Creating Viral Content and a Best Selling Book with Bronnie Ware
Bronnie Ware is best known for being the founder of The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying which has sold over 1m copies around the world!
In this episode she shares how to create viral content, how she dealt with sudden fame, how she has spent her money, and opens up about her “regrets” (that she doesn’t regards as regrets!) in life.
In this Episode:
- 02.10: Tips for creating viral content
- 05.26: How to step into a space of readiness
- 14.55: Creating a team that works for you
- 22.29: How Bronnie spent her money from her success
- 27.18: Bronnie’s biggest opportunity that she said no to and why
- 29.52: Bronnie’s biggest regrets (or are they?)
- Regret-Free and Loving It Audio Course
- Bronnie Ware Website
- Bronnie Ware Facebook
- Bronnie Ware Instagram
- Clare Wood Instagram
Bronnie Ware is best known as the author of the international bestselling memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, read by over a million people in 32 languages and with a movie in the pipeline.
Bronnie is also an inspiring speaker and formerly a banker and a singer/songwriter.She has been interviewed by some of the largest publications in the world, including Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times, as well as being a guest on podcasts such as Marie Forleo, Lewis Howes, Sounds True, Good Life Project, and many more.
Bronnie lives in northern NSW, Australia, and is a passionate advocate for simplicity and leaving space to breathe.
I am so excited to introduce today’s guest, Bronnie Ware. Bronnie is best known as the author of the International Best Selling Book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, which has been read by over 1 million people in over 32 different languages. Bronnie is also an inspiring speaker, a singer/songwriter and has been interviewed by some of the largest publications in the world, including The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, and has been a guest on the Marie Forleo podcast.
Today we chat about creating viral content, coming into fame, setting your business model up for success, some of the cool things Bronnie has spent her money on and living a regret free life. This has been one of my favourite episodes I’ve ever recorded so I hope you enjoy.
You’re listening to the Clare Wood podcast, where we talk all things business, finance, marketing, and mindset for entrepreneurs, sharing practical tips, and actionable advice to help you take your business to the next level. Introducing your host: me! I’m Clare Wood, I’m a numbers geek, a travel lover, and a reality tv addict, and I’m here to empower you to create an extraordinary business and an amazing life, because I believe you don’t have to choose between the two. Now let’s dive right in to today’s episode.
I am so pumped to have today’s guest, Bronnie Ware, who is author of, most famously, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. Welcome Bronnie!
Thank you Clare. It’s a delight to be here.
For anyone who doesn’t know your story, you were a palliative care nurse and you wrote this blog about the regrets that people have on their death bed, and it went viral, it’s been read more than 8 million times,
Yes, that was in the first few years, it’s about 10 years old now so I’ve got no idea now.
Tips for creating viral content
I was wondering if you have any advice for people on creating viral content?
Well no. I fluked it! No, I think there are two things why mine went viral and 1) it was a niche that I didn’t know needed filling, I just happened to be the messenger for this important tale, but if you are really intending to create something to go viral you need to have a niche that affects everyone, so it’s not just a niche for a certain demographic. In my situation it was around death and regrets and everyone has to deal with that a some stage and then 2) it’s about timing and readiness. I actually didn’t teach a lot about this at first, because I wasn’t actually ready for it to go viral when I first realised the article, it just sat there on my blog for a little while and didn’t get much traction, in 2009, then people started asking if they could share it and I said ‘Yes, as long as you link it back to my work, my website’ but I really wasn’t ready for the scale and a publicity of it for another 6-8 months and when I was ready, that’s when it went viral, so I think keep working on your readiness and breaking through the fears that are holding you back because when you are ready the doors open for you anyway.
Excellent! And having have read it, it’s something about the way you’ve written it. A beautiful simplicity. And you are obviously a very good writer, and that helps because the quality of the content is there as well.
Thank you. I think the simplicity of the message, because I’m not an academic, I was a caregiver, so I didn’t come into from an academic research point of view, I came into it from a heart-centred listeners point of view, so I related that back to my audience in the simplest form. I think that is a big part of it’s success and I’m three books in now, and my writing has improved and I would have written the article completely differently if I had had the experience I do now. But the article has resonated with so many people, and so has the book that flowed on from that.
I want to touch on, you spoke about when you suddenly had all of this publicity or fame, how was it when you did step into that space.
