Twenty-odd years ago, I found myself in the transient space of an airport between business flights, where I chanced upon a book that would leave a lasting impact on my design career.
Paul Arden’s “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be” sat unassumingly on a crowded bookshelf, raising my curiosity with its enigmatic cover and audacious claim, “The world’s best selling book by Paul Arden.” (A claim that can be perceived two ways, like a Necker illusion.)
The book’s playful, daring cover — attractive lettering against a stark white background — exemplified Arden’s approach to design, and hinted at the delightful pages within. Its slim, compact shape and size were unique and alluring.
Inside, on coarse-grained pages with a subtle, almost sweet scent, I discovered a collection of striking images and thought-provoking message. Hand-curated by Arden, each delivered a variation on the theme of boldness in design and creativity.
One particular image that stands out in my memory* is of a man walking confidently, blindfolded, towards the edge of a cliff. The caption, “Leap, and the net will appear,” resonated deeply with me, emphasizing the importance of embracing boldness in creative pursuits.
Throughout my career, Arden’s insights have guided me through creative stagnation, and even through career choices, helping me to take “the road less travelled”.
Two decades have passed since I first encountered this remarkable book, and its influence on my life remains. I recommend “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be” to junior designers, or anyone seeking inspiration and creative guidance.
As I leaf through the pages of my worn copy, I am reminded that success is not found in accolades, but in our capacity to imagine and strive toward the person we wish to become.
Paul Arden’s book, a serendipitous discovery in an airport twenty years ago, has left a mark on my thoughts, shaping the designer and person I am today.
If you haven’t read it yet, I hope it will inspire you too.
GPT-4 helped me (a little, not too much!) to write this.
*This image does not actually exist in the book. It’s one of GPT-4’s “hallucinations”, but I thought it fit the theme of the book well.