The Flip Side

Break Free of the Behaviors That Hold You Back


By Flip Flippen

Formats and Prices




$15.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around December 6, 2007. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Learn how recognizing your biggest weakness can unleash your greatest strength in THE FLIP SIDE, the bestselling motivational guide by educator, business coach, and growth guru Flip Flippen.

Flip Flippen is the most influential man you’ve never heard of. This personable Texan is the founder of The Flippen Group, one of the fastest-growing corporate and personal training companies in America, and his philosophy has touched the lives of some of the most powerful individuals in the country–from Wall Street leaders to top sports figures like Terry Bradshaw and his NASCAR team, and from Joel Osteen’s team at Lakewood Church to the 150,000 people who trained with Flip’s company in 2005.

Great advice for everyone, but particularly appealing to those who are taking stock of what they want to do with the rest of their lives, Flippen’s approach is surprisingly simple. When we learn how to identify our “personal constraints” and take the necessary steps to correct self-limiting behaviors, we will experience a dramatic surge in productivity, achieve things we have only dreamed of, and find greater happiness overall. Flippen has created a simple process to help readers find their greatest constraint (the results may be surprising!) and build a plan to help “flip” that weakness into a newfound strength.


1 Something Is Holding You Back

I learned everything I know from my clients. After seeing more than seventeen thousand patients through my practice as a psychotherapist and working with thousands of educators and many of the largest and most successful companies in the world, I had to learn something.

One thing I knew early on was that I wanted to spend my life helping people. After finishing graduate school I decided to work with underprivileged kids and street gangs, so I started an outpatient free clinic that served anyone who walked in the door. We were poor, but we were making a difference, and that was what mattered most. I started with an all-volunteer staff, then slowly added professionals to care for the more difficult needs that people brought to us.

Janice and Tony showed up within one week of each other at the clinic. They were both extremely likeable teenagers with a lot in common—they each came from dysfunctional, alcoholic families and grew up struggling to survive from day to day, well on the way to following in their families' footsteps. On the brink of destroying their lives before they had even begun, they enrolled for counseling.

Janice and Tony had more in common than just their backgrounds. They were energetic and curious about the world around them, demonstrating intellectual and creative abilities that had not been cultivated by the urban schools they attended. And they were both burdened by a profound lack of self-confidence—no surprise given the challenges they'd already faced, but heartbreaking nonetheless.

Ten years later Janice had completed college and law school and was working as a senior attorney at a university chancellor's office. Tony, on the other hand, was in prison on manslaughter charges stemming from a drug-related shoot-out.

Searching for the Keys

The question haunted me like no other.

What made the difference?

Why was Janice able to embrace the opportunities presented to her, while Tony could not escape the disadvantages? In my years at the clinic, I saw countless cases like Janice's and Tony's—people of comparable backgrounds and abilities who attained dramatically different levels of success.

Within a few years I found my clinic and my home (so much for the "outpatient" part) overflowing with kids carrying pain my textbooks had never mentioned. My graduate-school classes had introduced them as case studies for dissection and analysis, not as real, breathing, bleeding human beings.

Despite my dedication and noble intentions, not all of them turned the corner. I have cried more than I would have imagined when I think of what became of some of them. Several young men and women were murdered within the first year that I worked in the clinic. All of the deaths were drug related, and each story echoed many of the same issues.

Yet a lot of the kids coming to the clinic had great potential. Many have been able to do tremendous things with their lives, while others have known nothing but struggle and disappointment. Some overcame major obstacles, while others, in almost identical situations, perpetuated the cycles of self-destruction—their progress simply stopped, as if something insurmountable was holding them back. For these kids the alternative to success was often prison, drug addiction, or even death. With the stakes that high, I couldn't stand by and watch them go down without a fight. I had to discover why their lives could go only so far—and what, if anything, I could do to help them make their lives better.

I started down the road that has been my life's journey for the past three and a half decades, and it turned out to be about much more than street kids and gang members. It turned out to be about business executives, and schoolteachers, and athletes, and me.

My work expanded quickly, putting me in regular contact with people who pursued excellence in a variety of fields—from salespeople trying to hit quotas to athletes trying to break world records—and their experiences revealed a common theme: real success demands more than talent and ability.

What is real success? It is far more than making money or getting to the top. It is about a person becoming EVERYTHING he or she can be. It's being a great son or daughter, parent, boss, or employee. It's becoming kind, and thoughtful, and taking initiative in life to make the world a better place. Being successful is being able to see past your private agenda and learning how to manage innate tendencies toward selfishness and greed to become more sensitive to others who share your journey.

