Interested in social media, podcasting, business books and business? It’s hard to think of someone who can speak with more authority on all of those than Bruce Daisley, ex-European head of Twitter, host of the No.1 business podcast Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat, author of The Joy of Work and all-round business guru.
So it was a joy to talk to him about all of this, and particularly his new book, Fortitude, and why it’s NOT called Resilience, in this week’s Extraordinary Business Book Club conversation. Along the way we take in TikTok, Elon Musk, the tombstone aesthetic, and why the platform you build for your book is at least as important as the book itself.
Listen, and be ready to take notes.
Bruce’s website: https://eatsleepworkrepeat.com/
Bruce’s Bestseller PDF: https://eatsleepworkrepeat.com/bestseller/
Bruce on TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@brucedaisley
Alison on TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@bizbookstothesky
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge January 2023: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=proposal-challenge-jan-23
WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club bookshop: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/extraordinarybusinessbooks
Alison Jones: I’m here today with Bruce Daisley who was previously the European Vice President for Twitter. He’s host of the UK’s number one business podcast, pains me to say that, Bruce, Eat, Sleep Work, Repeat. He’s been one of the Evening Standard’s 1000 Most Influential Londoners for four years now. And he’s one of Debrett’s 500 most influential people in Britain and Campaign Magazine called him one of the most talented people in media.
He’s the author of The Joy of Work and his new book is called Fortitude: Unlocking the secrets of inner strength.
So first of all, welcome, Bruce, great to have you here.
Bruce Daisley: Thank you so much, big fan of your social content as well.
Alison Jones: Ooh, we should TikTok talk later.
Bruce Daisley: Yes, absolutely.
Alison Jones: We’ll do that, okay.
And firstly, I want to start with Fortitude though, because I just thought it was such an interesting thing that you did there. Resilience, oh my goodness, how many books have we seen and read and talked about on resilience? And I’m not dissing it because it’s a really very big topic, but it’s quite a contaminated word now, isn’t it?
And I thought it was really interesting that you got a new one.
Bruce Daisley: Yes, it really is. And look, you know, that’s one of the reasons why I’m always cautious when people capitalize the word that they’re using and it seems to become like them owning intellectual property. And, I’m sort of at pains to say that I see fortitude as broadly a synonym of resilience.
And I merely use that word because there is a weariness. I spoke to a few people. I spoke to someone who works in an NHS hospital and she said to me, oh my God, if you mention resilience around here, people will thump you. And you know, or a friend of mine, it’s sort of like a dispiriting thing for an author. You know, you’re six months into writing a book on resilience that took me far too long. It took me an immense amount of time. You’re six months in, you have lunch with someone in the midst of one of the many lockdowns. You tell the first person you’ve encountered apart from the people you live with for six months, that you’re writing a book on resilience and they go, oh, really?
Alison Jones: Wow.
Bruce Daisley: So bored with resilience and you’re like, oh, but look, I’m attempting to demystify what we get wrong about it. But absolutely. So the reason why I use that synonym, fortitude, is because there is a weariness and, you know, look, if you go into LinkedIn, there’s no shortage of people offering you resilience courses, slides of how to be resilient.
And the thing that seems to underpin all of it is that none of the approaches they suggest appear to work. And we know that for a fact, because people have researched them. People have looked into those methods of building resilience. It felt simultaneously like this Willow the Wisp, because we witness resilience around us all the time.
You see people do remarkable things. People who are able to transcend the most, the grimmest misfortune, you know, whether in war or crises or whatever. So resilience appears to exist, but the term has been appropriated by people who are kind of trying to sell snake oil, people are trying to sort of pretend that they’re offering you this magic that exists elsewhere.
