John-Paul Flintoff is an Author, Broadcaster and Journalist with an impressive and intriguing list of credits. From writing for the Financial Times and The Sunday Times, penning a number of his own books including Sew Your Own: Man Finds Happiness and Meaning of Life - Making Clothes to being part of the faculty at The School of Life a London based school with international reach that's devoted to sharing wisdom on subjects such as how to find fulfilling work, establish meaningful relationships or better understand yourself and the world around you.
It was through my interest in The School of Life that I first came across John-Paul and the work that he does. Feeling inspired I got in touch to see if he would be a willing interviewee! Chuffed that he agreed, I'm pleased to share with you his thoughts here today. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did - an insightful approach on the subjects of creativity, work-life balance and finding your motivation in life. So please sit back and enjoy.
Could you begin by explaining, in a little more detail, your own background and how you’ve arrived at the career you’re in today?
I'm a writer, performer and I coach people. I spent most of my career as a journalist on The Sunday Times and before that The Financial Times, as a magazine writer, meeting and talking to people who do incredible things. I published books, which led to me teaching at The School of Life, in London, for whom I wrote a book, How To Change The World, that has been published in 16 languages. When I was researching it, I trained as a theatrical improviser with the legendary Keith Johnstone, and now I train others. I've just finished my first novel, which is fully crowd-funded. My work with individuals and groups tends to be about communication, leadership, and creativity.
What do you do currently and what it is that you're most passionate about?
I'm particularly excited about collaboration. When I was writing my novel, I got fed up sitting alone in a room at a keyboard, so I asked some performer friends to workshop some of the scenes with me. What they came up with, despite having had zero preparation, was stunningly powerful. It was one of the most creative days of my life.
You have written a number of books and also coach people on such subjects as learning who you really are and finding out and defeating what holds you back. You seem very passionate about helping other people reach their potential. What drives this motivation for inspiring growth and confidence in others?
I don't entirely understand it myself, but I have a deep-seated belief that we are all creative and capable, and I hate to see people living as if they are victims of other people's decisions. I like it when I see people suddenly "get it" about some aspect of their own capacity to have an effect on the world. In my coaching work, I much prefer to work with people who want to have some kind of impact on the world around them.
Who were your role models growing up and what or who is it that inspired you to get into your current career?
Oh crumbs there are far too many to mention. I realised a few years ago that I had stopped having "heroes" when I was a teenager, as if I was above that now - what nonsense! I don't use the word hero any more, but I am happy to acknowledge the people I admire. These include: William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Jane Austen, John Pilger, Paul Foot, Evelyn Waugh, George Bernard Shaw, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Anthony Powell, Dylan Thomas, Woody Allen, George Plimpton, Hugh Laurie, Louis Theroux, Leo Tolstoy, Tom Hodgkinson, Gandhi, Buddha, Fritz Perls, Miranda July, William Morris, John Ruskin - and so many more. If I were to list the things that I admire about them, you would learn a lot about me - just as I would learn a lot about you if you were to list the things you admire in your own inspirational figures.
What do you love most about what you do?
I like to keep surprising myself. I like spontaneity, and creativity, and not having to do tons of preparation all the time. I like dialogue. I like watching people as the cogs turn inside their brains and they start to understand their own lives in a fresh light.
What’s the one piece of advice that you wish you could go back and give your younger self?
Stop wondering if you are "allowed", or if you are good enough, and just get on with it.
Have you made any big mistakes throughout your career and if so what did they teach you?
I once wrote a letter asking for a job from a man who had left his own job eight years beforehand. The man who had been in the job all that time sent me back a humiliatingly snotty letter - as he was fully entitled to do. It taught me that if I had really and truly wanted that job, I'd have done my research properly. I just didn't really want the job. I learned that I should not bother to apply for jobs I don't really want.
Finally how important is it to you to achieve a decent balance between work and life and do you have any tips or tricks for achieving and maintaining this?
The biggest secret is to stop thinking that work and life are two separate things. I like my work! It's part of my life. There are things I don't like, but I always have the choice about what I give my attention to. If I choose to give it my attention, it's not because I "have to", or "must" - it's because I chose to. And that makes it feel much more fun.
Some seriously good advice and thank you to John-Paul for sharing his thoughts.
What resonates so clearly with me is the advice to stop wondering if you are allowed or good enough in life and just get on with doing the things that you are passionate about and that you truly believe in. I'm sure this is something we can all relate to in some way. We need to shake those feelings off and allow ourselves to live without giving in to such an anxiety - we've only one life after all, so let's just make the very most of it.
Plus what a fantastic list of role models. I can't help thinking what a wonderful dinner party line up they would all make.
Thank you for joining me and reading today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about John-Paul and the work that he does then please check out his website for more information: Flintoff.org
Farewell for now everyone and see you again very soon.