Real success is being known as someone who improves the lives of those you touch—which also means that we strive to touch more because internally we know that we can make a difference.

So many people are only a fraction of what they can be, accomplishing so much less than their potential. They dream about doing more and being better, but something bigger than their talent seems to be holding them back with invisible ropes and heavy weights. I was driven to figure out what that "something" was. If I couldn't find out what held people back, how could I ever hope to help them?

Soon after I committed to searching for answers, the critical questions turned inward, and I had to ask myself what was holding me back. I looked at my life and saw plenty of room for improvement—as a father, husband, friend, business owner, entrepreneur, and human being. I realized that if I could overcome the things blocking me from fully using my abilities, I would be miles ahead in the game of living.

As the clinic grew to be one of the larger mental-health clinics in Texas, I learned the hard way that some parents didn't care much, if anything, about their kids. Many of the children we saw were homeless, or abused, or simply ignored as they tried so desperately to find their place in life. In 1988 our foundation built a five-hundred-acre boys' ranch and, later, a ranch for girls. To this day that work continues, and I never cease to be amazed at how the kids flourish in the presence of "family" and parental care.

Over the next few years, I had the opportunity to work with many corporate executives through the Center for Executive Development at Texas A&M University, in College Station, Texas, where I live. These invitations came because others were hearing of the difference we were making in the lives of young people. The interim president of Texas A&M, Dr. Dean Gage, wanted to expose our work and way of thinking to corporate executives around the country. It was a tremendous time of growth and intellectual challenge for all of us. For one thing I learned that many corporate executives are a lot like enthusiastic kids. In fact, in some cases I couldn't find any differences at all, other than age! So often they grappled with many of the same issues; they just called them by different names. For example, in school you can be labeled ADD or ADHD, but then as an adult you are called an entrepreneur. Interesting how that works, isn't it?

Growing Greatness

Meanwhile, my two boys were growing up, and I wanted them to do well, too. One night the boys got into an argument, and the next thing I knew, a lot of yelling was going on. When I confronted them about it, one of them said, "Well, he isn't doing what I told him to do!" And there you have it. The same thing I had heard a business executive say that very morning—You're not doing what I told you to do!—before he started yelling at his employees. Lack of self-control didn't work for Matthew and Micah, and it didn't work for the executive, either, who soon discovered he was approaching an unexpected career crisis. By addressing the issue with my boys early on, I was hedging my bets they would not be doing the same thing at forty years of age! As a parent I wanted my sons to be the best they could be, to play at the top of their game—not just in business, but in life. I wanted to grow greatness in my children.

Today they are partners in a thriving company they bought together. As they put it, "Pop, we are having the time of our life."

For several years I presented lectures to graduating seniors at Texas A&M. A typical presentation would start with a question. As I walked in I would ask, "Why are you here?" The response was a roomful of blank faces. Then a lone voice would invariably pipe up.

"Do you mean here at A&M, or here in the auditorium, or here on the earth? What are you talking about?"


"To get a degree!"

"Why do you want a degree?"

"To get a job."

"Why do you want a job?"

"To buy a car!"

"Hmmm, let me see if I have this right. You came to Texas A&M four years ago and spent about one hundred thousand dollars so you could buy a car. Is that right?"

In that light the investment didn't seem like such a smart one.

Of course the next questions were the real ones: "What are you here for? What are your talents and gifts? What are your dreams? Why would you focus on a car rather than a purpose? What would happen if you lived your life to its fullest? What could you become if you identified your greatest strengths and removed your worst constraints?"

And that last question, my friend, is the question of your life.

I learned many years ago that it didn't matter how many hours I put in, or how hard I worked, I still couldn't get that much MORE out of my efforts. I was working as hard as I could at being my best, but I was still stuck. The growth I experienced was incremental—which was better than no growth at all—but it was not taking me where I wanted to go.

My clients and patients were being stifled by behaviors and thoughts that I believed they could and would change—if only they recognized them and the damage they were doing. They had plenty of talent and resources, but they let their attitudes and actions get in the way of using them. I also saw that specific behaviors were holding me back from becoming my best. I recognized the similarities between myself and other people who were struggling with their constraints: the distance runner who possessed great speed but lacked mental endurance, the promising junior executive who was too deferential to take charge, or the gifted young student who was simply too self-critical to see her true worth.

