Lilly Singh, also known as Superwoman, has built a massive YouTube following over the years, with over 1 billion+ views. She was recently ranked #10 on Forbes’s list of top paid YouTubers with an estimated salary of $10.5 million. (If you’re wondering how YouTubers make money, it’s a mix of sponsorships, ads, and merchandise.)
It feels surreal to be on the @forbes list again. Thank you for your support. I’m so grateful that my passion has become my career and that I’m excited to wake up every morning to tell stories. There was a time in my life when I felt like a robot without any real spark or desire. I went to school. Worked a job. Watched TV. Went to bed. Until one day I decided I didn’t want to live in a template. I worked really hard not only on my craft but also on my soul and mind. In addition to teaching myself how to edit, I taught myself how to identify my insecurities and work on them. I had to teach myself how to step out of my comfort zone over and over again. More than anything, I had to address my own fear and excuses and throw paint on their transparency. It’s not all about the money, but moments like this do leave me feeling proud because I remember the hustle that birthed them. I’m not here because I’ve been chasing cheques. I’m here because I’ve been chasing growth. Being one of the highest paid creators is a cool achievement (and admittedly a little strange) but if I’m very honest, the real riches come from personal evolution. One of the many things I’ve learned on this journey is that I can (and should) be bigger than myself. And for that reason, I want to address that last year there were many more females on this list. Although I am honoured to be featured, I am truly disheartened to be the only one this year. One of the things I love most about the digital space is its ability to create a new path that is unrestrained by systematic power and tradition. Just something to think about as we witness firsthand how rapidly this platform is changing and the direction being taken. I for one would be heartbroken if this platform followed a path lacking equal opportunity. Congrats to everyone on the list and to all of my sisters who should be on the list because I see y’all with your Uber LUXs. Keep fighting the good fight 🙏🏽💪🏽❤️ #Repost @womenatforbes ・・・ YouTube sensation Lilly Singh has climbed the ranks to earn the No. 10 position on our 2017 list of the Highest-Paid YouTube stars. The comedian and entertainer is the only woman to break into the top 10.
On Controlling Life
You can’t control the situation or others. But you always have control over something so should exert it. The only person you need to control is yourself. People may show up late to events or not be interested, you can experience a car crash, or your parents can nag you. You can’t control any of that. But you can control your reactions. Always work with what you can control.
Move away from negative parents. Trying to control others is like trying to control another person’s character in a video game.
In most situations, you can have more positivity and control than you think. Don’t let your emotions (like jealousy) control you.
Pain is good
Getting hurt efficiently today helps you become better tomorrow. Getting hurt a lot without gaining any insight isn’t efficient.
Overthinking is the enemy of efficiency
Know when to stop thinking or analyzing. Know when to think more.
Taking a step back is so important. When she started working with high production, she had videographers and designers consuming tons of time worrying about minutiae and she was the only one with the courage and insight to realize that what they were doing was forsaking the higher level goals (like the adjustment ruined the whole surprise the scene was set up to do).
Sometimes, the right thing is also the hard thing (like firing someone or owning up to a mistake because of ego.
On addressing mistakes
Here are some bad ways to address mistakes:
- deflect (“she didn’t do it either.”)
- ignore (because it’s frustrating and prevents solutions from being created)
Make real changes not just saying “I’ll try harder” but cancelling your monthly subscription.
No ego should be too big to make an apology. There are multiple layers. Dig deep to the real reason why you can or can’t do something. e.g., she found out that she wasn’t avoiding having a boyfriend because she was too successful as she thought — she didn’t experience healthy relationships growing up and didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship while successful.
Not everything can be fixed. If you have a leak and you’ve tried everything to fix it and still can’t, buy a bucket and tell others about the leak.
She sets a time limit and if she finishes early, she can spend the rest of the time taking a break doing whatever she wants. She also sets goals by a numeric number. Once she hits that number, she can take a break or reward herself (healthy snack or youtube videos). Make rewards well-earned and reasonable (3 chapters – > 1 hour of net flix, not 2 emails checked -> 4 hours of netflix) Putting the reward in the hands of someone else can avoid the issue of “having self control to exercise self control”
Set clear, specific goals. You can’t hustle towards a blurry picture. Vision boards are a great way to do this. “Money” or “success” is too vague. What changes in your vision boards is a good way to track how your goals change. These goals help you focus on what matters to you.
Short-term and long-term visualization have served her well (Imagine yourself in a scenario you want to happen even if you’re not sure how it will happen yet) But the universe respects hustle more than just visualization, so get to work.