Stepping into a space of readiness
I didn’t really step into it until the book became a best seller. I wrote a memoir around my time with dying people and that became the best-selling book – The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, and it’s now in 32 languages, so it took off massively. When the article was taking off, I’d just come through a really big thing of depression, my only experience of it and my world had been pulled out from under me so I was really just trying to find my way back into life again. So I managed the viral thing on a day-to-day basis and I didn’t grasp the full opportunities available to me at the time, because I wasn’t ready to. I think that is a great point anyway, because something we think we need to do it all at once, but if we just brave enough to do what’s in front of us then life will keep opening doors anyway. So I was saying to life, I can deal with this level of success with the blog, but only to a degree, so even though it went crazy, I was just living in a cottage on a farm and healing. It really wasn’t until, an agent came to me from that, and lead her asking me if I wanted to do a book. I said yes. Then that lead to trying to get it published and I was rejected 25 times, so it wasn’t until then, that I was ready and I thought “well, I’m just going to do this myself”. I wrote the book, put it out myself, then 4 months after that in the same 24 hours that my daughter was born, I was offered a publishing deal with my dream publishing house, so I think there is a lot to be said about readiness.
Even now, I don’t mean to go on and on, but it’s an extended answer because you just have to do it at your pace. We’ve just released an updated version of The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, and that is 7 years since I released the first edition. And only now, I am fully ready to take the message where it wants to go, because I’ve been looking after my baby, and healing the disease all sorts of things that have happened in between. So, I think if you continue to keep chipping through your resistance, and stay open to not having to control every step of the way, then life says ‘ok, you’re ready, here’s something else’. I’ve learnt to surrender and trust in life, so I don’t have to navigate very much, what is beyond what I’m ready for, because I just go one step at a time.
And you know that things will come to you at the right time.
Yes, I trust in that through experience. It keeps coming if you keep daring to be open to the next level.
The next thing I was going to ask, and you’ve kind of already answered it in a round about way, but was it intentional to take the success of a blog and convert it into a blog? Or was it more when the agent came to you.
I had actually been trying to make it as a singer/songwriter, so when this happened, I thought maybe I’m meant to be writing, not songwriting, so that came from me. There were a few agents contacting me at the time, as well as this one agent, and I always felt I had a book in me, as most people do. I don’t think I would have written a book at that time, because I’d put so much effort into my music, that I don’t think I was ready to let it go, despite the article going viral. So I think if it wasn’t for Jill, this lovely agent, then I possibly wouldn’t have written it at this point. But because I’d just come through the major cleansing of my whole history I was open to wherever life wanted to guide me. I really didn’t want to let go of my music, but I was aware enough to say, there is something else here, and life’s pointing me into a different direction and maybe it’s going to bring me more joy than what my music currently is.
That’s really powerful!
So the book went on and sold more than 1 million copies, did you even imagine you’d have that level of success with the book?
I couldn’t say yes definitely, but I always felt in my heart that my message would reach a large audience. I didn’t know that message would all be about regrets, I thought it would be about courage, which if you are going to talk about regrets you have to talk about courage, but I had had to make so many courageous decisions and actions in my life, so I was all about having the courage to live true to your heart’s own song. So yes, I always felt it would reach a large audience, but the fact that it came through an avenue which suits me so much better than having to gig in yucky toxic environments, I feel so grateful that I dared to get out of my own way. Being an author suits me so much more than being a performer/singer/songwriter. But all those years of singing and putting myself out there prepared me for speaking and I find that a breeze now, because I was baptised through fire in the music scene.
I may have got there eventually, to write the book, but I don’t think I would have go there at that time had it not been for this beautiful agent that guided me through the creating and proposal and forming the framework of the book.
It’s funny how life takes you in a different direction to where you were heading, but that background forms a big part of your journey and where you are meant to end up in the long run. So it’s interesting you said actually being a performer has really paid off for you now, when you stepped into the limelight.
That’s right. Nothing is wasted Clare, none of our skills are wasted. Prior to me becoming a palliative carer, I was a banker, and I definitely don’t feel I’m the best writer out there, I’ve never studied to be a writer, I’ve just say down and written, but I have a good head for business in a sense that I have an organised systems around what works for me and my limits. Often the success comes from having those two parts of your brain satisfied or in order, so I always honour my creative side, but I also have a very good organised office brain. I think that’s a big part of my success because there are plenty of brilliant authors out there creating amazing work, but they don’t have their act together enough on the business side of things, to actually follow up and be ready for the level. You have to set yourself up for success and then with the next level of success you keep refining your systems. You have to be ready. Set yourself up so that when success comes you can handle it, and you are ready and expecting it and it will come at a level you can handle, then keep refining. I don’t think any life experiences and professional experiences are ever wasted. I hated being in banking, and that’s what drove me to work in palliative care, but I’m so grateful for having an administrative brain that can run our office so efficiently.