My goal was to identify the obstacles in our way and provide the skills to plow through them. I discovered that most limiting behaviors can be traced to a handful of distinct, measurable constraints. I began to develop strategies to release people from their constraints. This evolved into Overcoming Personal Constraints (OPC), the simple program I have used to help thousands of people from all walks of life.

Understanding the Secrets of Personal Success

Consider again the stories of Janice and Tony, the teenagers who arrived at the clinic facing such similar challenges. Working with our counselors they both exhibited what we've come to recognize as signs of low self-confidence, such as difficulty initiating action and making decisions, and periods of crippling self-doubt. But there was one big difference. Tony also demonstrated a lack of self-control that had a profoundly destructive impact because it was coupled with his anger. In his case the results were devastating: too impulsive to rein in his aggression, Tony got caught up with a violent, drug-dealing crowd and eventually landed in prison.

Janice, on the other hand, had enough self-control to stick with an action plan. Following the confidence-building steps mapped out by her counselor, she bonded with a group of other kids who were willing to be supportive and share their lives with her. Janice learned that she wasn't the only one with problems and that being vulnerable could ultimately empower her. As she practiced simple esteem-building skills such as making eye contact, affirming others, and allowing herself to relax and smile more often, her self-confidence began to increase. She recognized that her behaviors were compromising her potential, and she committed herself to working hard for the brighter future she now felt she deserved. With her self-confidence on the mend, Janice's natural abilities were finally able to blossom. In Janice's words, "I began to taste success, and I wanted more of it."

Two Diverging Roads

OPC is designed to help each of us enjoy the success that our self-defeating behaviors have hindered in our lives. Our personal constraints can define us only if we let them. When we ignore our constraints, we allow them to limit us; but when we identify and seek to overcome them, we dramatically improve our chances of success.

Daniel was a successful young executive with little ability to nurture others. About the time I began working with him, I was also hired to consult by a philanthropic organization run by a dynamic young executive named Peter. Interestingly, both men demonstrated remarkably similar strengths and constraints. Even though Peter ran a nonprofit organization, he had little desire to nurture others. How they handled their personal constraints, however, couldn't have been more different.

When I met with them individually, Daniel and Peter had the same reaction: each argued that his issues must not be that important or he wouldn't be so successful. In response I asked each man what he thought would happen if I brought in his wife or his closest associates. Would they agree with me? What would they say?

Daniel was quick to answer. "I guess they would tell you what I told them to tell you," he said jokingly.

Peter, on the other hand, was speechless, and as I watched him imagine the scenario, I could actually see tears well up in his eyes. "Oh, my gosh," he finally said, visibly struggling with the unpleasant realization of how others saw him. He looked at me with understanding. "I will change this," Peter said. "I promise."

That promise was the beginning of a wonderful new journey for Peter, and I was honored to lead him through each step of the process. First, he sat down with his top staff and asked for their honest feedback, resisting the impulse to argue, and requesting specific examples of any constraints that they agreed upon. He had deliberately planned the first meeting with his colleagues, rather than his wife, so he wouldn't be tempted to start a family argument. He came back with the examples they gave him, and we developed a personalized plan to address his constraints. He began to build affirming and nurturing behaviors into his life, giving genuinely supportive compliments to his staff and asking them how he could help them grow and be more successful.

Next, he asked his wife for her feedback. In response to her words, he made several changes. He cut out unnecessary travel, traded his golf weekends with his buddies for date nights with his wife, and committed to hugging her each time he left and returned. He chose his words more carefully, rather than giving in to his tendency to be critical, and began spending more time with his children. Within a few months he was back in my office with tears in his eyes once more—however, these were tears of joy. He told me the experience had changed his life. "Everything's different now. I'm in love with my wife, my children, and my life."

Daniel, however, has not fared so well. Rather than address his constraints, he instructed us to focus more on the people around him and in his organization. He knew that the people in the field, who didn't know him closely, would give a better report. They had such positive feelings about the organization's work that they felt good about Daniel, as well. But he didn't realize how little respect some of his key staff members had for him. As a result four of his top leaders have left the organization in the last year. As long as he can keep people coming up the ranks and filling in the slots, his organization will appear to be okay, but the constant departures are taking a toll on Daniel and on his firm. He is undermining his achievements by ignoring his constraints.

While everyone is on a life journey, not every traveler is willing to read the map to take the best route. You can choose to live life as you always have, or you can choose to identify and overcome what has held you back.