Her secret to success isn’t something people want to hear
A ton of hard work. She didn’t have a viral video. Each video gradually grew her following. There are shortcuts like covering drama, spreading negativity, and using clickbait, but how long will that last? The foundation will crumble because it was built dishonestly.
You must start climbing no if’s, and’s, or but’s. Even if you think you’re reading the wrong map and there’s a faster route to the top.
One failure shouldn’t kill success. If so, you didn’t think of a big enough success. Success and your empire shouldn’t be built on one stone.
Write out whatever is messing up your productivity no matter how small or seemingly stupid. Then actively solve the problem. She does this for problems no matter how big or small. She would get hungry throughout the day, get frustrated and unfocused when she had chapped lips or a dead phone, so she bought a bunch of granola bars, chap stick, and phone chargers and spread them everywhere to fix her problem. It’s not about being a diva, it’s about reducing distractions that clearly affect productivity.
The secret to her work ethic and ability to defeat procrastination
How does Lilly work for 12 straight hours? She enjoys what she does. If you are constantly struggling with self-control or procrastination, question if you chose the right work. Self-control is a muscle in your brain that requires constant practice to build, just like abs.
Pause. Find something you enjoy doing. She makes sure to do everything she can while she’s awake so she feels accomplished and achieved when she hits the bed. Pause and take a moment to enjoy it to stay in love with your work, because everything can get boring or stressful even if you love it at times. Savor those moments. Meditate.
A major key to her success against procrastination and overthinking is setting deadlines and plans. She has to upload twice a week on specific days no matter what. You hold to deadlines more if they are announced publically.
She spent months procrastinating and coming up with false reasons (planning a party for 30 days and family vacation for another 30 days) for why she can’t get time to move to LA. She created ways that forced her to commit (cancelling car insurance and rent/bills on a certain day)
Fear and distraction are the most common obstacles for you to stay consistent at something (whether vlogging or exercise). When you make a commitment, there are no exceptions.
Fear and nervousness are normal and mean you care and care about the outcome. Don’t avoid those feelings. Put a leash on that. Imagine visually stripping off your fear.
On fear of missing out (FOMO)
Avoid FOMO. It’s not a good thing. But how? Pay attention to the rewards you receive for your hustle. Focus on how working hard and missing out on partying pays off.
On getting inspired
Inspiration fuels hustle. Enjoying what you’ve achieved fuels inspiration.
Schedule inspiration. Create events that make you feel inspired. Don’t rely on spontaneous events. (e.g., watch the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones inspired her through the wardrobes and character development) Hear others experiences from interviews of people who are accomplished in your industry. She schedules these viewing sessions in.
Life is one big negotiation
Aim for what’s ideal. At worst, you’ll arrive at a workable scenario. Lilly had a crazy idea to shoot inside Toronto’s second biggest stadium, which usually requires thousands of dollars and much more planning than the four-day deadline of her music video.
Rather than give up, she asked everyone. Eventually, she hit a networking connection. The stadium people told her she needed to pay for all sorts of insurance. She countered by saying she only needed one insurance, and they eventually found a middle ground. Similarly, she asked for more time for her shoot with Michelle Obama, and they compromised with something in the middle. Asking for more and compromising usually gives you more than not asking at all.
Plan B Only Distracts From Plan A
It’s hard for Asians like her to do because of parents but do it. Plan B means you’re expecting Plan A to fail. She didn’t give up but strengthened her work when things stopped flailing (e.g., viewership dropping) because she didn’t have a Plan B.
Show don’t tell. Lilly had a date with a handsome man who kept telling her how funny, kind, and awesome he was and how his friends thought the same thing. Later on, she realized why she didn’t enjoy the date: You shouldn’t have to tell someone you’re funny if you’re funny – you make them laugh. Same with being kind. Unfortunately, this man didn’t show in the slightest. He didn’t make her laugh once.
Stay up to date on the game
She watches YouTube videos for fun when taking a break from watching videos. If others have high quality video quality, she does the same. She consults others. Even competitors can be allies depending on the game. She’s found legal contracts weren’t so good after consulting other youtubers.
People aren’t trying to be mean. They’re trying to play the game. That means you play the game back. This helps you stay strategic rather than get influenced by emotion when making decisions.
On ego and entitlement
Young people (Millennials) have become entitled to success. Why? Social media can make everyone validated and successful based on engagement. Everyone is giving parenting advice online now and the advice usually encourages parents to validate and praise everything a child does.