Alison Jones: And right, let’s dig into that a bit because I think that’s fascinating. Because it’s not just weariness, it’s cynicism is what we’re saying, isn’t it? People are cynical about resilience because there’s the overuse and the fact that it doesn’t seem to be working because we’ve talked a lot about it so much and here we still are, but there’s also, and I thought you made this point brilliantly in the book and I hadn’t… I think I’d intuited it before, but I hadn’t articulated it. And I love that in a book when you say something and I’m like, yes, that! And it was the point that resilience has kind of, it’s a sloping shoulder. It’s… there are systematic issues and we are trying to fix them or people are trying to shift the responsibility for them onto the people at the receiving end and say, you need to be more resilient.
And there’s a really, it’s contaminated the word, because you’re right, there is something really, really pure and important about resilience, but the fact that it’s being used in that really cynical way devalues it.
Bruce Daisley: I witnessed this firsthand. My partner’s Lebanese, and so we were in Beirut two years ago on the 4th of August, 2020. And there was this colossal, this mega explosion, the biggest explosion to ever befall a peace-time city, colossal, like, shook the building we were in. Your mind goes to really dark places when you’re trying to, in the first minute trying to work out why have our windows just all blown in? What was that sucking noise, that has sucked all of, the screeching that sucked all the air out? It’s terrifying, actually, because you know, you simultaneously don’t want to project anxiety, but you’re feeling this real visceral fear. Anyway the city, the Lebanese people were already having lots of challenges, economic challenges, and the economy has collapsed, the currency has collapsed.
And what you witnessed was, in the aftermath we walked through the city the next day and the soundtrack to the city was just like crunching glass, you know, just buckets of glass being poured from the top of buildings into skips. Like it was this cacophonous sound. And we were walking around and everyone was saying, well, the world’s got to help us now. The international community has to help now. We need help. They’re going to help. They’re definitely going to help.
And what you saw was, so we were watching the international news and what you saw was the BBC News would say well, if we know one thing about Lebanese people, they’re resilient, New York Times said the Lebanese are famed for being resilient and there was this anxiety that the spotlight had had fallen on the place that was really desperately in need of support, and then everyone sort of said, oh, but you are resilient, you’ll cope with this, and moved on. And no help came and the tragedy sort of befell the people there and they felt broken by it.
And it’s a really interesting thing. There’s that resilient word again, the resilient word, which is pretty much saying you’ll be alright, we’re doing nothing. You know, it’s not my fault, you’ll be fine.
And it’s really interesting, I tend to spend my time doing interventions in companies, company culture things, and one of the briefings I often get is that people say, oh, everyone’s burnt out right now. So we’d love you to do some resilience training. It’s like, okay, okay, but let’s unpick what’s going on. So, you’ve got a working environment where people are working 50 hours a week. They feel that no matter how hard they work, they can’t get to the bottom of their inbox. There’s always a call somewhere that they’re meant to be dialed into. Quite often two or three calls.
And so they feel overwhelmed by the environment that’s created for them. And yet their employers are saying they’re not resilient enough, our team. You know, on average, the average worker is working three hours more a day than they were 15 years ago. So often not the same workers. So you’ve got these people who might be sort of in the workforce saying it never used to be this bad. And then they’ve got new workers who’ve joined the workforce, going, this is catastrophically bad. I feel like I can’t cope with it. So they’re often different workers. Yet you’ve got their employers saying, these people aren’t as resilient as they should be. They’re not as resilient as in my day. And it’s just this grand misdirection.
So that was my anxiety about the term. That the term has sort of been politicized to some extent without our permission. It’s been turned into something that you’re either regarded as resilient and heroic or you’re not. And the responsibility of that, all the training actually, that is created, is all about, well, how resilient are you going to be? It’s almost like it’s this choice that we each have, that you can either choose to be resilient like all the good people we’ve got, or you can choose not to be resilient, like all the bad people we’re going to have to get rid of.
It’s like, it’s victim blaming is truly what it is.
Alison Jones: And your point about narrative, the story that the West told about Beirut, the story that employers tell about their people. I think that the fact that we’ve kind of swallowed that narrative is really interesting as well. I think one of the things that language can do and which you’re doing in the sense with the use of fortitude, is you can jolt people out of the narrative, out of the baggage that comes with a term and force them to sort of look at it again, which is interesting.
