Making Y-fronts from nettles and other world changing ideas…
Last week at vInspired, we had the pleasure of welcoming John-Paul Flintoff to speak at our regular Innovation Lunch. These lunches provide an important opportunity for vInspired staff to meet, learn from and be inspired by individuals who are using their skills and talents to make a difference.
At first glance, John-Paul’s credentials don’t mark him out as someone who wants to change the world. As an experienced journalist, writing for the Financial Times and Sunday Times among others, it’s easy to imagine Flintoff as a cynical old hack, with little interest in making a difference. However, it’s clear within minutes that Flintoff is different.
Indeed, it was precisely his own journalistic investigation into sweatshops in Manhattan that inspired him to learn how to make his own clothes – and then encourage others to do the same. ‘These days, we don’t make things, we just buy them,’ he explains – an approach which dulls our own sense of agency and our understanding of how clothes are made.
He shows off his attire, and explains how with the help of his Great Aunt Peggy, a YouTube group called ThreadBanger and a second-hand treadle sewing machine, he learnt how to cut patterns and sew his own shirts and jeans. The results are impressive and Flintoff is fiercely enthusiastic about the learning and discovery process that underpins his new hand-made wardrobe.
He explained how a network of friends, relatives, a local seamstress, a haberdashery and online resources helped him to perfect his art: ‘Every time I made a mistake, I thought YES, I’m one step closer to getting it right.’ And when you find out that he now grows hemp and nettles so that he can spin his own yarn to make Y-fronts, you can see how far he’s come.
Changing the world
Flintoff’s latest project is no less awe-inspiring – he’s out to change the world and to share his world-changing tips with others. He’s the first to acknowledge that it’s a pretty ambitious goal, and that anyone who says they want to change the world runs the risk of being laughed at – or at least perceived as a bit odd. But he’s steadfast in his view that we all have the creativity, resources and passion to make positive change happen. As Flintoff points out, ‘We all make history, all the time – through the infinitesimally small actions that we take (or don’t take) every day.’
We’re already change-makers, whether we know it or not, and Flintoff’s latest book, ‘How to change the world,’ is designed to help us direct our energies towards the things we most want to change. ‘Be clear about what needs fixing’ advises Flintoff – once you know precisely what the problem is, you’ll be better equipped to identify possible solutions.
He also encourages a step-by-step approach to making change happen, by crowd-sourcing ideas and solutions, cherry-picking your favourite ideas and taking action. ‘Don’t over-think the problem – it will become huge, alarming and too big to deal with,’ he explains. ‘Each step leads you further down the path of change, so start now and get on with it!’’
So, who cares if people laugh or think you’re a bit odd? You CAN change the world. Starting now!
John Paul Flintoff’s new book, ‘How to change the world’ is available now.