Friday, June 18, 2010


Peter Arnell's new book, Shift: how to reinvent your business, your career and your personal brand--a project that had been in the works for the past five years--originally signed with Harper Collins which ended up in court, finally came out this week.  Controversies aside, as a former employee of this very successful yet very controversial branding man, I was surprised at how curious I am to find out what he has to say in his new book--perhaps it's his first two opening paragraphs that's sucked me in where he goes on and on about his obsession with oranges:

 If I were to reach out right now to shake your hand, you
 would probably be surprised to see the color of my hands. 
 People always stare at the deep orange glow my hands give 
 off. It’s a loud, warm orange, not a color that anyone expects 
to see on someone’s hands. But since I look fit and trim and 
 healthy, people usually just wonder, ask nicely, or shrug it off. 
 Fact is, my hands are orange- colored because for years I have 
 been peeling and eating as many as fifty oranges a day. 

 I can’t pinpoint the moment I went orange and set about 
 transforming myself and changing my life. As much as I talk 
 about oranges as if they were part of a careful plan, the truth 
 is that I started eating a lot of oranges mostly because I liked 
 the way they tasted, they were available anywhere in the 
 world, and I liked the way peeling and eating an orange kept 
 me focused. The oranges became a ritual as much as a healthy 
 snack. They became almost a touchstone for change. I knew 
 I was 100 percent serious about transforming myself, and eat- 
 ing many, many oranges, from all over the world—in season, 
 out of season, organic, or conventional—helped me keep on 

Having worked for Arnell exclusively at the CEO's office as one of his Creative Developers and Gate Keepers, I vividly remember the oranges--how can you not.  The description above is in no way an exaggeration of a version of the truth:  This is the man, (accompanied with constant green tea replenishment all day), who every day only ate oranges.  In fact, it was quite an unusual occasion to see him eat anything else.  Luis, his butler/driver, was always running after Arnell to refill his tea cup, as well as his oranges--housed safely within the bamboo steamer (just for his choice of fruit).  As eccentric as this may sound (and let's face it--he's not known to be the bad boy of branding and his eccentricities for nothing), his very simple but quite brilliant formula of green tea and oranges, made the man invincible.  It was like a magic energy potion that led us having to run after the man most of the time as he was always faster than all of us, always ahead of us all, and at times even holding very important meetings at 5am when I barely had my eyes open. 

On Friday afternoons I'd gather up massive canvas bags-- filled them with books, articles,  at least 35 magazines or more from the week--for him to read during the weekends. (I always took joy in knowing that I fed the man with intellectual and creative research, which helped to ready Arnell for his inspiration and innovative process) .  By Monday morning, he'd give me back his notes and directions on what to do with everything I had given him, plus everything else he found on his own.  After a while, I started to believe that this man either had special  branding powers, or there really was something to the oranges and green tea combo.  And although he wasn't always in the best of moods, as I'm not really sure if he ever slept (see interview with Martha Stewart below), I must admit that part of it might have been because he was always waiting--waiting for everyone else to be as early as him, waiting for everyone else to catch up with his trail of thoughts, waiting for everyone else to get it right from a perfectionist point of view--"that shouldn't be too much to ask right," the man said, and waiting for everyone else to find his stuff!--while simultaneously all along schmoozing with the best and the brightest to secure million dollar deals for the Arnell empire to prosper.
I suppose the main reason that I do want to read Peter's new book, is really because I am quite interested to know what the man's secret really is after all these years.  Covertly, I always wanted to have a one-on-one sit down with the man for at least a week--just to pick his brain.  Regrettably, I had to settle on getting a glimpse of his creative genius through reading his memos and his notes.  And so alas--five years later, I'm still only left with just that:  reading his book.  And yet, I hope to find something more here, and by the looks of the writing style so far, it sounds as though I just might find the human behind the running man--or at least the man behind the oranges.  

Arnell with Arnold Schwarzenegger showing off his PeaPod (an electric car) he orginally designed for Chrysler

All and all, I think the man is highly misunderstood:  He's largely known for his bad temper and his idiosyncrasies.  From where I was standing he was guilty of one thing:  he was the impatient mastermind behind all things Arnell.  But if you're lucky enough to spend some time with him, I can guarantee you that it won't always be pleasant, you might even have a knot in your stomach most of the time, but mostly what I can guarantee you as well, is that you will learn something--and what's more surprising, is you might even get addicted to his energy, for he is is full of magnetism.  And he knows that--he wrote the book right?  He is the master of branding after all--best of all: of selling himself.  In the year that I worked for him, I had the chance to meet the likes of  Muhammad Ali, Frank Gehry (numerous times--very nice guy), and have even spoken to Martha Stewart on the phone.  And yet it's the three items below that the man told me, in which I will remember more:
  1. You will never make it to the top if you walk slowly to your destination.
  2. You must maneuver through everything intelligently and with innovation.
  3. I like a woman who can carry herself with confidence, I like you--that's what he told me when I first met him, and I knew what he meant--(I would need that stature to stand across from the likes of him).  
So thanks Peter--thanks for the experience and the opportunity.  I'm looking forward to reading your book!

Written by Dawn Elardo, Founder and Editor of NewsGallery.
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