When did the shift in title come about? What were you going to call it originally?
Bruce Daisley: Yes, I was sort of, you know, the genesis of these things is that, you know, I used to work at Twitter. I sort of used to run Twitter for Europe. And I sort of reached the stage where I’d been in tech firms for a long time, and certainly West Coast tech firms, you spend a lot of the back end of the day, you know, the hours up till midnight in communication with people in San Francisco and like, this is exhausting.
And so, you know, I sort of had in my mind that I was going to do something different. And I set myself the goal at the start of 2020 that I was going to write this book on something adjacent to these themes. And then lockdown happened, I was going to spend the three months of lockdown writing this book and of course, lockdown didn’t last for three months. And the book didn’t take three months to write. So I think the only title it’s ever really had was Fortitude but yes, it took a while to get to there.
Alison Jones: It’s so funny, there is a PhD somewhere in how lockdown impacted people’s writing practice and the gestation of books. Because some people just got on it, I talked to Tony Crabbe who did Busy @ Home in about sort of, you know, locked himself away for two weeks and wrote the book. I know, hilarious.
The resilience thing at work is really interesting as well, because obviously, you know, your previous book was The Joy of Work. And that sort of sense that actually we’re there a lot of the time, increasing amount of the time as you point out. So that point about resilience or fortitude at work, what’s interesting is that after pushing back on the narrative of ‘you just need to be more resilient’, you do actually say, and there are things that you can do to increase your resilience, your fortitude.
So I think before we leave people with the kind of the bad news that this is a really, really bad situation, what are the things that are in our control, that we can do to have more fortitude, to be more fortitudinous?
Bruce Daisley: Yes, oh, that’s a good word.
Well, I guess the thing that I was anxious about was that there was so much misdirection. There was, you know, we’re often given icons of resilience and you know, these people and were told, oh, wow, look at these person, look at how they’ve transcended their situation. We should be more like them.
And, you know, so the book opens with a real exploration of just something that I found, probably, you know, it was the defining first piece of work that I was like there’s something in this, I want to explore this. And actually, I didn’t know the answers, so it was a piece of work studying elite athletes.
And these are people that we might see in the Commonwealth Games, or we might see in the Olympics. And UK Sport did an interesting piece of work where they looked at super elite athletes. So these were people, they say these are all retired athletes and these are household names. So while they anonymized them in the report, they studied 16 of these super elite athletes. These are people who scored at least one gold medal, maybe multiple gold medals. And they compared them. They did a control group. They compared them to people in the same sport, who received the same funding, who maybe went to games but got a bronze or got to the games and didn’t place. They tried to understand the difference.
And one of the differences might initially, superficially, give us a pointer that there are some people who are more resilient than others, because what they discovered was of the super elite athletes, all of them had experienced a significant negative experience in childhood, a childhood trauma effectively, something that could in some instances be being put up for adoption, it could be a parent dying. It could be systematic bullying and abuse, like, various different lived experiences. All of them, all of them had experienced those significant moments of a negative event.
In contrast, the people who hadn’t achieved at the same level, only one in four of them had done it. So it’s really interesting because it immediately brings to mind people that we might know. So even though this work was anonymized, the story of Mo Farah suddenly makes this really vivid sense. In fact, you know, Mo Farah is so accomplished that I found myself researching his biography because I wanted to see whether he fitted in with it.
And, you know, so Mo Farah, most recently the news has told us that Mo Farah was a victim of modern slavery. He was sold by his mother into domestic service first in Mogadishu and then in the UK and so, we sort of witnessed this remarkable thing and we might think, oh, well, at least he was able to transcend it. At least he was able to build a second act. But in fact, based on that UK sport research, there’s reason to suggest that one was formative in the other. And so what you might say about that is you might say, okay, well maybe this disruption, this childhood trauma, this negative experience is the thing that forms a champion. From trauma comes triumph.
