Book Review
Title: "Flip the Script: How to Turn the Tables and Win in Business and in Life"
Author: Bill Wackermann
Publisher: Free Press, 2012; 240 pages; $20.80

Since time eternal, there has been a polarization between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor, the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Knowing, as I do, many folks on both sides, it’s clear that at least some of the antipathy between the groups is rooted in perceived oppression from one side against the other.

But I also believe that a big chunk of the bad blood is due to a widespread belief on the part of the 99 percent that most members of the 1 percent were born with unfair advantage — that things come easier to the wealthy, and that they simply don’t have to overcome the same challenges and obstacles as everyone else.

Our entrepreneurial heroes — and the coverage they get in the press — don’t help correct this belief. While our cultural heroes of old always came complete with a rags-to-riches story, these days, it’s easy to believe that most business winners came out of the womb with a vision and had to scale nary an obstacle before achieving it by their 25th birthday.

Enter Bill Wackermann, executive vice president and publisher at one of the world’s leading magazine corporations, Conde Nast. With his new book, "Flip the Script: How to Turn the Tables and Win in Business and Life," Wackermann is on a mission to inject some reality into today’s messaging about what it truly takes to find success.

Describing his upbringing as one of six kids in a family that struggled financially, Wackermann says that his own success came "in the absence of any extraordinary opportunity or vision," and ascribes it to his "flipping the script" approach — an obsessive focus on "creating opportunities where none existed."

Here, in the characteristic "better-grounded, reality-based" language Wackermann uses throughout "Flip the Script," are a few of his tools for thriving in life, no matter how little you started with:

1. "Name your flip." Flipping the script, according to Wackermann, is simply taking the approach to life of seizing control over your circumstances and finding the best way to manage them to create the career and the life you want, rather than allowing your circumstances, your emotions and your expectations to control you.

Wackermann cites examples from his early life where he learned to have faith that setting up a goal, countering every negative expectation with a positive belief and forcing yourself to find a way to make it happen often resulted in outcomes that defied all obstacles and fears.

That said, Wackermann points out that many of the most downtrodden, pessimistic people he’s encountered can’t even name what they truly want for their life, and why they want it, when pressed. "Flip the Script" devotes a great deal of insight and attention to giving readers permission to dream big, and urging them to name their dreams and their reasons for dreaming them with great specificity — it’s a prerequisite to making the flip actually happen.

2. Harness the power of "So what?" Wackermann describes his mother as a loving, but tough-talking, cigarette-smoking Irish mother of six, who forced her children to be independent and frequently challenged their protests or complaints with a brusque, "So what?" And he advises that readers ask themselves the same exact question when they run into obstacles or challenges in life. Asking yourself, "So what?" when you hit a roadblock achieves three key mental challenges, according to Wackermann:

  • It frees your mind from being stuck so you can see new alternatives.
  • It stimulates fresh thinking and renewed focus.
  • It creates new strategies and contingency plans.

3. Stop sabotaging yourself. Wackermann writes that it is essential to understand your natural tendencies — strengths and weaknesses, both — and to manage them when you know they might result in self-sabotage in your efforts to make a flip.

Whether you’re a know-it-all who needs to focus on understanding what you don’t know and learning to value the input of your colleagues, or you struggle to take constructive criticism well, learning to recognize where your personality issues might be sabotaging your career and other goals and making the intentional decision to disallow that from happening empowers you to making your "flips" in life more quickly and effectively.

"Flip the Script" is full of anecdotes, rules and "Flip Tips" that combine to create a holistic and realistic guide for anyone who is tired of playing the hand they’ve been dealt in life and is ready to level up.

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