I told my husband yesterday that I was the Beyoncé of grantwriting. He laughed. I was serious. Imagine breaking records with all the grants in my head, the same way she broke the record for the most Grammy wins for any female artist over the weekend. Something about what Beyonce said in her acceptance speech made me realize that it has always been inside of me, this desire to be creative. It’s why I am drawn to grantwriting. I have been asking questions all my life that the only logical way to creatively ask them and get paid or call it a career is through grantwriting. So I am keeping this one here for the moment when I too start to break records. It’s coming. I put in the time. I do my part to be truly innovative. Not the type to recycle ideas, but the type to think outside the box literally. One of my favorite grants of all time written by a dear friend noted the following and I’m paraphrasing: ‘individual researchers innate tendency towards homogeneous ideas, are part of the reasons why we find ourselves in the mess called health.’ His words about all of us being homogeneous is seared deeply in my soul. He is also right. It’s the reason why I deliberately look for new people to collaborate with. Deliberately even sell failure to them when we begin so long as they are willing to begin. It’s the reason why I always seek change. For if you want to be Beyoncé, then you have to be prepared to change the music all the time. I am.
In my years of grant writing I have noticed that even the well funded researcher recycles their grants all the time. They get funded so why change. The ideas may be couched under different titles, but it’s the same ideas. That they even get the funding isn’t the answer either because when they are done, nothing really changes. I used to be enamored with the funding but these days my eyes are open and I’m telling the truth. Nothing is also sustained. ‘Why bother with a grant or yet another study if it will only be fleeting?’ Another quote form one of my favorite papers on sustainability. I can tell you the ending from day one with studies that won’t last because, well they have been consistently telling us the ending from day 1, if only our eyes were open long enough to see.
I prefer to be different even if it means failing or being called ambitious. When sustainability is your mission, your ideas will ambitious. All my earlier grants deliberately had the word sustainability in their title. Even though they all failed, they made me a better grant writer, one that I might add is better off than those who get all the funding. For failure let’s me keep dreaming, keep fine tuning the ideas. I prefer this process too of reimagining what it would be like if we tried this way or move in this direction or even throw everything we know out of the door and start afresh. I long for innovation. I am not afraid to go talk to an entrepreneur, to ask how did they come up with their ideas in hopes that I can bring it to my field. I have done so a lot. Recent example, altMBA.
As if my plate wasn’t already full, last Thursday I graduated from Seth Godin’s altMBA program designed for people who want to make a difference in the world. It was an intensive 30 day program. It also changed my life. I was in a learning community with thought leaders from Facebook, Shopify, people with their own business, people making music, all of us with the intense desire to be the difference, to be the light, the world desperately needed. I learnt more than my soul could even take from people with ideas and perspectives vastly different from my own. They opened my eyes and my ears to the possibilities inherent in ourselves if only we believed that we are capable. I understood my assets and boundaries a lot better, made sense of my narratives, publicly spoke for change and achieved my goal written from day 1, about 4 days before the deadline. By the end of the program, I knew in my heart that my journey through this life is only beginning. And I am the Beyonce of grantwriting, one much prepared to dance with fear, prepared to do the hard part even if I fail, prepared to make a ruckus for a sustainable platform for research. As if I don’t have enough to do, I am also the next leader, of what working mothers should keep. All my stories will be told as I continue to do the emotional labor necessary with telling the truth of our experience for our silence, for our survival. Keep being the Beyoncé of your field.