But it’s far more complicated than that. You know, what you actually find is when you delve into childhood negative experience, it serves to demolish a person’s sense of self, you know, it shatters their self image. Negative childhood experience is principally experienced as shame, it’s experienced as something that really damages someone’s sense of identity.
And what you find in these elite performers is that this negative experience was normally coincidentally or pretty in a timely fashion, was experienced alongside something that served to embolden their sense of identity. And so through these things, we see actually that one of the things that is one of the most potent forms of our resilience is this sense of identity. And actually once you’ve identified it, once you recognize it, you see it everywhere.
So you see in the narrative that Barack Obama tells about his own life, you know, that it was only when we see Barack Obama as this remarkable, fully rounded orator and leader. And yet, you know, in his own recounting, actually he really struggled with his identity, who he was in the world, a man of mixed race who was raised by the completely white half of his family. So he really struggled to connect with who he was, and it was only when he reached this realization after college that who he wanted to be and who he was that he said he became himself, his identity effectively protected him and sort became his lighthouse. And so firstly, you know, if we’re going to try and understand resilience, understanding the role that our identity plays in that is a really critical part.
Now, quite often, the way we talk about identity, we talk about it in a sort of identity politics, or identity…
Alison Jones: It’s become quite a term, hasn’t it?
Bruce Daisley: …that’s right. And that’s largely our social identities. So it’s taking who we perceive ourselves to be, and then thinking, well, how does that enable us to connect with the people around us?
And that connectedness is really the most potent part of how we draw our strength. So if any of us, forgive me this a really long answer, for any of us who are sort of thinking about how can I make, how can I feel more resilient? How can the teenager in my life, how can I, my colleagues, feel more resilient? Feeling connected to others and feeling our identity reflected back at us by others, them understanding us, is one of the most important parts of that.
And it just, I think understanding that is really critical. So, you know, to sort of to tie this all up in a bow, it’s like whenever we’re sitting there thinking, does resilience exist and then we see it manifested by other people, it’s normally because they feel a sense that we’re all in this together. They feel this enveloping, protective shield, cloak of community that they feel, you know, the people of Ukraine, they might be astonished of their bravery they’re able to exhibit, but it’s normally because they look across and they see other people in their same situation and they think, yes, we are together, together we’re strong.
And I think understanding that resilience isn’t this magical individualistic thing, it’s this collective thing. And actually the more we understand that, the more I think people take it on board and really accept it.
Alison Jones: It’s really frustrating because I want to dig into this more actually, it is fascinating. And the point about identity, your piece about the bomb disposal, as long as you can wiggle your fingers, you know, just finding those tiny bits of agency.
And I want to talk about social media and I want to talk about writing.
So with huge regret, look, just go and read the book people, it’s really, really good.
Okay. So let’s talk about, well, let’s talk about social media, because actually I can do a really clunky segue from the whole adolescent, you know, I have teenage children, the mental health thing is real. The resilience piece is real, especially with what they’ve been through the last couple of years. And they spend all their time on social media.
So you and I, just before we came on, were talking about TikTok and you are one of the few people I know on there, along with me. Why are you there? What does it do? Why does it matter? What are you doing?
Bruce Daisley: Well, firstly, I consume a load of TikTok. I love TikTok. It’s replaced podcasts a little bit in my, you know, I used to listen to, you won’t believe this, but like four hours a day of podcast about politics. So like at one and a half, one and three quarter speed, so very fast, but four hours of content every day about American politics, you know, I would wake up every day to the Rachel Madden show on MSNBC. I would listen to FiveThirtyEight NPR. I’d listen to all of this and I’ve replaced some of that consumption of American politics with TikToks. And I love it because, while superficially it’s frothy and it’s got silly people dancing, and it’s actually, although I am obsessed with people who can do shuffle dances and, that would be one of my ambitions to do that, but… it’s also like, you know, I’ve witnessed people doing TikToks about scientific papers. And, you know, there was one that I still talk about, it’s about epigenetics and like about how, very briefly can I explain this TikTok in 30 seconds?
