Sensational Living®

Summer 2006
© 2006 by Bret S. Beall


I have an ongoing dichotomy in my life: embrace stability or pursue change? We hear a lot these days about "traditional values" and a "return to simpler times." But is that what we need to grow, to improve, to become the best that we can be? Is it better to be static with the status quo, or is it better to just say "No" to it? Since my 2006 New Year's resolution was to "just say No!" you can guess the direction of this essay.

I've written elsewhere (http://www.god-dess.com/services_lifestyleAugust04.html) that I had been labeled somewhat of a dinosaur because during my healthcare management career, I often hesitated to accept recommendations to change how business was conducted. Others attributed this to fear, when in reality it was my ennui with having to clean up other peoples' mistakes.

In fact, in so many ways, I thrive on change as an opportunity to grow as a person. However, I try to not be fanatic about this. For example, you may have heard the expression, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, during the 90s, some management "guru" decided, "If it ain't broke, break it, and fix it." Well, that caught peoples' attention, even mine, and I thought it was clever. I still think it is clever, and I've even followed that advice at certain times in my life, but as is my style, my changes were more measured, carefully considered, and far less dramatic … sometimes they were simply accidental. Simply being "me."

For so much of my life I have marched to my own drummer, because that's all I could do. I think I was in the seventh grade, when my loving mother, thinking she was "helping," suggested "Most boys your age don't have a roomful of houseplants." I looked at her and asked, "Would you prefer that I have a jalopy on blocks in the front yard?" (Yes, even at 12 or 13, I was clever but also a smart aleck … and I still am!). She accepted that my point was well taken, and we never revisited that issue. She died prior to seeing GOD-DESS come into existence, and I know we would have had a great laugh about how I'm now helping others grow their houseplants (among the other education that I provide). I had to go against the status quo for adolescent boys' behavior.

I decided to become a paleontologist when I was four years old. My interest started with dinosaurs, as is common for four-year olds, and then my interests diversified to other animals, and to plants by the time I was seven. Unlike most youngsters, I never grew out of it. In high school I took every science, math, and English course I could in order to have the broadest background possible. I had quite a head start on collegiate education, so I was surprised when my dear father informed me "The only way you'll be able to survive at college is to be able to play bridge." I know I looked at him like he had four heads, or maybe like he had no brain. When pressed, he couldn't justify himself, and in hindsight, all I can say is 1) I have never once been asked to play bridge, and 2) he was maintaining the status quo from his own collegiate experience some 30 years earlier. I never learned to play bridge; I said "No!"

Growing up, many people were amused when I would announce, "I'm going to become a paleontologist," so my parents humored me. That is, they humored me until I was ready to start college, when my father announced, "You'll only be able to get a job and survive if you major in engineering" (he acknowledged that I could keep paleontology as a "hobby"). Again, I looked at him like he had four heads, or maybe like he had no brain. What about all of those other people in other non-engineering careers, including paleontology? Well, THEY could do it, but apparently he didn't think I had the talent to do it. Once again, he was maintaining the status quo by insisting that I should go with a "safe" career. Once again, I just said "No!" I majored in geology (the natural undergraduate precursor to a paleontological career), and graduated at the top of my department, with general honors and honors in geology (by researching and writing a paleontological undergraduate honors thesis), and even received the "Outstanding Geology Graduate" award for the entire state.

Then there was the discussion about graduate school, which would commit me to a paleontological career trajectory. My father thought, since I had done well in geology, I should enter the oil industry where I could make money! Well, I wasn't interested in the oil industry; I was interested in pursuing an academic career in evolutionary paleontology. He was sure I wasn't sufficiently qualified to be successful. Apparently, others thought I WAS qualified, as I was accepted at both of the schools to which I applied for graduate work, and I was accepted at both with full funding. I accepted the offer from The University of Michigan, where I spent five of the most intellectually stimulating years of my life. If I had gone into the oil industry, that might have been rewarding, but I KNOW I am a better man for having said "No!" to the status quo of a "safe" job and pursuing paleontology at The University of Michigan. [Confession time: while the education at UM was exceptional, the "real" growth and stimulation for me was being part of an exceptional group of graduate students who converged on The University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology during the 1980s; I shall always be grateful for having been able to associate with these amazingly talented individuals, and I am honored to still count them among my friends to this day, though our Paths have diverged widely in so many ways (but in so many ways, they all routinely say NO to the status quo)].

In 1987 I left Ann Arbor to accept a curatorial position at Chicago's Field Museum, my dream job. Yes! I loved my job. I loved living in Chicago. I loved the direction life was taking me. I didn't want anything to change. I wanted to maintain the status quo. But, even as I was basking in the joy of research and the excitement of international fame, someone was working to betray and sabotage me, thus effectively ending my paleontological career. He had betrayed the status quo of academic relationships, due in no doubt to his own psychological damage. At the time I had intense anger at the betrayal. For years I had anger at the betrayal. Today, I have gratitude that he imposed his psychoses on me and disrupted the status quo, allowing me to pursue even more rewarding life trajectories.

Let's skip ahead, past my healthcare management career with its above-mentioned accusations that I wanted to maintain the status quo. That career was never more than a segue to provide income, which it did, and while it lasted longer than I had intended, once again, I am a better person for having spent time there. Instead, I want to focus on perhaps the biggest "No!" that I ever said to the status quo: becoming an entrepreneur and creating GOD-DESS. Growing up, I never wanted to work for myself. I wanted to have that academic career, contribute to advancing science, educate others, and then hopefully achieve a sufficient level of fame that I would have the "power" to work to make the world a better place. Prior to the "betrayal," I had only once asked myself what I would do if I weren't a paleontologist. The answer was to create some sort of mechanism by which I could help people live better lives, to live as well as I did, or even better.

Global Organic Designs - Discovering Earth's Science & Spirit (GOD-DESS) was born for the very purpose of helping others live better (and live more, and be more). From the start, I knew I wanted to do something original, to be original. I didn't want to regurgitate what others were doing … that would be maintaining the status quo. I wanted to develop new syntheses from environmental and sensory psychology, from neuroanatomy, from physiology. In doing so, I have created a previously unknown body of information that I share with clients, all by just saying "No!" to the status quo.

Of course, that doesn't mean I embrace all change, especially change for the sake of change. I was reminded of this recently while reading an editorial essay in The Scientist pleading readers to embrace genetic modification for all of the benefits this biotechnology could convey. Well, I am no stranger to the benefits of biotechnology; it's a very broad and expansive field. But, I am also no stranger to the potential, theoretical widespread danger posed by genetic manipulation and modification. Despite incredible advances, we simply do not understand genetic expression sufficiently to allow such modification without additional study. Here is where we need to maintain the status quo until we have more data.

How can I embrace abandoning the status quo in one instance, but insist on maintaining it in another? It all boils down to impact. If a change is made, whom will it impact? When I've embraced change, I've made sure that I am the only one affected, or that I could manage the effect on others. If a change impacts others, it needs further consideration. In the case of genetic modification, the entire planet could theoretically be affected, for both good and for bad; until we are relatively confident it is only for good, we need to hold off. Since I am currently not partnered in a relationship, I only have to consider my cats, Lugh and Luna, when I make a decision. If/When I enter into a relationship, that relationship will become a factor when I next say "No!" to the status quo.

Have any of you ever said "No!" to the status quo? If so, please write and share your story with me. If you haven't, and you want/need some help making that change, I can help you! Just call me at 773.508.9208 or email me. Today is the first day of the rest of your life! Make the changes you need to make the rest also the best!