With Spring upon us, it’s time for renewal! Time to get outdoors, feel the sunshine and fresh air. It’s a beautiful time to sit outside and dip into a novel or pour through a fashion mag while feeling the warmth on your skin.
We popped out and caught up with PR powerhouse, Bec Brown, Founder and Managing Director of public relations agency The Comms Department. Somewhere between running a PR empire and baking her famous Bec Brown Brownies, Bec’s found time to pen her first book! We’re in awe of her achievements so we asked her to share her take on books, why she wrote one, and what they mean to her.
Bec, you’ve just published your first book, congrats! What was the inspo behind it?
Thanks BNT! You’ve Got This is for women who want to succeed in their career in any creative industry, but also for those who want to start their own business. It’s full of tips and real-life stories on what works and what doesn’t – based both on research and some on my own shocking mistakes, which I’m very honest about. With this ongoing global event that’s left the Aussie job-market a bit uncertain, it’s a timely guide that offers practical solutions and easy-to-action advice, to help women reach their creative and earning potential and find career fulfilment, minus the anxiety or burn out.
It’s also been beautifully illustrated by Inga Campbell and reads more like a magazine than a book, so it’s easy to dip in and out of and is an enjoyable read. I wrote it because a lot of graduates, young professionals and those wanting to start their own business were coming to me for advice, so it was time to compile that knowledge. But also, I had a really rough time navigating my career in my late teens and twenties. At times I felt very rudderless, especially when I was changing careers. I wish someone had handed me a book like You’ve Got This as getting practical and honest advice from someone who’d gone before me would have been a game-changer. Ultimately, if this book can help just one other person to not go through some of the angst that I did, it’s done its job.
What are some of your tips in the book and what’s the most important piece of advice you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
You’ve Got This covers a lot of ground, all based around creating a sustainable and successful career. We cover everything from how to stand out from the crowd and build an exceptional reputation in a positive and authentic way, to defining your own measure of success and personal brand to ensure you end up on the right career path. There are also tips on how to build valuable relationships – from networking, working well with your boss, and dealing with office politics, and the dos and don’ts of meetings, work events, and social media. And because we want a career that we can have for a long time, there’s also practical advice on managing your work-life balance so that work remains fun and you never burn out, plus tips on starting your own successful business and other life lessons to apply to your professional life.
Helpful for what’s going on in the world today, there’s information on how to be cool in a crisis with tips on overcoming challenges, dealing with setbacks or change, and dismissing the fear of failure. And because I have a music background, there’s also a chapter that explains how your voice can be your biggest ally – because how you say something is just as important as what you say, it helps you learn how to master your pitch, pace, tone and volume.
If I were to give just one piece of advice to take away today though, underpinning everything is learning how to be more mindful. When times are challenging – whether at work or with any generalised stress or anxiety - we need to be able to tune out the noise to focus on what’s actually important, and meditation or mindfulness greatly helps with that. It helps you to step back from a situation and see all the different possibilities so you can prioritise what’s the most urgent task to complete first, second, and so on. Apps like Headspace or 10% Happier are great places to start if you want to begin meditating. Oh, and one more just because it’s a good one - It’s ok to ask for help, so look for mentors who have gone before you. We’re never alone and we do so much better when we join forces with others.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about people who work in creative industries? Dispel some myths!
There’s a misconception that creative people either shouldn’t be, or aren’t, very commercially minded. So often people will create amazing work, but they can’t sell what they create to be able to make a good living, to support themselves, their families and their community. When I was at school, because I studied subjects like music, art, drama and English, there was an assumption that I was terrible at maths. And I believed that for way too long! I later found out that while maths didn’t come quite as naturally to me as more creative tasks, it was still all learnable. And if you want to run a business, you need to decide to get good at it – You’ve Got This offers some great advice on how to become great at both.
Do you remember being read to as a child?
I think I was too young to remember being read to, but I remember Mum or Dad making sure that I read every night before I went to bed. And it didn’t take long before I’d go put myself to bed so that I could be whisked away to whatever magical land lay inside the book I was reading. I’m very grateful to them for that, it’s an excellent gift to give a kid. Getting books wasn’t easy either, I grew up on a farm outside of a very small rural town and this was in the 90s before ebooks. I’d have to wait for the mobile library to roll into town each month to be able to borrow more books. It was literally a big truck that was lined with bookshelves. I was always first in line to climb aboard and I couldn’t wait to see what treasures would be in that truck each month! I still read every night before I go to sleep (even if it’s only a page before I pass out.)