Alison Jones: Do you know, you are not first person to talk about epigenetics on this program, which is astonishing, anyway go on.
Bruce Daisley: But like this, so someone was describing this scientific paper where they got these mice, they played a smell of cherry blossom to these mice and then they gave them an electric shock. Right? That was it. Like association of the smell of cherry blossom, electric shock. Then the children of those mice were put into a cage and the cage was infused with the smell of cherry blossom and the mice responded in a fearful way. Then, the children of those mice were put into a cage where the smell of cherry blossom was released. Now, clearly this can’t be a genetic thing. So the understanding is it’s an epigenetic switch. It’s something that’s transferred. Anyway, fascinating, scientific paper on TikTok taught me that.
Now I just think that’s magical. I think that someone who’s explained something as complex as that, a scientific paper, she’s talked through, you know, the cautions, the questions, I just think is magical. So as a means of communicating really complex things, I think underestimate it at your peril. Because the forced brevity of it yes, is restricting because it makes you abbreviate. But the forced brevity makes you think about communication. It makes you think, how could I transfer this idea from my head to someone else’s head and that discipline, I used to work at Twitter and you know…
Alison Jones: I was quite sad when you increased the character limit because I used to love it, it almost like creating a haiku each time, yes.
Bruce Daisley: That’s right. Well, comedians used to say the art of getting it down to 140 characters was like this really difficult thing. People who do standup comedy will say the art of standup comedy is taking words away. Can you say it in fewer words? Can you sort of, can you articulate something complex, but relatable, but in as few words as possible, can you get from A to B? And that brevity might seem constraining, but it’s actually like the means of creating this. So I love TikTok and in fact, I’ve got a lot more TikToks coming, but I didn’t want to do them too far ahead of the book coming out. So in fact, I’m planning to do one immediately after this. But yes, absolutely, so, those TikToks have reached a few, fifteen hundred people each. I’d love, I just want to explore it, you know, what reaction do I get? It’s slightly different to Instagram in the sense that you’re not constrained to the audience who are following you, it’s about how your content can reach people. Anyway, I’m intrigued by it.
Alison Jones: And you do a lot of, sort of wandering around talking to the phone. Sorry that sounds much. That sounds, it’s not supposed to be… it’s good, you feel like you’re with you, you feel like, what I feel like when I’m watching your TikToks is I’m just kind of walking alongside you chatting.
Bruce Daisley: Yes, yes, yes, it’s really interesting. If you consume a lot of TikTok, you see, that’s very much a form that a lot of people do on TikTok, but if you see elsewhere, people are like, yes, I post the same videos on LinkedIn and people are like, what are you, why are you walking? You know, so..
Alison Jones: They want context.
Bruce Daisley: Yes, that’s clearly a form that works well on TikTok, maybe sort of feels a bit more alien elsewhere. Fun, I love it.
Alison Jones: Yes, that’s hilarious.
So, yes. I’ve started doing TikTok about, I don’t know about six weeks ago because our social media manager has been nagging me to do it forever. I’m loving it. Yes, really enjoying it and you’re right, you get much more engagement, really interesting comments. Even more than Instagram. It’s a good thing. I think there’s just people on there and there’s more, it’s more like Twitter was, isn’t it in 2007 when it were all fields…
Bruce Daisley: No doubt, no doubt. And look, you know, the lesson that we’ve got of all of these things is that quite often we embrace the excitement, the possibility, the democratizing form that they take. And, you know, and maybe it’s unfortunate that we don’t foresee the problems that come with that. But you know, when I joined Twitter, it was regarded as like, it was so trivial. It was like where Steven Fry would talk to Jonathan Ross about what they were doing or having for breakfast. And, you know, no one could have imagined that it would be weaponized and turned into something that was so toxic. And in fact, actually we witnessed it far earlier in the UK. You know, one of the things that I sort of found myself being was like the ambassador for trying to take safety a bit more seriously, because we were seeing levels of abuse and misogyny and racism in the UK way ahead of where they were seen in the US.
