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Book Review:: How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life. - Lilly Singh

"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." - lyrics by the BeeGees that I live by and strive to inculcate in life


When I was young I scoffed at self-help books because I read a couple chapters of a few and the impression I got was of people talking about abstract things that seem good on paper and appropriate in thought but were difficult to translate into real life. For a student hearing that ‘hard work and determination’ and it’s many variants is the key to success when they are drowning under the pressure of an educational system that only cares about the marks you get, is ridiculous. They are already putting in all the ‘hard work and determination’ they can manage but can’t catch up to that one student who always comes first in class. Hard work and determination is not the key to success in that case. For that student it is perseverance and self-confidence and the belief and hope that they will also have a fruitful future.

Over the years I found myself giving my inner frightened self pep talks (and disregarding a majority of what the adults in my life were saying because that was more of the hard work and determination shite) that seemed more practical to me. They were stuff like, make sure you practice those maths problems because you know you are useless in maths, never mind that second language because you never need to correctly spell this ridiculous word again, memorize those diagrams because you know that counts. That’s how I dealt with the pressure of having to obtain high marks, because that’s all that matters in this educational system.

I understand that what I did was also a variant of hard work and determination, but it was selective to my situation then. I have continued this exercise up to this day and have stayed well away from self-help books.

Then came the advent of YouTube and fast-forward a few years and I found Superwoman.

I love satire and sarcasm. I didn’t know them well in the beginning but when I came to understand them, they have become my best friends and that is what I could indulge in with Lilly Singh’s aka Superwoman’s video.

So when I found out that she has published a self-help book, I had to get my hands on it and there is no exaggeration when I say that I loved it.

The tone of the book is light and funny even while dealing with serious issues. It provides examples of life lessons in a way that people will actually appreciate: as her own life experiences. The book doesn’t pity you for your current state of affairs because it is human to experience them, nor does it seem condescending while giving advice.

And the advice. Oh, the advice.

I would liken it to the advice from that funky relative whose life seems a disaster wrapped in mystery, but everything is actually perfect for them, and now they are a devotee of Dionysus. Their advice is a crazy story dipped in reality and practicality that is served to you on a buffet line that you can pick the parts you like and can implement.

It’s like your elder sibling forbidding you from stepping on that frozen part of the road after you saw them deliberately stepping on that part and inevitably going down, but it was for the giggles and grins, so it was all worth it.

Singh is a YouTuber (a profession that has very recently been considered a legitimate profession) and what she has done her whole life and continues to do is ‘hard work and determination’. But it is not that blanket term that I absolutely loath. It’s personally tailored to suit her needs with enough leeway to adjust to changing circumstances, because sometimes you need charisma, diplomacy and some sheer luck to go with your hard work and determination. Also, let’s not forget bullheadedness.

The book has fifty chapters and if I had to mark important points, I would probably be sitting down with a stack of highlighters and highlighting the whole book. It first addresses the problem that is present, gently making you accept that you have that particular problem and then offers some achievable solutions. Of course, there are some chapters that won’t pertain to your life at the moment, but they will most definitely be applicable later on; unless you decide to renounce civilisation and become a sage in the Himalayas.

The book also has a sort of personal touch that makes you feel like you are close to the author as she describes events from her life to demonstrate certain points. A particular interesting feature is when she includes passages from her dark times and follows them with her current joy. It creates a sense of bonding between the author and the reader, and it is absolutely brilliant.

The use of colours is also another unique touch. Life isn’t black and white, nor is it grey. Evolution has given us colour vision for a reason after all; and if we are to truly become the unicorns that Singh believes we can then I think the colourful rainbows shooting out of our arses is a must.

This book is simply a must-read for anyone looking for some light reading that has the capacity to turn your world on its head; isn’t that actually the essence of YouTube, come to think of it? Not to mention that it actually has the potential to do as advertised: to make you a Bawse, someone who doesn’t just survive the game of life but conquers it.

© 2021 Sanjana Mahanta

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