Cover: It's Not How Good You Are... by Paul Arden

… a concise guide to making the most of yourself – a pocket ‘bible’ for the talented and timid to make the unthinkable thinkable and the impossible possible.

Whether you are a school-leaver, self-employed or a managing director, this book is invaluable for everyone who aspires to succeed.

The blurb text on the back was like a red rag to a pedantic bull, and I had to read it. Perhaps this was indeed the careers bible (cheap at only £5.95)! Perhaps this was the slim text I would find myself recommending to all but the most already-terrifyingly gregarious! Perhaps this was a handy book for the Advertising section of our careers library…

Paul Arden (1940 – 2008) is described here as a ‘creative genius’ who shone during his 15 years at Saatchi and Saatchi, creating campaigns still iconic today: ‘The Car in front is a Toyota’ is one of his. His maverick style was credited for a tempestuous working life, crowned with phenomenal success.

But Paul Arden never studied Career Development Theory at the University of Warwick. Module 1 of 4.

And there are some truly awful sentences in the vague guise of careers advice: ‘Don’t take no for an answer’ seems to me to be an invitation to make sure you never get shortlisted for a job there again. ‘The cleverest people at school are not those who make it in life?’ tells me that Paul Arden (unlike myself) never studied alongside Kulveer Taggar, who effortlessly won a top class degree before making a cool six figures selling the online business he’d built up along the way. ‘Do not seek praise. Seek criticism.’ sounds fine. As long as you don’t get job satisfaction from praise. Or have cripplingly low self-esteem.

Don’t get me started on ‘You need to aim beyond what you are capable of. You must develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end.’ On that basis I’m going to forget my SAE typology and poor motor control and spend a year building a Millennium Falcon out of matchsticks. See you in 12 months. I’ll be the one weeping and superglued to a table.

But although most of the book is merely off the cuff, under-thought, typographic epigrammary, there are some pros:

1) It’s not a universal guide to life, but IS a fun insight into a career in advertising; honest and warty.

2) It’s supremely quick to read. Most pages have about 4 words on, and there’s only 125 pages.

3) It genuinely is like sitting down with an inspiring advertising man. A terrible careers adviser, but an amazing advertising mind.


I’m giving it to our careers library for our Advertising Section, but only if I can put in a post it highlighting the motto of p.50: ‘The perosn who doesn’t make mistakes is unlike to make anything.’ with the annotation: “This book is an inspiring insight into an advertising icon. It is not flawless careers advice. But he’s right: no-one’s prefect.”