Alison Jones: Not sure how to respond to that.
Bruce Daisley: And it was kind of embarrassing. It was kind of humiliating. To some extent the racism and the abuse alongside football and sport was, you know, I think there’s cultural differences there. If you go to American sport, there’s no away fans. So, you know, they don’t necessarily have this sort of hatred-driven disdain for other teams, at least to the same extent. They might have it and people who know these things better than me, but they don’t have it to the same extent. But the misogyny that we witnessed, you know, and I tried my best because the company just failed at solving those things. But, you know, I tried my best in as much as we all did, to try and bring some sort of UK agenda to fixing those things.
And, you know, I failed at that, I think
Alison Jones: I really want to ask you about the Elon Musk thing as well, but I think I probably won’t.
It is what it is.
Bruce Daisley: Talk about destroying a brand, right. You know, the start of this year, if you said to people, like, who represents a thoughtful ever-dynamic, innovative… now, if you said who represents the biggest jackass on the planet, it’s like, you know, he’s gone from one to the other in eight months.
Alison Jones: Got to be careful, he might be on here one day. Anyway, moving on.
Writing, I want to ask you about… I’m just so conscious of time as well. I want to talk you all day, but I can’t. So tell me about your writing first, what you love about it, what you find hard, what systems you use? Just talk us a little bit… what does it look like for you?
Bruce Daisley: Yes, I was really inspired by your TED talk about this. Like, you know, how writing can be meditative and I guess, you know what you said in that was you talked about, I think, my interpretation of that, is that just the mere act of writing can take you on self learning, self understanding. And certainly, you know, I found that I had thoughts in my head that I was trying to be able to communicate and having them down on paper forces you to firstly, try to make an argument coherent. And secondly, helps you understand the holes in that argument. And so it’s an exercise in sort of self knowledge, as much as anything else.
You know, I guess to some extent, publishing a book is, feels performative, but when you’re doing it, it doesn’t feel performative. It feels feels like…
Alison Jones: Exploratory?
Bruce Daisley: Yes, exactly. Perfect word for it.
It feels, you know, like you’re trying to answer a question rather than do a performance. And so it’s, for me, it was really helpful to try to do that. So, and in fact, the challenge of it is you finished this piece of work and I’d probably showed it to… showed it in a very rudimentary sense to the publisher, but no one had seen it. And then like, you know, I’ve got one friend who I show these things to, and he took about three weeks to come back, but he gave me some thoughts and it’s like that revealing it is such a late stage for the art of writing that it’s sort of interesting, it is, it’s an exploratory process.
And it is a real shift in gear, isn’t it? There’s a sort of vulnerability and insecurity as soon as you show it to someone else and it’s not just you and the manuscript wrestling each other anymore, or the the sort of inner circle of people. There’s a real shift there.
Yes, there is. And I guess through that, you try to ensure that your arguments at least convince you. What I mean is like you don’t feel, I feel like if you were doing a PowerPoint presentation, you might smuggle through something that you’re not convinced by, but it just adds…
Whereas when you’re writing a book, you feel like you can’t smuggle something through, you feel like…
Alison Jones: There’s a new level rigour with it, isn’t there?
Bruce Daisley: Yes, that’s right.
Alison Jones: Really valuable today when there is so much frankly crap out there.
Bruce Daisley: That’s right. You feel like, I’ve got to prove this and you know, and that’s right. That’s right. So you become consumed with reading other people’s books and then reading their references.
Alison Jones: And I think that’s part of the value of it, isn’t it? Is it forces you to just, you know, eat really good brain food.
Bruce Daisley: That’s right, it really is. And actually it becomes, I read because I do a podcast on these things, I read a lot of these books and for example, there was a book out this year called The Power of Fun by a woman called Catherine Price. And actually I much preferred The Guardian article that a woman called Elle Hunt wrote about it.
