How good do you want to be?

Today is March 26 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how good do you want to be?” Do you even ask yourself this question? Those that navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well ask themselves this question quite often as it reminds them of their potential. In The Graveyard Book author Neil Gaiman emphasized the value of recognizing potential when he wrote:

“You're alive, Bud. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you're dead, it's gone. Over. You've made what you've made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here; you may even walk. But that potential is finished.”

Maverick British advertising legend Paul Arden recognized his potential and asked himself how good he wanted to be each day. In fact, his first book was It’s Now How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, Arden challenged readers to think about the answer to this question and gave them five choices: do you want to be

pretty good


very good

the best in your field or

the best in the universe.

If you never ask yourself this question, what are you working towards? If you do not chart a course to your destination, where are you going, and perhaps more importantly, what will be your destination?

Arden understood his destination and wanted to be the best advertising mind in the universe. To accomplish this, he thought differently than others. As colleague Dave Trott said of Arden: “Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of what other people might think, fear of losing our job. All the things that look like insuperable obstacles, Paul just didn't see them; he went right through them as if they weren't there. So, they weren't.”

When he was diagnosed with an incurable lung condition, a condition that eventually restricted his movements to the length of the oxygen tube stretching from his breathing machine, Arden directed commercials, wrote advertising campaigns, opened, and ran a photographic gallery, and wrote three best-selling books.

When Arden wanted to quit his job as a creative director at one agency to be an art director at Saatchi, it didn't look like a smart move to some people since it was a step down to go from creative director to art director. But he wanted to work at an agency that he admired, with people he admired, so he saw it as a step up. And in his first year at Saatchi, he won a prestigious D&AD award for a brilliant Health Education Council ad highlighting old people dying from hypothermia. He said he wanted to learn to be great at TV ads, not just press ones.

“Paul didn't want the predictable, or the expected, the ordinary, or dull, or safe – what was the point? He wanted the risky, the unusual, the daring, which brought with it fear, insecurity and adrenalin. Wasn't that the whole point of being alive?” Paul Arden asked himself ‘how good he wanted to be’ and lived a life answering that question – the best adman in the universe.

As Og Mandino wrote in The Greatest Miracle in World:

“Most humans, in varying degrees, are already dead. In one way or another they have lost their dreams, their ambitions, their desire for a better life. They have surrendered their fight for self-esteem and they have compromised their great potential. They have settled for a life of mediocrity, days of despair and nights of tears. They are no more than living deaths confined to cemeteries of their choice. Yet they need not remain in that state. They can be resurrected from their sorry condition. They can each perform the greatest miracle in the world. They can each come back from the dead...”

Have you surrendered your fight for self-esteem?

Have you settled for a life of mediocrity?

How often do you ask yourself ‘how good do I want to be?’ If you have never asked yourself ‘how good you want to be?’ why do you think that is?

Once you have identified your answer, what is your next step?