I’m fond of  books full of aphorisms that you don’t have to read all the way through.

In fact, one of my favorite books is called “Stumbling Toward Enlightenment.” First bought after my partner lost her father, this simple book has found itself coming in and out of our house as people we know have found themselves in some sort of emotional turmoil, and then come back to our house to help us through various ups, downs, ins and outs.

So when I heard about “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be”, I really  wanted to read it.

The book is by a now-deceased advertising guy named Paul Arden. The  back cover calls it “a concise guide to making the most of yourself” and “a pocket ‘bible’ for the talented and timid to make the unthinkable thinkable and the impossible possible.”

This small paperback, published by Phaidon Press in 2003, is a book I want to buy, rather than just borrow from the library.

It’s full of short essays or chapters that provide pretty opinionated advice about everything from how to present an ad creative to a client to why Victoria Beckham is worth emulating.

Arden illustrates the simply-designed book with black and white illustrations and photos (one of which, featuring a boy and a goose, I still find vaguely offensive).

But you have to take this book as a colletion of thought experiments, some of which will be mutually impossible. For example, on page 38, Arden advises “Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.” Less than 10 pages later, he says “when it can’t be done, do it.”

There are more than a few examples of this sort of thing.

My advice? Buy that book. But don’t read it cover to cover. Flip through it until you find a page that inspires you — either to be creative, shake your head in rueful acknowledgement, or otherwise react. And then use that page to move you forward in what you happen to be doing. If you try to construct a coherent book-length argument out of the book, you’ll be disappointed.

But as an i ching for advertising or PR or communications people, you could do a lot worse .

The details:

  • It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be, by Paul Arden
  • Phaidon Press, 127 pages
  • ISBN 978-07148-43377

Buy it here to show me some love: It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be: The World’s Best Selling Book

  • Stumbling toward enlightenment, by Barbara Lewis Demarco
  • Perigee Trade, 144 pages
  • ISBN 978-0399523489

Buy it here to show me some love: Stumbling toward Enlightenment

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