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Book Review: “Flip It”

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | March 9, 2010

Once there was a young blind woman who was very unhappy with her life.  She complained continuously and nobody liked her very much.  Nobody, that is, except her boyfriend, who was deeply in love.  He begged her to marry and at length she told him she would marry him after an organ donor was found and her sight was restored.

In time, an anonymous donor was found and the transplant took place.  When the bandages were unwound and the young woman began to see, she had a rude shock.  Her boyfriend’s eyes were shut.  She had never considered the possibility that he might be blind.

“I can’t marry you,” she told him. “I would never be able to look at your closed eyes for the rest of my life.  It would remind me how unhappy I was when I was blind.”  So the young man went away in sadness.

About a week later, she received a letter from her ex-boyfriend. “Take good care of your eyes, ” it said.  “They used to belong to me.”

This story appears near the end of a short book entitled “Flip It.”.  The author, Michael Heppell, asked readers: how could this dilemma have been resolved? He doesn’t give the answer, but I suspect that the most common suggestion he received was that the young man donate one eye. I think that is an unsatisfactory answer.  More about that at the end of this book review.

“Flip It” is a book about the way you and I think and how to change it.  When the way we think gets in the way of solving a problem, reaching a goal or even happiness itself, there is a way to change the outcome by changing the way we think.  Its not that hard — just “flip it.”

Instead of asking, “why does this always happen to me?”, ask:

How did this happen?

How can I get back on track quickly?

How can I avoid having it happen again?

What can I learn from this experience?

The word “why” is a “dis-empowering” word.  It implies that others are doing unto you and there is not much that you can do for yourself. It leads to answers that don’t change the dilemma.

The word “how”, on the other hand, is an “empowering” word. It acts as a key to change.

Michael Heppell suggests that a change of perspective — flipping it — changes the mind set, changes the perceived available options, changes the outcome.  If you tell yourself that you are too tired or hopelessly out of time, chances are you will let yourself off the hook on your resolution to exercise.  These are common excuses for inaction.  But if you “flip it” and say that you could use more energy or need to find some time, possibilities start to become evident.

While “flipping it” is a mental exercise useful to anyone, it is particularly beneficial to a lawyer.  When a client comes to a lawyer, he usually brings along a big problem that must be addressed immediately.  Often the client thinks he is in a box — trapped with no apparent (to the client) way out.

Nevertheless, a creative lawyer may be able to flip the issue on which the case turns from a loser to a winner.  Sometimes this involves observing seemingly innocent facts and getting them on the record, to point out their significance later, after the record is closed.

Heppell applies the flip it technique to a wide variety of life situations in the book.  However, the challenge is always the same. A mind set must be overcome by flipping limiting ideas and assumptions on their head and attacking the problem from the new perspective of the rear or the flank or perhaps even the top or bottom.

So now lets return to the formerly blind girl and her newly blind lover.

If you suggest that he should have given her only one eye, I have several objections to the efficacy of that solution. By the time the dilemma has been presented to us, the donation had already been made.  Moreover, seeing her boyfriend’s one blind eye would presumably still have reminded her of her former blindness.

The real problem was that she was still hung up on blindness as a source of unhappiness. Moreover, she was incapable of viewing the circumstance from any perspective but her own. Even after gaining sight, the image of her husband-to-be without eyes brought the old feelings back.  Did she ask herself “why do these things happen to me?” Probably. Stuck in a rut.

This is a mental problem and can only be cured by a change of mind.  The solution is to confront this mental roadblock with a mind flip.  So you ask: “How could that mental change be effected?”  Eureka! At last we’re asking the right question!

The answer is, he already did it.

When she learned that he donated his own eyes, she should have suddenly realized that he loved her so much, wanted her to be happy so much, wanted to marry her so much, that he paid an incredible price to give her the gift she most desired in life. This stunning information should have created a mind flip of gigantic proportions.  Suddenly, his closed eyelids would no longer be a reminder of her old unhappiness, but would take on the new meaning of his deep and selfless love. Now, when she gazed upon her blind husband, she would be filled with happiness and gratitude.

But then again, maybe not.  Maybe the feelings of self pity were so strong and deeply ingrained that she could never flip them to gratitude and happiness. And if that turns out to be the case, it is just too bad.

But at least he found out before making a lifetime commitment what his bride-to-be was truly like.  If she is so flawed that she could not find happiness in such a gift, he is almost certainly better off without her. At least, he still has a chance to find someone who can love and cherish him for who he is and perhaps he can find the happiness which would have been absent in a marriage to his former girlfriend.

I recommend that you try “Flip It” as an audiobook, read by the author. Then go forth and flip some of your most cherished and useless beliefs.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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