That Elle’s article took the idea of The Power of Fun. And The Power of Fun is this idea that actually most of us are eliminating fun or postponing fun from our lives. And actually a life without fun is a life half lived, but Elle Hunt’s article was like an articulation of it.
But the book, when I then went on to read the Catherine Price book. I thought OK so it was jigsaw pieces that I’d seen before. Oh, it’s that research, it’s that research, it’s that research, it’s that research. And she slotted them together. It was like, okay. I know all of this research. I get it as a hypothesis. I get it. It’s fine. It’s cool.
So like the big thing for me was as I was going through my book, was like I’d say to people have you ever heard of this research? And they’d say, no, no, no, I’ve never. And it was a really big thing for me that okay, there’s at least four things in here that people won’t necessarily have seen.
And it’s like a big part of trying to deliver something that felt fresh, but maybe adjacent to what people have read elsewhere.
Alison Jones: Because it can get so formulaic, can’t it? Here’s my Apple case study. Here’s my talk from Steve Jobs. Here’s my research about mindset and growth mindset. Yes, there’s this sort of almost business book bingo that you can play, yes.
Bruce Daisley: Absolutely.
Alison Jones: If I was to ask you for your single best tip for somebody who’s at the other end of this process, so they’re just starting perhaps writing their first business book, what would you tell them?
Bruce Daisley: Yes, I put everything that I’ve learned into a PDF that I just sent. I send to anyone who asks me and my intention of this, and actually you’ll see if you download it, so you can get it at eatsleepworkrepeat.com/bestseller.
Alison Jones: Will totally put that link up on the show notes.
Bruce Daisley: Yes, and you don’t have to aspire to have a best seller and I say, look, you know, it shouldn’t be a be all and end all of it, but I think knowing why you are writing and knowing your objective and merely if you’ve got a book that you think this is a really valuable contribution, then knowing how to get it into as many hands as possible is a really important part of that.
And what a lot of people discover is that they write a book and then it disappears. It can be so deeply anti-climatic, the first week that your book comes out you’ve expected to stride into Waterstones and see it on the center table. And it’s not even, it’s not even in the special, it’s like oh, it’s not in Waterstones. You know, Waterstones is the cathedral of books and my book’s not here. What does this mean? How do I get here? How do I, you know, let alone, WHSmith, how do I get into these places?
And so, you know, I put all of my learning into that and you know, the book process, when you get… there’s something lovely when someone you don’t know, you’ve never met, in a completely different part of the country, contact you and say something. You’re like, oh, wow, that means my book has been read by someone. And so just knowing to get your book into more hands became my focus. So that PDF is everything I know and I update it quite regularly. So that’s like the fourth version that I’ve done. When I’ve finished the campaign for this book, I’ll update it again with everything I’ve learned from there.
So yes, it’s just, I think the critical thing is knowing that anyone who writes a book thinks that the act of submitting it is the final line.
And no, no, no, that’s, you’ve just done the training to get to the start line and, you know, and so…
Alison Jones: …a necessary but not a sufficient condition, yes.
Bruce Daisley: And you know, and one of the things that people think is they think that there’s like this meritocratic hierarchy of books, that the best books will all find their way and you’ll reach the natural level.
And actually, no, no, no, finding the way to promote your book and get your book into the right hands is really critical. It’s why building a platform for your book, whether that is I want to build a newsletter or I want to do an Instagram account that is famous for this, or I want to do TikTok for this, building a platform for your book is such a critical part of it.
So I go through all of that in that PDF.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. Right, I’m going to put the link up there and there’ll be about 50 different tips in there, people. So, you know, don’t feel cheated now. That’s brilliant.
I’m always asking people as well for a recommendation for a business book. It doesn’t actually have to be a business book, but given this audience, and of course they should all read Fortitude, but what else would you recommend that people read, what’s had a big impact on you?
Bruce Daisley: I read a lot of business books and trying to work out one to do podcast you know, I’ll talk through not necessarily business books, but you know, my favourite book of knowing yourself is Lost Connections by Johann Hari. Which superficially is a book about depression, but it’s sort of very adjacent to the themes in my book.
