Lesley Garner
Lesley Garner
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Life Lessons
Everything I've ever done
that Worked
Everything I've ever
Learned about Love
Everything I've ever
Learned about Change
- Introduction
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- Extracts
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The Times of Our Lives

Everything I've Ever Learned About Change

The Research and Development Fund

Big companies have research and development funds.
Individuals seldom do, but without a research and development
fund it can be difficult to change your life.

I think the single most valuable thing that money can buy,
apart from health, is the time in which to have a life-changing
experience. I don’t simply mean time learning new skills and
acquiring knowledge, though this is a wonderful thing and I can
never have too much of it. I mean time in which life itself can
teach you.

There are changes which happen in a heartbeat, but
considered change takes time. And it often takes money. Here is a
dream situation. You have worked steadily for some time and you
have built up a reserve fund which will allow you to take time out
of your career to retrain, or to follow a passion, or to volunteer in a field that interests you, or to travel in pursuit of a dream. Of
course you might have cleaned up on the stock exchange instead,
won the lottery, backed a winning horse or inherited a large sum
of money from a distant relative. These are all possible, but I really
don’t recommend counting on any of them. Creating your own
fund is the way to go, but create it with a purpose. Know what it
is for.

A research and development fund can buy you books that
will help you change your life. It can pay for you to take an
evening class or go on a weekend course, even take a part-time
degree. It can allow you to travel and explore, not just to take a
holiday but to travel with a purpose, to research archaeology,
practise a foreign language or do voluntary work that will help
someone else and re-educate and re-energize you. More and more
employers are recognizing that staff who take time out to re-energize themselves re-invigorate the workplace too. A research and
development fund can pay for a whole year off when you wake
up and realize that you’ve been doing the same job without a
break for far too long.

When I was 50 my research and development fund rescued
me from an intolerable feeling of being stuck and sent me off to
art school. When I look back at my diaries I can see that those first
few weeks of art school brought me alive again. I was thrilled
with the stimulation, the tapping of latent creativity. I loved the
sociability of working alongside other people whose minds and
spirits and lives were in a state of flux. I loved being taught how
to see again. My research and development fund bought me
new friendships as well as time away from my habitual life, a
new level of knowledge and expertise and, in due course, new
paid work.

If you are poor to start with, or young, which often
amounts to the same thing, there are other ways to create the
leverage which brings change in a research-and-development
kind of way. You can try stepping stones (see page 45). I know, for
example, someone who was determined to get into radio. She had
a job as a newspaper reporter which had begun to bore her and
she’d done an evening class in radio which had inspired her.
Against the advice of her family she threw up her job so that she
would be free to do unpaid volunteer work in community radio
and unpaid work at her local radio station. She earned her keep
by spending nights working in a bar and cut her expenses by taking
a bed in a shared room in a shared house.

It all looked grim to begin with and she worked very hard,
but over the course of a single year she began to get paid shifts in
radio and progressed to the point where she was doing so many of them that she could give up the bar work. Then she moved
from paid shifts to a short-term contract and finally became a
member of staff, earning double what she had been getting in her
newspaper job and becoming more skilled because of the invaluable
technical training she was getting. There were plenty of risky
points along the way, but this girl created her own fund of time
and effort and her commitment impressed her future employers
so much that eventually she benefited from the organization’s
research and development fund and not her own.

Research and development may not even need a fund. It
can happen in very small spaces if it must. Julia Cameron, in The
Artist’s Way, recommends artists’ dates, weekly outings where
you go alone into the world, take the pressure off yourself and
stimulate your imagination. You could take a walk in the park, go
to an art gallery or spend an hour on the beach.

I know an editor who makes all her staff stay at their desks
through the lunch hour. Nobody likes working for her and their
creativity and enthusiasm dry up. I know another editor who
hates to see her staff at their desks in the lunch hour. She wants
them out on the street seeing the latest art exhibition, picking up
ideas from what people are wearing and checking out the shops.
She’s not daft. That is all research and development. And it not
only keeps her and her staff in touch but also keeps her magazine
on the ball.

Left alone, doing the same thing over and over, we stagnate
and freeze. If life isn’t changing for you then it is vital to create the
conditions for change yourself. Having a research and development
fund of your own, whether it is £50 or £500, is the best way I know
of being your own guardian angel.

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