Lilly Singh is a digital media star with over 12 million Youtube followers on her iiSuperwomanii channel. She is also an entrepreneur, actor, world-touring entertainer, People’s Choice Award winner, Forbes, Time, and Inc. leader list member, brand ambassador, and two-time author.
Her latest book, How To Be A Bawse, A Guide to
Conquering Life, soared to number two on the New York Times Best
Sellers List when it was published in April. It is a hit.
Why did I read this self-help book written by someone whose audience in 2014 was 80 percent 14 to 25-year-old women? Research. I was looking for a fresh voice and perspective on the personal development space before starting my second book.
I noticed How To Be A Bawse on a table of books at Costco. It was hard to miss. The front and back cover are powerful, the table of contents intriguing and layout eye-catching. This is the inspiration I was looking for – homework can be exciting.
How To Be a Bawse is a collection of lessons Lilly has learned as she became “a Bawse” or, as defined on the back cover, “a person who exudes confidence, hustles relentlessly, reaches goals, gets hurt efficiently, and smiles generally because he or she fought through it all and made it out the other side.” Or as she told Jimmy Fallon, “Someone who conquers their whole life, not just at work, at home, in relationships, how they communicate; they just don’t survive life, they conquer it.”
Here is what I learned from How To Be A Bawse about creating an engaging and helpful guide:
- Bite-sized learning is best – the book contains 50 short (2-5 pages), “easy to digest” chapters, one lesson per chapter.
- Put your fingerprints on knowledge – multiple tips have been noted in previous self-help books, and yet are given fresh perspectives and applications, e.g. “I’ll visualize exactly what I want to happen” (The Magic of Believing, Claude Bristol); “Don’t be afraid to ask for things” (Self Esteem and Peak Performance, Jack Canfield).
- Role model learning – share what you do. Lilly continually shares how she has been successful by following the lessons, which bestows authenticity.
- Begin with a story – stories are engaging teachers. They provide context and relevance to the advice. They also provide personal credibility if they are about the author.
- Use metaphors and analogies – they make insights relevant and real. “When you are climbing the ladder, the heaviest piece of clothing you wear is your pride.” Got it.
- Help people take action – Lilly includes short action plans at the end of some chapters that help people apply her lessons, transitioning readers from intent to adoption (e.g. "Make an Investment. Outline one investment in each currency that will help you reach your goals: Time, Energy, and Money”).
- Be quotable – Most chapters are summarized in easy to remember soundbites (e.g. “At the end of the day, you can’t learn new things if you’re always the one who is giving the lessons”; “Being a Bawse isn’t always about being the best; it’s about placing yourself in the best situations.”
- Use sub-headings – titles help people scan for importance or speed, used often on the internet.
- Pictures make the point – photos and illustrations are easier to absorb and are more stimulating than text because visuals add life to the content – use them freely.
- Change it up – variety adds a feeling of movement, energy, and interest – heading styles, fonts, layout…be creative.
- Use pull quotes – blowing up key points creates emphasis – you can’t miss them, especially if they take up a full page. They answer the question, “What is the most important thing you need to remember?”
- Be different – writing a “me-too” book diminishes meaning and threatens purpose. As Lilly says, “I wanted to make sure that whatever I offered was not only up to par but different from what was already out there.”
- Motivate the reader – Lilly checks in with the reader to motivate them to keep reading. Speak directly to the reader as they experience the content, as if you are along for the ride. A good example is in the Introduction: “Don’t feel bad if you forget things! I encourage you to read chapters over and over again because becoming a Bawse is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.”
- Be directive – you are the expert so say what you believe is true. Lilly is in charge, evident by her “Rules for Reading this Book,” recommendations (e.g. “If you skipped to this chapter…now put the darts away and start from the beginning of the book”) and “Congratulations” in the conclusion.
- Make it personal – a path to trust is showing vulnerability. Lilly shares her life’s doubts and low points through stories and journal entries, which brings the reader closer to her and the lessons she’s learned.
- Humour makes things interesting – people fully engage in the moment when they are amused. As Lilly says, “I’ve worked really hard on writing this with the intent of making you laugh and inspired.” She is funny with a purpose; her humour supports her point, and she does so “with a healthy hint of sass.”
- Make titles interesting – Books compete with all other forms of media so make your topics engaging (e.g. “You Are Not a Parking Ticket” – unwarranted validation leads to entitlement, and “The Alphabet is a Lie” – focus on Plan A; don’t have a Plan B).
I learned a lot from reading How To Be A Bawse, both from the lessons themselves and how they have been presented. Lilly does have a fresh perspective on creating a self-help guide through her content, formatting and style. Interestingly, her approaches would work just as well for other types of communication like public speaking and coaching.
What I learned most was the author’s ability to succinctly convey insights. Three of my favourites are:
- “It’s clear that the majority of failed relationships are caused by one thing: having different priorities”;
- “As with all expectations, you risk disappointment”; and
- “Successful people understand the importance of positivity.”
Lilly’s lessons will guide far more than the creation of my next book.
So, do you want to be a Bawse? I know an excellent self-help guide that will help you become one. But as Lilly Singh says, “Everything takes effort.”