Put pride aside. She often has to go to hell and back to work with someone above her in the media world, even though she already has a massive social media audience. Sometimes, she has to write three more scripts in a short time period because the first three scripts she sent got rejected. Also, she often has to re-arrange her schedule on a day that is already entirely booked and the celebrity usually gives her an extremely short amount of time.
The worst thing you can do is act entitled at the bottom of the ladder.
Superwoman turned to YouTube to self-heal from depression thinking that if she can make others laugh, she can make herself happy. She credits all her success to turning something negative (depression) into a positive (comedy).
Lilly tried a moonshot play by trying to get a skit with Jennifer Lawrence. Her team reached out to this mega-celebrity and they almost made it happen. When her skit with Jennifer fell through, Lilly complained for a while, but then, turned the skit idea into a whole women’s movement campaign, the #GirlLove Challenge.
This challenge ended up getting Tyra Banks’s involvement and gave her the opportunity to meet Michelle Obama at the White House. She could’ve just given up, but she liked the idea and turned the bad event into something better.
Lilly got out of depression by realizing everyone deserves happiness. You need to work to make yourself happy if you aren’t. She rebuilt her life.
Reassure yourself relapses doesn’t mean you’re weak or something is wrong with you. Tell yourself you’re strong and no bad day can ruin your life. Be patient. Hug yourself.
It’s great to consider other people’s feelings. But also it’s important to think about what you will feel (i.e., “If I take this job, what will my parents think?” versus “What do I want?”). That’s the difference between being selfish and loving yourself.
How to stay relevant in the industry (according to Snoop)
Snoop Dogg revealed his secret on a YouTube panel about staying relevant in the industry: “I’m the dumbest person on my team and that’s how I do it.”
Surround yourself with people better and more experienced than you so you can learn from them. She wouldn’t be where she is if it wasn’t for a number of other people who were really good at her job. Her lawyer and book editor are much better at other things. Being the dumbest doesn’t mean you’re stupid. Check your ego. Every team member has something to contribute based on their expertise. Whose dumber: the person who pretends to know everything or the person who doesn’t and asks questions? Ask until you understand.
It’s your job, not anyone else’s, to create the best environment for yourself. Lilly was always the biggest hustler in Toronto and no one there really understood what she did. But when she moved to LA, she was surrounded by like-minded social media influencers that understood her and embodied her hustle.
You’re never too good to keep investing in yourself. Lindsey Stirling is an incredibly talented and successful YouTuber who is Lilly’s friend. She’s so good at her skill that she shows up if you Google “violin player” but she still takes violin lessons and practices daily. The more she invested in her team, the more money she made. Her PR team is one of the most expensive and but they got her on top talk shows.
The ROI wasn’t immediate but it happened. She had trouble spending the money initially because she thought she could do it all herself, but it was worth it.
On going from YouTube to Hollywood
Success in one area doesn’t entitle you to success in another. Hollywood vs digital success, social success versus academic, relationship versus career.
Lilly had a chance to audition for a major role in a major franchise movie (her lawyer couldn’t say which one but she heavily hinted it was Star Wars). Her schedule conflicted and she found an excuse not to go. She had a feeling of not even trying because she didn’t feel she had a chance against more experienced actresses.
She got a second chance and took it. Her behavior wasn’t about getting the role. Her behavior was about trying.
This immediately reminded me of how Will Smith experienced something similar with his first major movie role audition when he was young. He kept finding excuses from conflicting schedules not to go. This caused him to always attack anything he feared to prevent him from sabotaging his life.
Don’t Always Do things How They’ve Been Done
Lilly’s #1 bucket list item for years before she even started YouTube was to meet The Rock. She went to WWE events but couldn’t afford the tickets to meet him in-person. As a YouTuber, she asked everyone, including her team for help, but it always ended with empty promises and failure. She managed to become text buddies with The Rock after he sent her an email about her YouTube work, but she still hadn’t met him.
They were at the same event one night and she asked her team to do whatever they could to meet with him since he was on stage and she was a spectator. It wasn’t looking good, so she did what everyone in the entertainment industry said is “bad etiquette,” which was to text the Rock and ask him to meet. And it happened. She’s constantly been told by the industry how things are “conventionally” done, but she advises that a Bawse doesn’t always follow how things have always been done.
Defining Your Values
Your beliefs and values shouldn’t falter in tough situations. If someone bullies you or throws a racial slur, it doesn’t make it okay to do it back because they did it first. If you ditch your values in private, they aren’t real values. Drill and study your values so you don’t forget them. Recite them. Doodle them.
