Be a Triangle by Lilly Singh Review and Interview
Lilly Singh's New Book Will Convince You to "Be a Triangle"
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At 92 pages long and sprinkled with comic-style illustrations, Lilly's Singh's "Be a Triangle" (out today) is deceptively short and simple. Yes, it's concise, funny, and approachable, but by no means is this book surface-level. In fact, it's the opposite. The whole goal of "Be a Triangle" is to peer as deeply as you can beneath the surface of your life, into who you are and what you truly want. It's not an easy journey, and it's one that the actress, comedian, and bestselling author of "How to Be a Bawse" undertook in her own life while writing the book.
The challenge that Singh sets for herself is to build a solid core for her life, a sort of internal home base to which she can return no matter what turmoil she faces. She wants to build a "foundation so deep that it will exist and thrive even if our surface-level efforts fail." That's where the triangle idea comes in, because a triangle is a shape with a solid foundation, but one that still allows for growth. "When you add to a triangle, you do not change the essence of what it is," Singh explains in the book. "You simply build upon it and make it an even greater, stronger version of itself."
Singh goes on to explain the four essential ideas that make up her own foundation (more on that below), giving personal examples from her own life to illuminate the meaning of each one. It's not easy; there are no quick fixes when you're talking about reshaping the core of your life, and Singh points out her failures as much as her successes. It's not exactly the book she expected to write, but she says the work it forced her to do has already had an immense impact. "I had every intention for [this book] to be motivational and inspirational, but when I first started to write, I didn't have the . . . wisdom that I earned through writing," she tells POPSUGAR. "It has really changed me."
It's sharp, funny, and quietly joyful, presenting a simple — but by no means easy — road map to changing your life.
As you read, you can start to understand why. Reading "Be a Triangle" feels like listening to a wise, empathetic therapist who also makes you laugh aloud every other page. It's sharp, funny, and quietly joyful, presenting a simple — but by no means easy — road map to changing your life. By starting at the bottom and building up, the idea is to create a sense of peace, a "home" that allows you to discover what you actually want and to grow towards it. "I don't think we should live a life where we are so easily swayed in one direction, then the other," Singh explains. "I think we should anchor ourselves in something."
Keep reading for POPSUGAR's interview with Singh about the transformative experience of writing this book, the backstory of Simmi Patel's clever illustrations, and whether Singh herself is truly living life like a triangle.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
POPSUGAR: What does it mean to "be a triangle," and why did you want that to be the title of this book?
Lilly Singh: When I started writing this book, I was really trying to figure out what I wanted to accomplish. I didn't want to write something that would be a Band-Aid solution, full of fluffy terms that I couldn't actually apply into my real life. I wanted this to be a long-term solution and a blueprint for my life going forward. I really had to go deep, and I discovered that what I lacked in my adult life, because I was never encouraged to figure it out as a child, was a really strong foundation and sense of self. Like, what do I want out of life? What do I think is important?
When I started googling "strong foundation," a triangle came up, because structurally, a triangle is the strongest shape. And I thought, yes. I want to build a foundation like a triangle, where I have a strong base and build everything else on top of this foundation that will not teeter based on what's happening in my life.
PS: In the book, you talked about how many of us aren't encouraged to think about the "foundation" of our lives. How did you change your own mindset around that, and up with the four pillars of the foundation that you're talking about?
LS: That was definitely the hardest part. It's easy to throw around terms like "Build a foundation and a fulfilling life!" Well, what does it mean to build a foundation? No one really knows how to do that work. Ultimately, I wanted my foundation to be a set of principles that I could return to, a safe mental space for me that could not be affected by other things in my life. They couldn't be tied to other people. They couldn't be tied to external validation.
I started to look at different issues and struggles I've had in my life, and I narrowed it down to four principles that I felt could encompass every problem in my life: my relationship with myself; my relationship with the universe; understanding distraction; and implementing design. I can view everything that happens in my life through those four lenses. I also didn't want to write a book that suggested, "You need to do these 50 routines and incorporate these 50 thought patterns." We already have these four things I talk about. It's just changing the way we're thinking about what's already there.
Image Source: Getty / Taylor Hill / Contributor
PS: You get pretty vulnerable in this book while writing about your own life. Was it hard to be that honest about your struggles?
LS: Yes and no. The first couple times I sat down to write, I found myself lying to myself. I would write a page and I'd be like, "Who are you lying to, girl? This is not you. Delete this." And I would start all over again. So in the beginning, definitely, yes. It took me several tries to really penetrate deep down into my soul.
But then once I got there, it was actually really nice and healing to share the things I shared. I feel like, for the first time in my life, I was able to share them with perspective. It was not a heated or impulsive response, it was me thoroughly thinking through things that have happened in my life and showing all three sides of the story: mine, someone else's, and what actually happened.
PS: I wasn't really expecting the illustrations, and it made the book such a pleasant experience to read. Why did you want there to be illustrations?
LS: I'm a fan of this illustrator, Simmi Patel. Years ago, when I started my late-night show ["A Little Late With Lilly Singh"], we had no budget to decorate the writers' room, so I DM'd her and asked if she would gift us some prints. She did, and I promised I would make it up to her in the future.
So when it came to writing this book, I was writing about deep stuff, but I wanted it to be accessible. I wanted to have moments of lightness and cheerfulness, and I thought it would be cool to have little illustrations that add a bit of humor. I messaged her and I said, "Hey, remember when you gifted me those prints? Well, I want you to illustrate my book." It was a beautiful, full-circle moment. I have to give her full credit. I did not give her any direction. I just sent her my book, she suggested a bunch of illustrations to me, I gave minimal notes, because they were close to perfection, and she absolutely nailed them.
PS: After writing this book and going on this journey, do you feel like you really are a triangle?
LS: Even before I announced that I was writing this book, I had friends who said to me, "You seem like you're in a really good place. You seem really happy." I had someone tell me two days ago, "You seem a lot lighter." And it's true. I am using the things I wrote in my book every day. My goal is that this is the blueprint for the rest of my life. This is the foundation I will use moving forward.
"I'm sure our lives will continue to get more complex. Noise will find new ways to distract us . . . That is why we must always return to what we know to be true: our relationship with ourselves and our relationship with the universe. Everything else is a distraction. And when those distractions lead us astray, we can be creative and design a path back home to ourselves."
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Prompts
This book can check off more than one 2022 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt; just pick the one that fits best for you.
- A book published in 2022
- A book you can read in one sitting
How Long It Takes to Read
You could finish this book in a couple of hours if you wanted to, but I recommend giving yourself a few days or a week to savor each nugget of wisdom and how you can apply it to your own life.
The Sweet-Spot Summary
With humor and vulnerability, Lilly Singh's "Be a Triangle" ($18) challenges readers to create a solid foundation for their lives, one that — like a triangle — can bear considerable weight, withstand life's turmoils, and allow room for growth.