The Man Behind The World’s Best Selling Book

Paul Arden

Paul Arden? Never heard of him.

Arden was a titan of British advertising, best known as the creative powerhouse at Saatchi & Saatchi during their boom years.

He was also entirely unknown to me when I first chanced upon his first book, a masterpiece buried beneath a clumsy title:

“It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be”

That title screamed ‘self-help for the feckless’. The cover’s clever-clever visual gag (“THE WORLD’S BEST SELLING BOOK… by Paul Arden”) irked me. The logo of the publisher, Phaidon, was the only element that caught my eye.

But that 128 page book – alongside the follow up, Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite – challenged much. Not just in my work, but in many aspects of my life.

Arden laboured to slay presumption, lazy thinking, cliche and orthodoxy. He illustrated a playful creativity to problem solving that was an immediate and lasting inspiration.

Arden wasn’t interested in peddling ideas. Instead, he demonstrated ways of thinking: the art of looking sideways, to borrow the title of another Phaidon book.

Like David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man, Arden’s advice is peerless. I have recommended his debut to dozens – perhaps hundreds – of people in the five years since it was published.

Not just to marketeers, but to journalists, research scientists, students, internet entrepreneurs, teachers, designers…

Arden passed away this week, prompting endlessly entertaining anecdotes in his Book of Condolence and broadsheet obituaries (see The Guardian and The Telegraph). These provide but a taste of the man’s genius.

Arden’s books shifted my thinking by ninety degrees. I hope they will continue to do the same for others after his death.

I insist you obtain copies by any means necessary.

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