On being a true Bawse and presence
It’s impossible to not notice a Bawse. Their energy is the most identifiable quality. Being a good conversationalist and a good listener is key to true presence. A successful artist took time to hear what Lilly wanted to do with singing rather than talking about what they wanted to do.
Be honest. If you’re not feeling good, don’t say you are when asked.
Live in the moment. Commit by making a statement like “For the next 60 seconds, I am entirely here.”
The world isn’t devising some master plan to screw you over. You’re not that important.
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A Bawse grows by accepting weaknesses everyone else sees and putting aside ego. If you see a trend in your failures (bosses keep firing you or boyfriends keep cheating on you), it may be something you’re doing (e.g., never admitting you’re wrong).
There’s a difference between being yourself and being unapologetically yourself.
Understand each other’s priorities. Just because it’s important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to others. If someone you have a relationship with does something you’re not interested in, that doesn’t mean they’re selfish.
Lilly was furious and super stressed when two of her dancers went to get food the night before a big show for her documentary. Lilly is obsessed with Dwayne Johnson and she wanted to prepare the perfect performance because his family was going to watch the show. She didn’t think it was a good idea for the dancers to go out the night before in case it affected the performance.
After talking it over with her manager after the show, he gave her some truth. What she cares about isn’t something that the dancers care about. They were paid just to dance for the show, which they did incredibly well. They didn’t care about organizing and preparing the best performance for Dwayne or the documentary. Those were Lilly’s goals, not their’s.
On Meeting The Rock
She loves how he acts when he first meets people. He shook hands with every person on Lilly’s team, from the lowest to the highest guy. He acted like not everyone knew who he was.
Machel Montano did the same thing when he met her. He shook hands with all of his team. Jimmy Fallon did the same thing shook everyone’s hands, including Lilly’s hair and makeup person.
She tried this herself at Jimmy Kimmel and talked to everyone including the security guard. People were shocked. The director stopped her on the way out and asked her if she wants to see the show sometime and gave her tickets. She keeps doing this and she always sees appreciation.
How you talk about yourself or others will affect how you feed your brain. Gossip is like beer to your brain: unhealthy. Don’t allow judgmental, mean thoughts into your head. When you want to say something mean, hold your tongue. Don’t release it into the universe. Wait until you’re alone to say it in your head if you have to. Pick one positive personality trait to represent each new person you meet. Don’t spend time doing stuff you don’t like. Talking bad about someone is usually something you don’t enjoy doing, so why do it?
A true bawse knows there’s a higher force more powerful than them, whether it’s religion or something else. This keeps you grounded and from thinking you can do no wrong when you see all this success.
On good communication
Being too nice or polite can sugarcoat the conversation so much that the message gets lost. Be honest. Before, Lilly would use office jargon to explain why it’s unacceptable when her team member didn’t get an assignment done. Now, Lilly explains how she feels clearly and the reasons it’s important a task getst done.
On success and wealth
Understand the power of being secretive. Take the Game of Thrones character, Daenrys. She kept her power a secret until the most opportune moment. Otherwise, she would’ve been killed or kidnapped.
Think of your mind, body, and spirit as a powerful fort. Know its strengths and weaknesses. Don’t give away all your vulnerabilities to everyone or people will attack and conquer your fort. You don’t have to share everything with everyone.
When you hit a certain level of success, a lot of people will convince themselves they always supported you and want something from you. Maybe they did but they never communicated with you about it. Find 3 people who deserve support, not a free ride, and support them.
People will start asking you to do things for them. There’s a difference between supporting and piggybacking people. If you give people free rides, it won’t help them get far. If she doesn’t see the hustle and action-taking behind the advice she gives, she won’t give support because it’d be a free ride.
Money is the result of what you do, not the reason. She’s a millionaire now, and it hasn’t changed her much, and she’s proud of staying the same.
3 reasons why you need to be nice to people if you want to be successful
1. teamwork is a major ingredient for success. humanity is a team. If you’re an awesome member of that team, you’ll train for other teams you’ll be part of in the future.
2. positivity is important for success. A positive outlook helps you get over the obstacles and failures that are sure to happen. Positivity shows you are taking control of your life and the energy around you.
3. People give you opportunities. A person chooses these, so it pays to be nice to people. Robots aren’t deciding these things.
She sent an email to the entire video shoot team behind one of her videos thanking them for their work. The director said no one had ever done anything like that and she got a bunch of positive replies back.
