Excerpt: Lilly Singh's How to Be a Bawse

Posted by Cybil on December 4, 2017


Lilly Singh is the author of How to Be a Bawse, which won the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Nonfiction. Singh, a Canadian YouTube personality, celebrates being a Goodreads Choice Award winner by sharing the following excerpt from that book with us below:


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Chapter 1: Play Nintendo

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.

Video games 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 video game, 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 video game 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 video game 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.

"O Canada."

Explore the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards, including:
Announcing the Winners of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards
Excerpt: Neil deGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
A Recipe from Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!


Excerpted from How to Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh. Copyright 2017 by Lilly Singh. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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message 1: by Charmaine (new)

Charmaine B A fantastic book. I devoured it in my first read, and now I'm reading a chapter a day to fully digest and reinforce the lessons. If you're thinking about reading this, please do. You will learn to master your mind, hustle harder, make heads turn and be a unicorn (the four sections of this book).


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