabotaged that academic Path with both pity and compassion, knowing that he never sought, and so never received, the healing he needed to deal with his own deficiencies.  Because I had achieved international fame and left a published legacy before being sabotaged, and because I still have the intellectual foundation and amazing friendships and relationships from that period, I have no doubt that I was in the right place at the right time, and I would repeat it even knowing how the story ends.

There’s also that frustration I felt at the delay in officially starting GOD-DESS when I went into healthcare management in order to pay the bills, and was delayed by an inhumane workload.  Once again, hindsight helps me see that this work environment taught me more about organization, prioritization, efficiency and customer service than I ever could have gleaned in another environment.  I also KNOW that I HAD to be in such an inhumane environment in order to be forced to seek the help and healing that eventually resulted in my being the kind, compassionate, understanding, empathic individual that I am today.  Looking back, I can see that the Universe had provided me with “gentler” opportunities to seek healing, but I had ignored them.  It took a kick in the head from the Universe for me to unload my baggage and move forward!  As painful as those times were, I know without any hesitation that I had to be there, in the right place at the right time, to emerge as the man I am today.

My personal growth was tested by the Universe when I was starting GOD-DESS.  While building the scientific foundation of GOD-DESS, I ran out of cash for living expenses, and had to resort to working as a temp and taking less-than-ideal jobs.  This was tough, but in retrospect, I realize that I didn’t stress over the lack of money (a sign of my healing), and that I was cataloging tens, hundreds, thousands of anecdotes to share in writings such as this, and in my public presentations and individual consultations, to eventually help others.  My writings at www.god-dess.com, and here at www.soulfulliving.com, have been enhanced because of this difficult period, and because I moved through that period knowing that I was at the right place at the right time.

One of my favorite expressions is “Man plans, God laughs.”  This is blunt, but the message is clear.  The Universe doesn’t operate on your or my timetable, or according to our expectations.  At one time I got angry when things didn’t turn out as I had planned.  But, they DID eventually work out (one way or another, and hindsight always showed it was for the better), and I got over it.  I learned to go with the Flow.  And now I’m peaceful and joyful [almost] everyday [LOL … life is an ongoing learning adventure, and none of us is perfect].

As I write this, there is a weather storm warning for the greater Chicago area (where I live), and cold, inclement weather with considerable snow accumulation will be sticking around for a while.  I dislike snow, but I’m still excited!  I’ll have to go out for client obligations, but I won’t be tempted to play as I did over the incredibly warm, sunny Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  I’m going to bake some cookies, and some banana bread, and maybe some blueberry muffins (the blueberries were frozen at their peak of ripeness, as were the bananas … use your freezer when you can, even now, by roasting and freezing winter squash for a delicious risotto or ravioli, or steaming, mashing and freezing a variety of root vegetables like celeriac, parsley root, rutabagas, or turnips).  I’ll decorate my dining room table with some tree ornaments I picked up at a local thrift store; great mounds of colored glass balls will be a spectacular sight for any guests who might come by.  I’ll start creating the platters of baked goods that I give to people for the holidays.  I’ll organize my huge collection of recipes to facilitate marathon bouts of experimental cooking as I formalize my own recipes for the Simple! Sensational! Sensational!® cookbook I’m creating.  I’ll send holiday (Hannukah, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year, etc.) greetings to my friends via email, saving on paper and time.  I’m also planning a trip to southern Indiana to see the Russel Wright exhibit at Columbus Museum of Art and Design (see http://www.livingwithgooddesign.org/ for the entire schedule of the exhibit).

Most of all, I’m going to spend this “dark” season being grateful for everything in my past that has brought me to where I am today.  I am feeling so joyous this season that I want to carry that “Thanksgiving” message throughout the year to emphasize how grateful I am that I am ALWAYS in the right place at the right time.  I hope you can embrace this philosophy, and take some time this season to look back and identify how your unique Path has contributed to who you are today.

© Copyright 2006 Bret S. Beall.  All Rights Reserved.

Lifestyle Management and Seasoned Living

Read Past "Seasoned Living" Columns:

Summer-Fall 2006 - "Tis the Season to Be Courageous"

Jan-Apr 2006 - "Life is a Lesson in Every Season"

Oct-Dec 2005 - "Honk if You Love Silence"

July-Sept 2005 - "A Recipe for Balanced Living"

April-June 2005 - "Trash and Treasure"

Jan-Mar 2005 - "Life Reflection: Looking Into Mirrors"

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, décor, 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.

Let’s start at the beginning, though. I was born in California’s 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 neighbor’s 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 Farmer’s 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. “Sharing” was the key, I realized, and this is when the seeds of GOD-DESS were planted.

I left Ann Arbor for Chicago’s 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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