Bashing or lashing out on what you hate only makes you feel good short-term. It doesn’t solve the problem. Instead, promote positivity. From media training, she learned that media will try to found a negative, somewhat inaccurate or exaggerated sound-bite from what you said. So by using this principle, you can prevent them from doing so. If they ask about your opinion on celebrity drama, you can answer that you think the members are strong, beautiful woman and you can respect the great work they give.
Enforcing what you like will show more of that in your universe, so choose positive things to enforce. This is especially important in social media, which serves up more content that you engage with. If you’re vegan, create an Instagram post promoting and explaining your diet instead of bashing a meat eater in a comment on their Instagram post.
On being grateful
If you’re reading this, you’re more fortunate than a lot of the world. You aren’t starving, you have a bed to sleep on, and you showered recently. It’s normal to take these for granted. Lilly calls these things out when she’s frustrated. For example, when she’s annoyed she’s stuck in traffic, she’ll say “I’m driving a car in a beautiful city on a hot, summer day.” It reminds her of her car, where she lives, and the amazing weather she gets to experience. Or “I’m having fun eating dinner.” Or “I’m in a safe place listening to an awesome audiobook with up-to-date technology living a chill life.”
She caught herself complaining about lack of wifi on an 18-hour flight only to land in Kenya and see children with torn and old clothing and shoes run to see people on a car, an experience that was the highlight of their day. After this happened, she knew she couldn’t complain about anything again. Traveling, documentaries, books, or videos will help put yourself in situations like this that show you how fortunate you are.
Pause, reflect, and celebrate your achievements and how much they mean to you. Don’t let your brain take it for granted too quickly. It’s easy to get complacent and look for the next goal. Write about how much a goal meant to your past or current self. Read this when you achieve it. For example, if you’re struggling to find a job as a graduate, write about how much this would mean to you and read it when you get a job.
Your life is a giant photo album. One sucky situation is just a single picture in it.
5 Signs you aren’t aligned mind body and soul
- Do you say you do something but never do it?
- Do you feel guilty? Do you regret saying something?
- Do your social media statuses align with your character and actual life?
- Are your thoughts and actions aligned?
- Do you feel and say something but act differently? (Lilly did this when she talked about how she cared about her boyfriend, but her actions prioritized work instead. She also thought and felt she wanted to go to grad school but her soul stopped her from applying.)
Do what you feel and think you should do. Make your actions stay aligned.
We all have what it takes to be the best version of ourselves. There’s enough room in this world for all of us to be successful. Sometimes, our inner bawse gets knocked down but that’s temporary. You call the shots. Keep mastering. Keep hustling. You are a bawse.
On Dealing with Negative Comments
Lilly gets haters as a social media influencer. Here’s what she suggests.
- realize negative people have their own problems, and that’s how they’re putting it out there.
- believe your opinions and values first.
- realize your happiness is stronger than fear.
- realize replying is a reaction to make you happier. There are better ways of being happier.
Just like you shouldn’t take negative comments to seriously, take super positive comments with a grain of salt because that can lead to entitlement or unrealistic ego.
My Book Review
I love how she starts the book claiming not to be an expert, explaining this book isn’t just a checklist, and saying she just wants to share what she learned so far. This helped me turn off my skeptical mind a bit because she didn’t start off claiming to know all the answers. Lilly is still young, so the first thought I had was to take her advice with a grain of salt because some of her behavior she attributes to success may be a result of young luck rather than several decades of tested experience.
She wants to be a positive light. She also points to her depression and own struggles. As an Indian American, she is a good role model for Asians to relate to in terms of parental struggles and dealing with depression.
She reminds me of Happy Slip, an old school female YouTuber who also did a lot of one-actress skits involving her quirky Asian relatives. It’s interesting how HappySlip fell off and Lilly took off. I’d have to peg it to not keeping up with the times and losing interest in her craft. HappySlip became one of the top YouTubers in the era where crappy thumbnails didn’t matter as much. She never upgraded her thumbnails and stopped posting consistently.
Her point on a Bawse always emitting an aura and getting noticed when he or she enters a room stuck with me. As an invisible introvert, I often don’t get noticed at all. It makes me ponder the best way to improve that situation without faking an extroverted personality (because that’s only going to indicate I have insecurity and a need for attention).
What do you think about Lilly and her book?
Check out the book on Amazon (affiliate link). Grab a free audiobook of your choice by going to audibletrial.com/WillsGift. If you purchase through my link, I will get a commission at no extra cost to you.
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