Until 1968, few athletics fans, let alone the general public, had ever heard of the American Dick Fosbury. That changed during the 1968 Olympic Games, when Fosbury introduced a totally new high jump style: the Fosbury flop. Using this flop, he jumped over 2.24 meters, smashed the world record and easily won a gold medal.
It’s an anecdote that Paul Arden tells in his book because it is so typical of the way of thinking that he likes to spread: to be really successful, you have to leave the beaten track and dare to do things that are completely new. What’s more, the author argues, even bad decisions have their good sides, because the only big risk in life and in business is to lose yourself in certainty. And that’s when the problems really start.
“Whatever you think, think the opposite” is typical of a book to be enjoyed in short bursts. Arden sprinkles his ideas with amusing anecdotes and funny stories, but also with truly interesting views. It is a book that shows you that you don’t get ahead because you have made the wrong decisions, but precisely the right decisions, the decisions that make sense, that are expected of you and that everyone expects to work.
However, the problem with sensible decisions is, of course, that everyone makes them, so they don’t help you forward at all. Even dismissal carries with it the germs of something better and bigger than slogging away in the same place in a job without prospects, the author writes.
Arden’s book is a potpourri of ideas, quotes, tracts, poor advice and philosophical musings that are easy to read and often continue to reverberate long after you have finished. The author’s witty style (what else would you expect from someone who comes from advertising) is an added bonus.
Paul Arden studied at Beckenham Art College (a course he never finished) and in the 1970s he worked as art director at various British advertising agencies, including DDB, Lintas and Coleman & Partners.
In the 1980s, he was creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, during a period when the agency produced some of its most iconic advertising campaigns, including for The Independent and British Airways (“The World’s Favorite Airline”).
In the early 1990s, he bid farewell to advertising and set up a film production company. In 2003, he wrote his first bestseller: “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be”. Around this time, he also opened a photo gallery. He died of a heart attack in early April 2008.
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