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

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(as good as you make it)

Why I hated the book

First up Paul Arden is considered an advertising guru. This worried me because he could easily oversell his book. It’s his job to make something appealing, and make you decide you have to have it.

So on my first reading, about a year ago, I found it a little annoying. The book only has a few paragraphs of writing in it, but overall it’s not dissimilar to a bunch of motivational posters bound together in book form. I read the book in 20 minutes. It is aesthetically pleasing, so I figured it had that going for it.

Many of the books points seemed obvious, and I was cautious that it was trying to puff up people’s view of themselves without actually backing it up with anything.

I’m No.1 so why should I try?

Maybe I wasn’t in the right headspace and felt a little let down by the sparse content. So I put the book down.

Why I re-read it

Fast-forward a year or so later, I was looking for something to read and found this book on several lists.

What? Why?

It’s good practice to ask yourself if you could be wrong. If you’re never wrong, you can never learn from your mistakes.

So, I picked up the book again.

This time, it was a very different experience.

Where I had gone wrong the first time round, was that I was expecting the author to do what authors usually do, explain everything. Convincing the reader that they have some insight is half the job. The other side of the convincing coin is that it’s hard to sell books that are only 20 pages. No! No! No! I can hear their publisher yelling. Fill it out more, we need it be at least 150 pages!

So authors get to work filling out their books with anecdotes, pictures, and anything else that will help prove their points.

With this book, it’s assumed you know that Mr. Arden knows what he’s talking about, so he skips the bullsh*t.

Why I loved it the 2nd time round

When people do interesting things, it’s often because they aren’t doing what everyone else is doing. This book tells you not to chase after awards, because awards are other  an average of people’s standards. What if you’re chasing an award, and get it. Now what? Have you reached the pinnacle of your profession? If you think you’ve made it, then you’ve made a mistake. There is only the act of reaching.

Seeking praise from other people will only stunt your growth because you’ll stop learning. Aim to be so good that the people you would seek approval from are so far behind you in skill that their opinions don’t matter. The second reason why wanting validation is dangerous, is that it makes you hypercritical of making mistakes. Don’t go out to make mistakes to begin with, but don’t discount the value of mistakes either. You learn best from your mistakes.

I’m not sure if this was on purpose, but the minimalism forces the reader to think deeper about the principles if they want to get value from it. So, if you want to get a lot from this book, be willing to work on your beliefs, and ok with having some egg on your face.

It’s a very simple book, but that’s it’s charm.

I think it was Socrates that said: “The wise man learns from everything and everyone, the ordinary man learns from his experience, and the fool knows everything better.