Book Review: It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden
by Paul Arden
Subtitled The world’s bestselling book, this short, vivid, quirky book is one of the most effective cures for tired thinking that I can prescribe.
Paul Arden was one of the most creative spirits in English advertising in the 1980s and 90s. He had a remarkable ability to take the most familiar products, brands and topics in a new direction. Luckily for us, there was a lot more to him than just inspired genius; he worked diligently to make his breakthroughs. Moreover, he understood his own process, was thoughtful about it and shared it in a series of short books. This is the first one.
I have recommended this book many many times and even now, 20 years after it was published - and 14 years after Paul Arden’s too early death - it still reads as fresh and challenging.
Each idea is presented with dramatic concision. Bold text and bold ideas. When Arden says It’s wrong to be right he’s not just being provoactive: he means it.
Being right is based upon knowledge and experience and is often provable.
Knowledge comes from the past, so it’s safe. It’s also out of date. It’s the opposite of originality.
And yet he can also turn this around: It’s right to be wrong.
Start being wrong and suddenly anything is possible.
You’re no longer trying to be infallible.
When I worked at Microsoft I had these two chapters stuck to my office door: one on the way in, the other on the way out. I wanted to be ready to be wrong. I frequently was.
I hope I don’t give the impression that this book is flippant or clever. It’s really not. There is practical advice here, such as the value of rough layouts in design. And there are deep values: Arden also wrote God Explained in a Taxi Ride exploring basic spiritual questions in a lively way.
This is a natural first book for me to recommend, not so much because I learned new techniques from it (although I did) but because it helped me better understand my own thinking: my contrariness, my restlessness, my desire to turn everything upside down.
It’s a short read so if you don’t like it, it will soon be over. But I am sure many of you, like me, will keep it handy for years to come.
You can find it here.
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