Meet the Flipsters

Conversations on the Bridge

A Conversation with Mark Bryan
(The complete Flip interview, with only minor edits, not found in the book)

Mark Bryan ( is an author, consultant, speaker, trainer and creativity expert. With Julia Cameron, he helped develop The Artist’s Way, a course that has helped over 2 million participants realize their creative potential. Applying the same principles of creativity and innovation to the business world, Mark subsequently penned the best-selling book The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon. Another collaboration with Julia Cameron resulted in the book Money Drunk / Money Sober (90 Days to Financial Freedom). Mark has also published The Prodigal Father: Reuniting Fathers and Their Children and Codes of Love: How to Rethink Your Family and Remake Your Life and created the Showtime feature film Annie O.

In The Prodigal Father and Codes of Love, Mark offers insights into reclaiming our lives and our relationships with our families. In these books, he shares many personal challenges and triumphs. We asked what it feels like to be in the midst of such turmoil and what provides the turning point. “Sometimes we need to get a system completely out of equilibrium,” Mark replied, “in order for it to reorganize. I’ve experienced that personally. Whatever we’re struggling with – drinking, drugs, troubled families, flunking out of school – we often can’t hear anybody else over the recordings in our heads: ‘I’m a failure. The world sucks. Life is meaningless.” All of that nihilistic existential stuff. Many people think it’s only them; they’re the only ones stuck there. That’s the trap. It feels like a place they can’t get out of. But that’s not true.

“Once you finally sense that something is wrong, that self-sense leads you to the next level. You get your ideas and you follow up on those ideas. You enter into an oscillating process of intense, concentrated effort followed by letting go. When I work with someone in a situation like this I try to a) remind them that they’re not alone, b) give them some basic life skills training, and c) let them know what they need to succeed – a sense of humor, the care of at least one loving adult who sees them and has some information to impart, and high expectations.”

And how do you approach troubled organizations? “We need input from all levels of the organization,” says Mark. “The first thing I want to do is break down the ‘us and them.’ If management loses labor, it’s over. If labor capsizes management, it’s over, too. So we really need to balance both of those perspectives and get everyone on the same page.

“I don’t think there’s ever going to be a completely flat organization. People need a leader to provide direction. But communication going up a hierarchical ladder tends to be skewed positive; the more risk of embarrassment or shame I sense, the less likely I am to tell the unvarnished truth. Conversely, those who are in power tend to obfuscate the truth from those who are not in power; they don’t want to give anything away. Not that I mean to blame the people who’ve made it to the top. They didn’t invent the structure. They just said, “How can I win?” And they went about doing that. But the net result can be a sort of institutionalized stupidity.

“Intelligence was once defined as the ability to overcome obstacles. I think the danger of reductionist thinking is that we can break something down too much and lose the big picture, which is disastrous. Look at America’s Big Three automakers. They’re all basically gone as car companies and just surviving on their financial organizations. How did they get out-innovated? They went the reductionist way, I think, to the degree that they cut off their workers’ input. They could have had a million people all acting as radar for new ideas and innovations. Instead they invested in a hierarchy that separated the minds of the workers from the minds of management. They institutionalized a structure that ensured their own demise.”

Is it too late for these companies to reinvent themselves? “The institutional forces against truth and change can be extraordinary. Most change efforts are imposed from the outside by consultants stating, ‘Alright, we’re going to reengineer this corporation and change everything.’ They set themselves up failure because everyone in the organization is going to respond, ‘Wait a minute; I’ve put a lot of work into this.’

“Most of what gets dubbed ‘change effort’ is really just another way for the existing management to let go of workers and outsource. And the more companies do that, the more likely they will go under. The company may experience short-term gains. But at some point, they find they’ve eliminated so much of their institutional memory and creativity that the remaining employees have become conservative; they don’t want to risk even a good idea, because they don’t want to be noticed for the next pink slip. So the company begins to die of attrition. An organization is either moving toward trust or toward fear. If it’s moving toward trust, it’s an open and potentially creative place. If it’s moving toward fear, it’s dead.”

So how do you help organizations build that trust and create positive change? Mark takes a low-key, collaborative approach. “What I do is go in and ask, ‘What’s it like to work here? What are your successes? What are the most important things you’ve accomplished?’ And then we build on their successes through creativity and innovation. Creativity is the ability to find solutions, newer ways of doing things that are equal to or better than the ones that came before. It’s that contagious spark of ‘Hey! This is a great idea!’ Innovation is combining the creative idea with your skills and knowledge to bring something real to the marketplace.”

Does Mark see a flip taking place in the world? “I believe in the human spirit. For every act of selfishness, there is at least one corresponding act of altruism. Certainly there’s a lot more altruism than murder out there, contrary to what our media and leaders might have us believe. We’re not allowed to see half of what’s going on, and when we do it’s all skewed and spun. But I think we’ll start to see a shift from the short-sighted conservatism that is so prevalent today to a more far-thinking and inclusive view. An example of a more far-sighted conservative view might be something like, ‘Let’s provide all kids the best education we can as early as we can, so we can keep them out of prisons and mental hospitals as adults. They will lead better lives and they will contribute to society instead of becoming a burden.’

“A truly egalitarian society is difficult to build in a world where natural gifts differ so markedly from one person to the next. But I believe that the only thing we can and should do is to continue the attempt. To what nobler aim could we apply our creativity?”



The Flip, by Jared Rosen and David Rippe, illuminates a clear path to a vibrant enlightened world where millions of people already live and thrive. It describes in vivid detail and real examples evidence of an upside down world in decay and a Right Side Up world of authentic beings bright with possibility.
The Flip is an owner’s manual for the twenty-first century full of insights, conversations with recognized experts, thought leaders, and visionaries, and actionable exercises and tips you can use to begin your own personal flip.

To read more about The Flip and additional interviews from other luminaries, experts and bestselling authors, please visit

The Flip is available at your local bookstore or online at, Barnes & Noble, Joseph-Beth, and Borders.


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