My Story

The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done.
— Jean Piaget

My father taught me that the purpose of life was to relieve the suffering of others and make the world a better place in which to live. He achieved that as an engineer, designing schools and colleges in Michigan. He passed that passion on to me and I hope I have passed it on to my own children.

I spent some thirty years in academic research and the pharmaceutical industry, collaborating with a fantastic group of highly skilled scientists in a closely knit team environment. Working in industry gave me an opportunity to carry out experiments that would not have been possible in many other situations. The work was challenging and rewarding.

In 2012, I was given the opportunity to leave the company. Much as I loved my work, my heart was no longer in it. I had become increasingly uncomfortable with “big research” and began to doubt the value of the enterprise. I very much wanted to strike out on my own. It was a fearful step, but I believed that it was time to pursue my own interests as a “free agent.”

What did I want to do? I wanted to follow out my dreams, to pursue my passion in life. Somehow, I knew that my passion was linked to making a difference in the world. I found a great deal of guidance on the web, but was unable to find a place that gave me the guidance I needed to prepare me to go in a new direction.

I did not know how to get started or what to do first. I chatted with several of my colleagues, who also found themselves without a job close to home. All of them had chosen a career in drug discovery so that they might make a small contribution to finding new drugs to cure disease. They wanted to make a difference in the world.

Yet, the company, in order to maximize profit, had made a “strategic decision” to close our research site. The decision was purely economic. It was too expensive to maintain a large number of research sites; some needed to close. A few scientists had the opportunity to move; many could not or would not. Their ability to “make a difference” had imploded, not because of any failure of their own, but because their dreams were tied to corporate decisions.

This experience further confirmed in me the idea, which I had long held, that we need to be independent. Institutions, such as the corporations for whom we work or the state schools where we send our children, do not always operate in our best interests. The first exists to maximize profits; the second to cater to the competing needs of local and state bureaucracies.

I had already made the decision to homeschool my son during his middle and high school years. But, I remained tied to the purse-strings of industry, afraid to become independent myself. Now was my opportunity to be as bold with my career as I had been with his.

Thus arose a set of ideas that drove my passion: we need to prepare ourselves to make a difference in the world; it is never too late to make a change in your life for the better; and, the American values of self-reliance, independence, freedom, and morality should drive our decisions.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that what I discovered will be as useful and energizing to you as it has been to me.

Peace be with you,
Larry R. McLean, Ph.D.

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  • Charles Fox says:

    I am glad that I was able to read a bit of what has been going on inside your head as you are considering where you are on your spiritual journey. Since you left Wyoming in around 1998-9 then you had to move with the company but were not completely happy with the motivations of the company. Again, the company was thinking of consolodating to maximize profits and you thought of the dificulties of the move and considered a career change to ministry, but you would have to go to seminary. You did not want to make that big move completely changing over to ministry from science.

    Well, for me at the same time I began to consider the option of moving into foreign mission where I might have the opportunity to really make a difference. So, we did make this transition with your support also and it was a great experience. There are many theological and personal reflections that I can make on this part of my journey with God. So, now I am thinking how I might gain some new training in agricultural sustainable development, conflict resolution, and further training in linguistics.

    Most definitely, you must build on your past experiences in biochemistry, science education, Christian faith and, of course, a subscription to the Mother Earth news. What you have to offer the most to others is “yourself” . Of course, as I went to Thailand I wanted to change the whole world or the whole nation of Thailand (65 million ) for Christ. I have come to learn a lot on this journey which I would like to share with you over a good coffee. In short, a person can make a great difference in the world but there must be a great deal of preparation.

    Remember, it was Tolstoy who said “Everyone wants to change the world but no one thinks of changing himself”. Hey, Larry, are you hearing from God? So there must be a balance between doing and being with God. So, there are those missionaries who come to Thailand and exhaust themselves in their activities and find out that maybe they were barking down the wrong alley. they get so burned out they even end up going back home or depressed and even in the hospital and their work ends and Thai Christians do not carry on with it. Their life is like a brush fire.

    You might like the life of Thomas Jefferson who did so many great things and was so brialliant in all of his endeavors. So, give pause for great reflection.

    I have noticed that one of our good friends has changed his job focus so that now he is working as a doctor in Hospice care. He says that it is like a ministry. He is helping people who are dying with many forms of cancer. Well, I am getting tired.. more later and hope to keep talking with you.

    • Larry McLean says:

      Much food for thought here!

      You are certainly right about my struggles with what to do the last time the company offered me an incentive to leave. As you know, I had started a website concerned with classical Christian writings at the time. It got some very positive feedback, but the challenges of working in New Jersey in a very demanding industry caused me to put it on the back burner. I also toyed with a homeschooling program and spent a great deal of time working through how I might do it. Now, I am revisiting all of that and trying to pull it together. I hope I am hearing God and spending enough time in prayer, but my relationship with the institutional church has not been positive. I am trying again (see “Institutions and the Church”).

      As always, we are thinking along the same lines! It amazes me. Maybe we are hearing from God. But, so are some others. When I share my vision about American values and sustainability, many people recognize these as the fundamental issues of our time, for our culture. Certainly Thomas Jefferson is on the list (I keep a collection of his writings at my bedside). However, I plan to start with Franklin, as he was more of a city boy and I can relate to that.

  • Patty Kyrlach says:

    This is a cool addition to your blog. It’s always illuminating to hear a person’s story in his own words. You’re a good writer.

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