As a psychotherapist, I've learned what works—sometimes painfully. After seeing many thousands of patients over three and a half decades, building a nonprofit clinic and residential treatment facilities, building several successful privately held companies, having privileges at two psychiatric hospitals, and having clients that ranged from drug addicts to world-class athletes to corporate moguls running multinational companies, I've discovered five foundational principles that determine where a person goes with his or her life. I've also discovered the ten most deadly constraints that can absolutely destroy you if left unchecked.

2 The Foundations of OPC

I have always been interested in what made some people successful while others just plugged along at a lesser level. Why does Tiger Woods continue to outperform other golfers? Why does Katie Couric continue moving up while others get fired? Why does Terry Bradshaw continue to be an anchor in broadcasting long after others have faded? Why, why, why? I was full of questions, and it seemed the only way to get the answers was to go to as many highly successful people as I could, study them, and find out what differences existed between them and their lower-performing peers.

So I did.

We studied everybody we could get access to—and that was a pretty impressive group of people. We studied the top performers on Wall Street, and we studied many of the top performers in industry. We studied many of the world's top athletes from all kinds of sports, and we studied kids who were exceptional in test scores and performance. We studied television personalities, and we studied moms and dads who were doing an outstanding job raising their kids. We studied our nation's top educators, and we studied many of the titans of the manufacturing world. We studied top people in retailing, and we studied top people in the military. We studied everyone we could get information on, and we are still studying people, because we want to continue to refine our understanding of the differences between those who perform at the top and those who don't.

Theories of Success

At the heart of Overcoming Personal Constraints (OPC) is the powerful notion that our strengths do not single-handedly define our success. No matter how formidable our talents, we are held back by behaviors that set the limits of our performance or define the reasons for our failure. In other words, our personal constraints determine our ultimate level of success. If you can identify those constraints and make a plan to overcome them, then you'll see a dramatic surge in success, productivity, and happiness in all aspects of your life. In short you'll learn who you were born to be.

The Personal Constraint Theory of success challenges two prevailing approaches to self-improvement that frequently did not work for my clients: Personality Theory and Strength Theory. Personality Theory asserts that our personalities are essentially fixed in ways that define how we act. A broad field that encompasses several sometimes-conflicting views of "the self," Personality Theory offers little help identifying issues or strategies for improvement. I agree with the underlying idea that our innate characteristics or traits often define who we are, but Personality Theory fails to acknowledge our tremendous capacity for making positive change in our lives and, thus, offers limited use as a tool for growth. Dozens of profiles can describe your personality. Tests such as DiSC, Myers-Briggs, and Taylor-Johnson are interesting to take and helpful in describing your personality, but they are not particularly useful in bringing about behavioral change or directing personal growth.

Another popular school of thought, known as Strength Theory, suggests that if we pay attention to the directions in which we move naturally, this can reveal our strengths and show us where to focus our energies. Strength Theory goes something like this: our hardwired personalities resist change, so we should build on our natural abilities instead of concentrating on areas in which we underperform. In other words, to quote the phrase by which this theory has been popularized, we should "play to our strengths." I certainly agree with the basic concept of Strength Theory—why work in an office when you are a gifted musician or stay in a job you hate just because it pays a decent wage? Find your gifts, develop them, and use them for the highest and greatest good.

Strength Theory contributes to success. But it's not enough. If you know your strengths but are trying to get to the next level, playing harder to those strengths won't cause a significant jump in performance. Most people I work with don't need pep talks about being better at what they're already great at or loving themselves as they are. Telling a highly creative person with no self-control to simply celebrate and expand his creativity, for example, would be counterproductive: his or her gifts can never be fully expressed without the focus and discipline that come with self-control.

Neither Personality Theory nor Strength Theory has been greatly useful to my work. The idea that my personality is impervious to change doesn't help me much when I am trying to make my life better. And being told to focus on my strengths doesn't address the behaviors I need to correct in order to move forward.

In contrast, Overcoming Personal Constraints is built on the notion that change is more than possible; it is imperative. To live fully we can and must learn how to minimize our behavioral weaknesses while we maximize our strengths. Granted, many obstacles are difficult to overcome, and a single-minded focus on our limitations could be frustrating and even depressing. But to ignore them is even worse.

Personal Constraints Set Your Limits

How do personal constraints determine success?

Simple. They set the limits for where you can ultimately go, no matter how gifted or talented you are. Your personal constraints—your conscious and unconscious limiting behaviors—hold you back and determine your ultimate level of success.

Most of us know at least one person in life who possesses great talents, abilities, gifts, or opportunities yet seems to have done so little with it all. Perhaps you might be looking at your own life so far and wondering, Have I really been living to the fullest of my abilities? If you're like most people, the answer is, "Probably not."

