Book Club July 2017



The Marketing Bookclub, July 2017 – By Linsey Wooldridge

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’ by Paul Arden


Why have you chosen It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be?

If you ever experience self-doubt in business, this is an easy, essential read –  a thought-provoking collection of ideas, suggestions and practical advice from one of advertising’s original ‘Mad Men’.

Described as “brilliant, bad, charming, irascible and totally off the wall”, author Paul Arden was a true original, with an abundance of drive and energy. Here, he condenses his years of advertising experience into one pithy, witty volume. The contents are one man’s ideas, but what a mind that man had: creative genius with a knack for common sense that is anything but common.

Dubbed by some to be a motivational book capable of turning people into superhuman geniuses – something I’d suggest is a stretch – Arden’s book is an easily-read catalyst for change and all-round pocket kick-up-the-rear motivator. Arden gets you thinking, to reevaluate what you know or think you know. To be big or good or great, you have to think yourself big or good or great, which is what the book sets out to help with.  The clue is in the subtitle – “The world’s bestselling book” – which stakes a claim to its lofty vision of itself. This certainly worked for me, as I plucked it from the shelf over the million other titles promising me inspiration, salvation and the meaning of life through marketing!

Arden’s book is small but crams in plenty of tips. Eight sections cover topics including having ideas, solving problems, presenting, making a difference and winning new business. The advice and ideas that follow aren’t revolutionary. They don’t uncover the secrets of instant success and there is a fair amount of repetition. But the book does make you think about the merits of being unconventional, and how this might link to success. As an aside, each chapter makes you question what you want from your life and career, providing tips to help attain your goals.  

In the first few pages, Arden encourages you to set your bar high and aim beyond what you consider yourself capable of. And then there are his “Fundamentals”: “Do not seek praise. Seek criticism”, “Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you”, “Don’t promise what you can’t deliver”. My favourite nugget of advice is that “It’s wrong to be right; It’s right to be wrong”. Arden argues anything is possible when you’re not trying to be right. Yes, there’s a greater risk of failing, and yes, you’re in unknown territory, but there’s more chance of creating something remarkable in your work when you try to upset convention and break the rules.

What will business owners gain from the book?

Arden’s book was written for advertisers, designers and marketers but in reality, the wisdom in the book is applicable to anyone who wants to succeed.  There is a practical bias towards the business world of advertising and media, but this book will appeal to any business owner interested in creativity, the power of imagination and thinking for themselves.

Billed as a “pocket bible for the talented and timid”, It’s Not How Good You Are is an espresso for a jaded creative system; a tequila shot of motivation from an expert source. And we could all use one of those in our work as marketers and otherwise.

If readers enjoy this book, which other book would you recommend?

Anything by Seth Godin for a similarly wayward, energetic and thought-provoking approach.