Lilly Singh isn’t just a superstar. She’s Superwoman—which is also the name of her wildly popular YouTube channel. Funny, smart, and insightful, the actress and comedian covers topics ranging from relationships to career choices to everyday annoyances. It’s no wonder she’s garnered more than a billion views. But Lilly didn’t get to the top by being lucky—she had to work for it. Hard.
Now Lilly wants to share the lessons she learned while taking the world by storm, and the tools she used to do it. How to Be a Bawse is the definitive guide to conquering life. Make no mistake, there are no shortcuts to success, personal or professional. World domination requires real effort, dedication, and determination. Just consider Lilly a personal trainer for your life—with fifty rules to get you in the game, including
• Let Go of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Temptation will try to steer you away from your goals. FOMO is just a test of your priorities, a test that a bawse is ready to pass.
• Be Nice to People: Treat niceness like an item on your daily to-do list. People will go out of their way to help and support you because you make them feel good.
• Schedule Inspiration: Lack of motivation isn’t permanent or a sign of weakness. Expect it and proactively schedule time to be creative.
• Be the Dumbest: Challenge yourself by surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do. It’s a vital way to learn and improve.
Told in Lilly’s hilarious, bold voice and packed with photos and candid stories from her journey to the top, How to Be a Bawse will make you love your life and yourself—even more than you love Beyoncé. (Yes, we said it!)
WARNING: This book does not include hopeful thoughts, lucky charms, or cute quotes. That’s because success, happiness, and everything else you want in life need to be worked for, not wished for. In Lilly’s world, there are no escalators, only stairs. Get ready to climb.
“Lilly is a bona fide #girlboss, boss, and bawse. Her meteoric rise has come with so many incredible lessons that we are all lucky to have access to. This book is a must-have for the hustler in all of us.”—Sophia Amoruso, founder and CEO, Girlboss
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I’m sweating in my blue overalls as I look at all the obstacles ahead of me. I have three options: (1) pound my head on this brick block and hope for a star, (2) run and jump over the enemy, or (3) step on this turtle’s head and force him to retract into his shell. No matter which option I go with, the fact remains that the Koopa Troopa up ahead is going to stay there. I can’t control it or convince it that it’s actually a Ninja Turtle and thus is in the wrong game. That’s fine. No Ninja Turtles means more pizza for me, and I’m Italian, so this is all working out. I know the Koopa Troopa isn’t going to listen to me, and therefore I need to control the only thing I can—and that’s me, Mario.
Videogames are a great analogy for life. You go through levels, get thrown off by obstacles, and face several enemies. The game will become harder and harder, but it’s okay because you become smarter, faster, and more skilled. When playing a videogame, you control a character by making it jump, run, duck, and attack. I mean, that was back in my day when my Super Nintendo controller had two buttons. Today videogame controllers have as many buttons as a keyboard, so who knows what you can do. You can probably press A + Y + Z while twirling your left joystick and your character will sing the national anthem. Either way, the fact remains that your character is the only thing you can control in the game. The enemies will keep coming, the walls will keep shrinking, and the time will keep ticking away. It’s your job to navigate your character through a situation you cannot control.
That’s exactly how you should view life. A Bawse understands that there are many things in life you have no control over and it is inefficient to become frustrated by that reality. Not being able to control people and situations doesn’t make you powerless; it just means you have to exercise your power in a different way. If you can’t control people, then control your reaction to them. If you can’t control a situation, then prepare for it.
Before I started my career in the entertainment industry, I was the leader of a small dance company (if you could even call it that) in Toronto. We started off small, with only a few dancers, specializing in only Indian dance styles, but over time, in true Lilly fashion, I wanted to keep growing and expanding our horizons. Since I was little, I’ve had larger-than-life ideas. I never wanted to settle for something simple or mediocre, and as a result, when I did things, I wanted them to be the biggest and best things. There were so many other dance teams and companies around and I didn’t want to just be another addition to an already long list. I committed my days to transforming the company in the hopes of creating a dance empire that would take over the world. I really thought that was possible. We would be dancing Power Rangers who saved the world, one extended leg and pointed toe at a time. I decided to convert my basement into a full-blown office. We held auditions for dancers who were skilled in all forms of dance so that we could perform hip-hop, classical, and fusion in addition to what we were already doing. I organized photo shoots and video shoots and other creative marketing techniques. I had so much drive and determination that no injury, financial strain, or competition could steer me off my path. What I couldn’t see, however, was the one obstacle that was in front of me the entire time, and which caused everything to fall apart: the team itself.
