Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Perosn Who Doesn't Make Mistakes is Unlikely to Make Anything

One day last month while I was out and about running errands I stopped in Anthropologie. I love this place even though I find it to be a little over-priced. I don't mind paying a lot of money for things but in there I always feel like I'm spending too much for a little t-shirt, tank top, pair of underwear, soap, coffee mug, whatever...I've pretty much bought everything there is to buy there - I wish their merchandise wasn't so cute so I wouldn't be so tempted all the time. In any event, my plan was to get in, cool off from the 90 degree heat outside and get out. Fortunately for them, that never happens when I stop in there. I bought two dresses, one tank, one shirt and a wonderful "little book" (that's what I've dubbed it) called "It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be. The world's best selling book by Paul Arden." I always find little gems like this when I go in there and that's why I keep going back (they obviously read Mr. Arden's book).

I've had the "Little Book" on my nightstand for over a month; I even took it to Argentina with me. Since I've been back it's been residing on the top of the pile of the July and August issues of Vanity Fair,
Vogue, Bazaar, Latina, Lucky, Fast Company and the West Elm and
Pottery Barn catalogues (I realize that, sadly, we are likely responsible for the cutting down of many trees). I finally picked it up last night and read through it a bit. I often purchase books like this but they always stay hidden somewhere in my apartment and never on my bookshelf. Most people don't advertise that they read these kind of books (until now that I share it here). For example, during my first year at the law firm I bought "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office" (I loved that one, by the way, and it really taught me a lot, but, it resided comfortably in a drawer in my desk in my office). So, I read through the Little Book and I think that it's my new favorite Little Book with a BIG MESSAGE.

The inside flap of the Little Book states: "Just as Sun Tzu's Art of War is read as a lesson in business strategy rather than fighting in a military sense, or Machiavelli's The Prince is written about government but used as a guide to management, so this book uses the creative processes of good advertising as a metaphor for business practice." I personally don't think that Mr. Arden is saying anything particularly deep (I say this respectfully and humbly, of course) but he is so insightful and very good at stating concepts that we never think about. The Little Book really forced me to look "outside the box" and step out of my comfort zone by pointing out some themes and ideas that were so apparent to me when I read them and yet I probably never would have thought of them on my own.

Mr. Arden is a former Saatchi & Saatchi Executive Creative Director and beyond the title, what I think is so great about this Little Book, or, treatise, as it has been referred to, is that it provides a dense, visually entertaining and incredibly readable guide to business through the lens of what it takes to succeed as an art director. It is a wonderful guide to how agencies work and the development process for creative departments, but, it is so much more. In my view, the theories and ideas in this book can be applied to any field - he just happens to focus on that which he knows best from his professional experience.

On page 50 of the book he lists these three quotes that really sum up my experiences of the last year and that I think will continue to define my experiences in the future as I make my way down this very new and completely unknown path:

Benjamin Franklin: "I haven't failed, I've had 10,000 ideas that didn't work."

Thomas Edison: "Of the 200 light bulbs that didn't work, every failure told me something that I was able to incorporate into the next attempt."

Joan Littlewood: "If we don't get lost, we'll never find a new route."

When I was researching the book for this entry I learned that Mr. Arden recently passed away. From what I read about him he will be sorely missed. He was a ground-breaker and innovator in his profession and a real teacher.

I Love New York

PS--The spelling mistake in the title is on purpose here, but, fortuitously it happened to be inadvertent on the original manuscript of the Little Book so they decided to keep it as such because it was just too good to change it.

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