What would you reach for first, a personal development educational style of book or prefer to be swept away into fantasy and fiction?
Great question! I couldn’t possibly choose, and this is why I tend to have at least two books on the go at any time. Personal development or business books will always be something I’ll focus on. I’ve discovered over time that one of my core values is learning so being able to access so much wisdom and knowledge from experts in their fields or those who have gone before me is something I’m grateful for daily.
Fiction I’ve loved lately has been Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. I read that so slowly because the characters were so interesting I wanted to savour them. Holly Wainwright’s I Give My Marriage A Year is wonderful too. It’s different to her first two books which were much more playful. This one is more serious but with the same very relatable characters from her others. Her writing is so real, I feel as if she’s describing people that I know every well. And I loved Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It’s old Hollywood scandal and intrigue but all relating back to today.
My bookcase is also full of autobiographies. There’s something about getting inside someone else’s head (and life) that’s so appealing. Learning about their experiences always opens my world and seems to help me be a more empathetic, tolerant person. Getting to know others’ innermost thoughts also helps me to feel less alone.
Favourites by amazing women who are at the top of their game for many reasons include Bossypants by Tina Fey, Natural Born Keller: My life and other palaver by Amanda Keller, and The Year of Yes: How to dance it out, stand in the sun and be your own person by Shonda Rhimes.
One Hundred Years of Dirt by Rick Morton and Fourteen: My Year of Darkness and the Light that Followed by Shannon Molloy both give heartbreaking yet utterly inspiring accounts of life in Australia growing up away from big cities and The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons in creative leadership by Bob Iger is a brilliant read from the head of Disney on how to be an ethical and smart leader.
Has a book ever changed your life?
Eckhart Tolle has written so many thought-provoking books, but two of them – A New Earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose and The Power of Now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment – have really helped to me to learn how to be more present, to ditch my anxious mindset, and to stop listening to the unhelpful thoughts that pop into my head. They have also helped me to learn how to grow my business and to keep my edge while also being content with what I already have. For me, that’s the ultimate goal.
Are there any books you’ve read over and over again and never get bored? Or is life too short to read books more than once?
For me, life is too short to re-read fiction. There are just too many amazing books to read! But I re-read personal development and business books all the time. You either get a refresher on things you know but may have forgotten which helps you in the moment, or you discover something new that applies to you right now, based on where you are with your life. American authors Brene Brown and Ryan Holiday are two writers in particular whose books I tend to pick up more than once.
Does writing energise or exhaust you? What’s your process?
This is also an excellent question. The honest answer is that it varies. Some days I can’t wait to get everything out of my head and onto paper. Other days the mere thought of having to write a paragraph feels like the most tedious thing in the world. I love the quote that “Small, repeated, daily steps create life transformations” and this really applies with any creative pursuit like writing. Some days you’ll feel the creative genius strike and you’ll be in flow. Other days you won’t feel that at all and it’ll be a hard slog. But that’s when you just have to persevere. Just keep writing or creating, even if you think it’s bad. At least it’s something that you can come back to and edit, polish or launch off from next time.
The idea for You’ve Got This came to me almost ten years ago, and I was working on it quite solidly for three years to get to the point of being published. And it’s a far better book because of that time. The design alone went through five different versions before I came to the final one I was happy with. And as for the writing, because I had to fit it in around work, it was something that I did on weekends and basically every flight I was ever on for work or holidays! What was great about that though was that I grew and evolved as a person over those years, so all the great lessons that I learned then went into the book. I also studied a certificate in social psychology over that time so a lot of the learning that came from that made the book much more thorough and well-researched.
What book or series do you think should be turned into a movie or TV show one day?
The world is really into nostalgia at the moment and some of that comes from reminiscing about a simpler time. When I was little, I used to steal my big sister’s Trixie Belden books. Trixie was the title character in a series of “girl detective” books. There were almost 40 books written between 1948 – 1986 and my sister had somehow collected almost all of them. Trixie was smart, fearless and could do anything the boys did. She was a brilliant role model for a little girl so I’d love to see her come to life on screen to inspire a whole new generation.
Part author proceeds from every sale of ‘You’ve Got This’ will be donated to two incredible charities that support women - Fitted for Work and Life Changing Experiences – so by grabbing yourself a copy, you’re helping women who really need it.
You’ve Got This by Bec Brown (Penguin Random House, $29.99) is available in book, ebook and audiobook, wherever you get your good books.