I had such big dreams for the company and I was always willing to work for them. Without hesitation, I would pull all-nighters to put together marketing materials, spend money out of my own pocket to invest in what we needed, and drive myself crazy thinking of innovative ways to set ourselves apart. But then I would arrive at practice and deal with three dancers showing up late, one not showing up at all, and two of them leaving early. Getting people to put in work on events to help our brand was like pulling teeth. We often performed at weddings and thus needed to adhere to a professional dress code, yet some dancers would occasionally show up wearing shorts and flip-flops. I would get so frustrated with them because I was putting in so much work for this dream, but the reality of the situation was that the dream was mine, not theirs. I tried for years to control them and make them work for something they didn’t care about as much as I did, and it just didn’t work.
My dance company dreams faded away gradually, but the process was hastened by my discovery of YouTube. I remember feeling a new sensation the first time I uploaded a video. I wrote the script, shot it, edited it, and released it. No one else was involved or required, and the independence was exhilarating. Soon I developed an even greater drive and passion for my career as Superwoman than I’d had previously with my dance team. This time, however, I wasn’t trying to control a group of twenty people every time I needed something to get done. The only person I needed to control was the only person I could control, and that was me.
Today, of course, I have a team that surrounds me and helps me to build my business. But Lilly is still at the root of Superwoman. The success of Superwoman and the failure of my dance team helped me learn a very important lesson: work with what’s in your control. This lesson can be applied to so many situations in our lives. You get frustrated when your parents nag you, so every time they do, you storm out of the room. You can’t control your parents, so stop trying. Instead, use that energy to control your reaction the next time they nag you. You might not be able to smash a brick block and find a star that makes you invincible, but you can practice patience and build up a resistance to nagging. If none of that works, you can find the closest green tube and transport yourself out of the conversation.
Have you ever played a videogame then lost because you realized you were looking at the wrong part of the screen the whole time? You were so confused as to why your controller wasn’t working, but really you were just trying to control the wrong character. That’s what trying to control people is like in real life. We’re so often fixated on getting people to behave in accordance with what we want that we forget to focus on ourselves.
The best way to stop people from pushing your buttons is to start pushing your own.
A + Y + Z. Left joystick.
Conquer your thoughts
Touch your nose. No, I’m serious. I want you to stop reading after this sentence and don’t resume until you take your right hand and use it to touch the tip of your nose.
Look at you! What an impressive piece of machinery you are. Do you know what you just did? You were introduced to a thought and decided to act on it; your brain sent signals through your neurotransmitters, through your body, and into your arm, prompting it to move and touch your magnificent nose.
Why did I just make you touch your nose? Because I’m Simon and I run this town! No, but really, it was to show you that YOU control your mind; your mind doesn’t control you. You successfully directed your brain to touch your nose. Understanding your mind’s power is key to being a Bawse. Imagine using that same type of direction to instruct your mind to stop being negative, or jealous, or terrified. We often feel that we are slaves to biology. People say things like “I just can’t help but feel that way” or “I can’t control being jealous.” But I believe that, in most situations, we can teach our minds to function with more positivity and efficiency. In other words, by understanding that mushy sponge in our skulls, we can conquer our thoughts.
What does conquering your thoughts mean? First, it means you get to wear an awesome warrior costume, so congrats on that victory! #OOTD Also, it means understanding why you feel the way you feel, what prompts you to carry out certain actions, what causes specific reactions, and what circumstances lead you to make regrettable decisions. Once you discover all the ins and outs of your mind, you basically have the cheat code to your game of life. All you have to do is input the data and you have access to extra mental weapons, stronger protection, and new passageways. Notice I said YOUR game of life and not THE game of life. That’s because everyone’s mind is different. The cheat codes you discover for your mind cannot be applied to all of humanity. I’m not encouraging you to study the BIOLOGY of the brain (it is fascinating, but also, who has that much time?). I’m encouraging you to study your specific psychological makeup.
