Review of Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite
By Paul Arden, Penguin, April 2006
In some ways, this book is remarkably inspiring. In other ways, it is quite frustrating.
For me, the principle behind the book, which isn't really apparent from the title is: Break the "rules" and do things your way. This echoes many of the current business books - Purple Cow
, for instance, which emphasizes that never taking a risk is in many ways the riskiest decision of all. In all honesty, I probably wouldn't have picked this book off of the shelf on my own. Which is a pity, because it is a wonderful blend of striking images and words that manages to deliver a lot of philosophy in a little over a hundred pages, many of which have almost no text at all.
I found this book inspirational, because it helped me feel better about some of the risky things I am doing with my life right now. For example, I'm writing a trilogy of novels in my spare time, while I work at a startup business, and run a set of blogs and a couple "microbusinesses" on the side. There are days when I have thought 'You are in way over your head'. Yesterday, for instance. But reading this book, gave me a new perspective on what I am doing, and whether it really is reckless and foolish, or just a new way to approach my business life. Also, normally I would have simply mentioned 'projects', without saying what they were, but another message from the book is to be proud of what you are doing and trying to accomplish. Already, this book is changing my life :)
I also found this book to be frustrating, primarily because the people who need to read it, who desperately need to be shaken out of their 40 year carerer-slumber will find it frightening, simplistic and lacking in relevance. Some will even say 'I believe in the premise, but how does this apply to my life?' . They have spent so long following other people's recipes that they no longer know how to write their own.
So - if you are comfortable with risk, if you are excited at the prospect of a 'leap of faith', if you refuse to live a "dignified" life, I bet you will find this book inspirational, challenging and fun, and it may just inspire you to take that next chance that you were hesitating on. But if you are looking for a book that will give you a roadmap of which risks to take, and which ones to avoid for your specific career goals, this book won't help you, and it will seem like useless fluff.
Reviewed by John Brothers
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.