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

A self help book aimed at the art and advertising world to help you sell better. The book mainly focuses on changing how your mind thinks. It does a pretty decent job of motivating you and inspiring you to be more creative and take some risks. I picked it up in the Guggenheim museum gift shop and flipped through a couple pages. The few pages I read got me to buy it. It's short, easy to read, and the writing is presented in a simple format with some pictures to get your attention. It's very cliche but I think there is some merit in some of Paul Arden's writing in this book such as: "Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have," "Firstly you need to aim beyond what you're capable of," "If you're involved in something that goes wrong, never blame others. Blame no one but yourself," and "Try to do things that you're incapable of."


All creative people need something to rebel against, it’s what gives their lives excitement, and it’s creative people who make the client’s lives exciting.

If instead of seeking approval, you ask, “What’s wrong with it? How can I make it better? you are more likely to get a truthful, critical answer.

Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have.

Most people are looking for a solution, a way to become good. There is no instant solution, the only way to learn is through experience and mistakes.

Firstly you need to aim beyond what you’re capable of.

Try to do the things that you’re incapable of.

People who are conventionally clever get jobs on their qualifications (the past), not on their desire to succeed (the future).

Very simply, they get overtaken by those people who continually strive to be better than they are.

If you are involved in something that goes wrong, never blame others. Blame no one but yourself.

Give away everything you know and more will come back to you.

Whatever is on your desk right now, that’s the one. Make it the best you possibly can.

Find out what’s right about your product or service and dramatize it.

If instead you undersell, pointing out the possible weaknesses and how to resolve them, should they occur, you are not only building a trusting relationship with your client but you’re able to solve many problems.

Benjamin Franklin said, “I don’t haven’t failed, I’ve had 10,000 ideas that didn’t work…. All of them understood that failures and false starts are a precondition of success.

Risks are a measure of people. People who won’t take them are trying to preserve what they have.

Pg 60-61 – A picture of a car with sign that says “sale” on one page and on the other page a picture of a car with a sign that reads “Pre-fire sale” The one that says “Pre fire sale” catches the attention.

Invent a look that dramatizes the product or service you’re selling without regard for fashion…. It should be obvious who it’s an ad for without seeing the brand name. However fleetingly a viewer may see the ad they must have at least a subconscious realization that they’ve been exposed to that particular company’s advertising.

To be original, seek your inspiration from unexpected sources.

Nearly everybody likes to win awards. Awards create glamour and glamour creates income. But beware. Awards are judged in committee by consensus of what is known. In other words, what is in fashion. But originality can’t be fashionable, because it hasn’t as yet had the approval of the committee. Do not try to follow fashion. Be true to your subject and you will be far more likely to create something that is timeless. That’s where the true art lies.

Realize that companie’s reputations are also built on one or two people. Aim to be that person or one of them. [My note: Is this true? Are organizations’ reputation really only built on one or two people?]

The word “creative” is the currency with which ad agencies create.

Before you make your pitch, find out exactly what your client means by the word creative.

If you can find a way of summing up what the client wants to feel about his company but cannot express himself, you’ve got him. He is yours.

When I mention that I am in advertising, people’s instinctive reaction is that you are trying to sell people things they don’t want. They regard advertising as being a bit distasteful. I am no more or less distasteful than you. Yes, of course, I am selling. But so are all of you.

You are hustling and selling or trying to make people buy something. Your services or your point of view. Tupperware parties, for example. They are selling. You clean your car to sell it, showing it to its best advantage. People even put bread in the oven to make their houses smell nice when they are trying to sell them. The way you dress when going for an interview or a party, or merely putting lipstick on. Aren’t you selling yourself? Your priest is selling. He is selling what he believes in. God. The point is we are all selling. We are all in advertising. It is part of life.

Life’s creative circle:

Ages 0-1 Nothing
Ages 1-3 Minimalism
Ages 3-5 Fantasy
Ages 5-10 The beginnings of copying
Ages 10-15 Art becomes grown up
Ages 15-20 A need to change the world
Ages 20-25 Beginnings of political awareness
Ages 25-30 Maturity
Ages 30-40 Hell bent on success
Ages 40-45 Repeating success
Ages 45-50 Trying to keep up with the 25-year olds
Ages 50-60 Reinventing yourself
Ages 60-75 A gentle decline into senility
Ages 75-85 Youth regained
Ages 85-100 Inhibitions lost. Don’t give a damn. Me, Me, Me

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