I was forced to learn how to conquer my thoughts because of the nature of my job. For six years I’ve been posting videos twice a week on the Internet. I have over 500 videos on my main channel and 500 videos on my second channel—that’s over 1,000 videos for people around the globe to view and judge as harshly as they desire. The Internet is wonderful and revolutionary, but let’s face it, it can also be extremely cruel. People feel they can say anything to you when they are sitting comfortably behind their computer screen being completely anonymous. When I first started posting videos, I got a lot of support (mostly because my friends and family would watch and they felt obligated to be nice. Also, I had a second account that I would use to compliment myself. Oops!), but with time I started to receive negative, hateful comments and I didn’t know how to react. Here are a few examples (word for word, without spellcheck) of the comments I’ve received:
This lily Singh paki ***** needs to die she’s everywhere I hate seeing her Bengali paki face I hope she gets cancer or her mum dies slowly j painfully leave focus tube alone up horrible black *****
This is why women shouldn’t have rights.
This video gave me cancer
she is so ****ing stupid. she only get famous because she hot and thst sells but she is still dumb. I hope someone shoots her
Do hateful comments still bother me? Sometimes, but not as often. How did I deal with them? When people ask me this, my response is usually, “I developed a thick skin.” But what I really mean is, I learned how to conquer my thoughts. This is how I broke it down:
People are leaving mean comments.
Maybe it’s because my videos suck.
Do you say mean things to people when you think they suck?
No. Not unless I’m having a bad day or in a bad mood.
Maybe people leaving the negative comments are having a bad day. Maybe that’s what the comment is really about.
But the comments make me feel insecure.
Do you like your videos?
So should your opinion of your videos be dependent on what other people think? Is that the type of person you want to be?
Not at all.
So it doesn’t make sense to let the negative opinions of others impact what you think.
Maybe I should stop making videos, though.
Does making videos make you happy?
Do you believe you should value negative comments above your own happiness?
That doesn’t sound right. Maybe I should just reply to them?
Or you could spend more time replying to people that make you feel good so they’re more encouraged to keep supporting you.
Now, you may think a convo like this sounds a bit naive. OF COURSE people want to be happy and ignore negative comments, but it’s easier said than done. That’s why it’s important to closely analyze this conversation and discover all the cheat codes hidden within it.
“Maybe they’re having a bad day.” CHEAT CODE ONE: Lilly, when people do or say hurtful things to you, there’s a chance they may actually be upset about something else in their life.
“Should other opinions impact what you think about yourself?” CHEAT CODE TWO: Lilly, sometimes when you hear other opinions you’ll feel pressured to change your own. Before you enter into situations in which you will be confronted with a lot of opinions, make sure you strongly believe your own.
“I don’t want to stop making videos, because they make me happy.” CHEAT CODE THREE: Your happiness is stronger than fear. You can continue battling fear as long as your videos, make you happy. Make sure you prioritize creating content that makes you happy; otherwise fear and negativity will slowly take over.
“Maybe I should reply to them.” CHEAT CODE FOUR: Recognize that replying was suggested to make you feel better. Understand this impulse and catch it before you act on it. Make yourself feel better in a more constructive way.
The cheat codes I discovered while dealing with YouTube comments have been useful in so many areas of my life. When someone cuts me off while driving, I apply cheat code one so that I don’t overreact: the person driving could be upset about something in their life. Cutting me off wasn’t about ME. When a brand offers me a lot of money to make a video I don’t actually like, I implement cheat code three: my content has to make me happy, otherwise negativity will start to seep in. When I’m having an argument and want to make an unnecessary remark to get the last word in, I try to catch myself because I know I’m just trying to make myself feel better—thus cheat code four. If I’ve gotten myself into an upsetting situation, it’s usually because I ignored a cheat code or pattern in my behavior.
Conquering your thoughts is not a task that can be accomplished overnight, or over many nights, to be honest. It’s an ongoing process that requires frequent readjustment because your mind is constantly evolving. It requires you to ask yourself a lot of questions and to analyze the answers honestly. From now on start asking yourself WHY you feel a certain way, WHAT made you perform a certain action, and HOW you could do things differently. The information you discover is powerful because it helps you to discover patterns and in turn use your mind productively and efficiently. After all, your mind is your most powerful tool, but it’s not useful if you don’t know how to use it. It’s like trying to fix a printer with a stapler: it doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried.
The key is to use a hammer because all printers suck.