So what makes some people different? What makes some people rise to the top of their personal or professional spheres? I started looking at people who were categorized as "the best" in their fields. I asked myself: What makes them the best? I knew that it was more than their strengths that ultimately made the difference in how people performed.

That is when I came up with the concept of personal constraints. I knew even before all our testing was complete that somehow the answers to my questions lay more in limitations than strengths.

During this data-gathering process, I asked our staff, "Who is the number-one influence in sports?" Immediately one of them said, "Mark McCormack."

From Skeptic to Believer

Mark McCormack was indeed one of the greatest influences in contemporary sports in the last century. He shook hands with Arnold Palmer in 1960 in a deal that changed the endorsement world forever. Prior to that, virtually no one had ever heard of endorsement deals. From that historic moment Mark began building International Management Group (IMG), a global company that represents everyone from Tiger Woods to the pope to Nobel Prize winners.

And I was sitting in Mark McCormack's study, talking to him about how to become better. I had to be either stupid. . .or onto something.

Mark thought I was stupid. But his wife didn't. She was a well-respected tennis great, having won numerous professional tennis titles in a twenty-three-year career, and she was sitting next to him on the couch. Thank goodness for wives. Betsy said, "If this works, if you can really help someone identify the things holding them back—and then do something about them—you can sign me up right here. How do we do it?"

Mark, on the other hand, looked at her enthusiasm with more than a little skepticism and went off to do some work in his office. He was going to be a tough case, and I knew it. An hour later he rejoined us.

I asked him, "Mark, what would you say if I could show you the number-one personal constraint that is holding you back from performing at a much higher level than you are at now?"

He didn't hesitate. "I don't believe you could."

Finally, after some discussion, he decided that he wanted to go through the process himself to explore the concept of personal constraints and how they could impact someone's performance. I joined Mark and Betsy in the den to begin a life-changing growth process.

As we sat discussing Betsy's career, she asked a great question. "If I couldn't get better by practicing more, then what should I have done?" That question brought us to the Flippen Profile, the instrument I had developed and used successfully with so many people.

Betsy was a great tennis player, and she still plays as tough a game as you will ever see. At seventeen, she had been ranked as the world's top junior player. She held five singles titles and twenty-five doubles titles in her amazing career.

When she asked what her personal constraints were, I was really on the spot. I don't know anything about tennis, and I didn't yet know she had played competitively, and I sure didn't know that she had won as many tournaments as she had. Yet there was her question: "What are the personal constraints that are holding me back?"

I asked Betsy to fill out the Flippen Profile so we could go over the data and see what it identified as her most impacting personal constraints. As we looked over her scores, we turned to the coaching pages that isolated her top personal constraints. The most impacting personal constraints for Betsy were her high-nurturing scales and her low aggression. She did not have the killer instinct required to play at the level she was competing at. In other words her talent and skill had brought her this far, but her personal constraints would keep her out of the number-one spot. I am in awe of Betsy's talent and drive. But, ironically, the same love and consideration for others that have made her a wonderful mother and friend turned out to be the constraint that kept her from going on the court and "destroying" the opponent.

When I showed her the data, she leaned back in her chair and sighed. Mark was sitting next to her, and he laughed.

"See? I have been telling you that for years! I was right, wasn't I?"

That created a dilemma for Mark, as he was now seeing that this process was something that he could really agree with. There was another question that he had to answer as well—he had known her for years, and I had known her for less than an hour. How could I know what I know so quickly? But the truth was the truth. Betsy was too nurturing and not aggressive enough to be able to win at the level she wanted to play at. This was most apparent when she played against someone she really liked. Her pattern was invariably to lose the first set and then try to come back and win after she had placed herself behind. Creating a handicap is not a good way to play at the top.

"Betsy," I said, "can you imagine what would happen if we could not only identify your top personal constraints but create a plan so you could start immediately to overcome them?"

Well, she could, and she did—and so did Mark.

Throwing Out the Weights

A few years ago I took my boys Matthew and Micah on our annual guys' outing: a grueling, six-day, backpacking trip in the mountains of Colorado.


On Sale
Dec 6, 2007
Page Count
272 pages

Flip Flippen

About the Author

Flip Flippen is the head of The Flippen Group, the fastest growing corporate training company in America. He’s trained some of the most influential companies and individuals in the U.S., including football legend Terry Bradshaw, Wall Street hot shots Rich Aslop and Mark Bourgeois, IMG founder Mark McCormack, and Joel Osteen’s team at Lakewood Church.

Learn more about this author