I love The Good Jobs Strategy by Zeynep Ton, which is a very sort of typical business book, a lot of graphs, but I cried twice in that book. One, because she talks about an employer that had given jobs to mentally handicapped people. And it’s so beautiful and the way she describes the store was, the store that this kid worked in was bagging groceries and they were worried because the line of his groceries was longer than everywhere else in the store. And so they were worried, should we do something? And it was because he was writing his thought for the day and putting it in each bag. And so people wanted to be in the line. And it’s such a beautiful little story and so that book I loved.
Yes, I think, you know, what you realize is there’s something I think is really helpful… Most recently I spoke to two women who wrote, Liz Fosslien and Mollie Duff I think is the other author, who wrote a book. They’re quite famous for their Instagram graphs. They’ve written a book called No Hard Feelings and another one called Tough Feelings, I think.
And, they’re just about emotions, but they do these graphs and charts and they’ve developed a big Instagram following. And what you realize is getting some point of difference. These illustrations, you’ll have witnessed one of these, they’ll have been on your social media feed. They’ll have been on LinkedIn. But getting some point of difference, getting something that differentiates you, whether it’s the social content that you produce or it’s something to do is the most important thing.
It’s such a commoditized market that a single thing that makes you stand out and that might be your idea, or the way you express your idea, is so important I think.
Alison Jones: Yes, yes, brilliant. Thank you.
Bruce, if people want to find out more about you, more about the books, more about the podcast, where should they go?
Bruce Daisley: Yes, most of my stuff is free actually. If you go to eatsleepworkrepeat.com and I’ve done about 155 podcasts on various aspect of workplace culture, psychology.
And there’s links to my books there as well. I’ve done two books. Unfortunately, when they published my book, The Joy of Work in the US, they changed the title to Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat, and I very frequently get people coming up to me saying I’ve just ordered both of your books, The Joy of Work and Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat.
And there’s a real danger that they’re going to get the second one and think, God, this guy’s got one. He’s got one song. He’s got one idea.
Alison Jones: That’s hilarious.
Bruce Daisley: Oh, my God, the second album was so samey. I should never have agreed it, but before you’re in publishing, you don’t know these things.
Alison Jones: It’s extraordinary the way that the US market is subtly different to the UK market. And yes, we used to call it tombstone design aesthetic as well for the covers.
Bruce Daisley: Yes, yes, yes. Did you ever see that Guardian article comparing book covers in the US and the UK?
Alison Jones: I didn’t…
Bruce Daisley: it’s really worth checking out because they compare Michelle Obama’s cover in the US and the UK. You know, and like big books that you’ve seen Hillary Clinton’s book in the US and the UK.
And it’s so interesting. Exactly, like US book covers are like so tombstones, like dead. It’s really remarkable.
Alison Jones: But of course, you know, we are British, so we look at them going, why would you do that? And of course they look at ours going, oh, no.
Bruce Daisley: Oh, yes, yes.
Alison Jones: Except not with a Scottish accent.
Bruce Daisley: So gaudy, yes, that’s right.
Alison Jones: So brash.
Bruce Daisley: Why would they do that? Absolutely. I love it. I love that sort of, well, you know, sometimes you look at American fonts and you go…
Alison Jones: Yes, like The Wall Street Journal thing.
Bruce Daisley: Yes.
Oh, wind it in.
Alison Jones: Yes, New York Times. All frilly bits. Hilarious. Yes, it’s a mid 19th century typographic aesthetic.
Bruce Daisley: Strange, isn’t it? When you watch their TV news you’re like, look at their fonts. Why would you do that?
Alison Jones: Are you sure you’re not a publisher, Bruce? That’s really funny.
Listen, it’s been an absolute joy talking to you. Thank you. And we’ve covered quite a lot of ground, I feel, even before people start downloading the PDF and reading that. So thank you. It’s been an absolute joy talking to you today.
Bruce Daisley: Lovely to chat to you. Thank you.