Creating a team that works for you
Any advice for someone that is trying to set themselves up for success? What does that look like? What does your team look like? What do your systems look like?
I tried to manage everything myself then became quite resentful of everything coming in, because it was taking me away from my creativity, so I took on a VA (Virtual Assistant) and she still works in the background occasionally a decade alter. And then I took on a local PA, and she showed me areas I wasn’t strong, then when she left, I took on a new PA and she was brilliant and I thought we’d be together for life. She had so much knowledge on systems that I didn’t and she loved it, and what I ended up doing was allowing her to run the business because she was so capable and I was getting back to my creativity, but then she left, My first PA actually left quite suddenly, I was on a flight to Germany for Christmas, and I as like, oh right (it was a personal thing with one of my peers), so that left me thinking I never want to hand it completely over again, but I did, because this next PA was older, more mature, and so I ended up handing over everything nearly, and we had a beautiful working relationship, but then something’s went down in her family life and she had to pull back, and I realised I had lost touch with the core of my business. Now, what I have realised, is I have certain strengths and I do things a lot more efficiently then my assistants ever did, but they had strengths and are much better than me. So now I have one PA who looks after a little part of correspondence for me, you would have liaised with her, and I focus on what I’m strong and efficient in and I don’t hand those over to anyone else anymore, because it’s really now saving me time, handing it over and telling them how I want it. I also have a simple business model now. The areas that I don’t like or I’m not strong in, I outsource them, I have a team but they aren’t an exclusive team, they are contractors. One looks after my website, one that looks after the backend of where I run my online course, I have a data entry person for my bookkeeping, a Facebook marketing women who is amazing and clever and passionate, and the rest as needed, and they are all per hour people (except for the Facebook marketer who does packages, and I just use her around launches etc).
So my biggest mistake has been handing over the areas I’m strong in and quick at doing, and expecting my PA to be strong in all fields, which no one is, so now I just employ people in the areas I don’t want to focus on or that I’m weak in.
Awesome, there is also something else I took out of that, which has been a lesson I’ve learnt as well, when you have someone that becomes such an integral part of your team, it’s also a bit of a risk area, because what happened to me, my team member – my right hand women, got sick and suddenly I was like, oh my gosh I am so dependent on this one person. So it has forced me to create some systems and processes so that there is never one person that everything sits with, and I’ve had to get a lot more across the detail in my business.
It’s a risk. It’s a real risk. And I think when my PA left, the one who was doing everything, I didn’t even know how to run the system we were using for my online course at that time. That is why now, I work all the systems out, understand them, then I hand them onto other people who love them and specialise them. Even sound guys, I have a beautiful sound guy that looks after my recordings and I could have done that myself and there are so many free tutorials to learn how to do it, but the key is to have a basic understanding of what it is you need and then give it to people who specialise in it, under your instruction.
It depends how big you want to go. Some people have a team of 10 and they only they only have to do a certain amount of things. There was a time I had a team of 5 or 6 and I don’t want that. Simplicity is a big part of my joy and that has to overflow into my business model. I don’t want a huge team until I need it. If I’m doing a launch, then I have a lot of people working for me at one time, a lot of those contractors, but I don’t want to manage staff and I don’t want to be a corporation with 10 – 100 staff. It’s not what lights me up. The simpler I can keep my business model the more it actually works for me. You can still have major growth with that, if you are planning success every step of the way, so if you are considering ‘if this get’s too big’ then you think ‘it’s ok, I’ve already got this person in place’.
Bronnie’s cool way of spending her money from success
I want to ask a question next about money. What is the coolest thing that you have done with your money since stepping into success?
Well, I always say buying my bed is the best thing I have ever done. When my daughter had just been born, and I have just been signed to Hay House, they put me up in a bed in a hotel, I was there for an event, and it was the most comfortable bed I’d ever slept on, and I said I was going to buy myself a good bed. It is a beautiful bed, it took about 6 months to be made and it’s king size and high and it’s heaven. I live with chronic pain, so its important for me to treat myself with love and kindness on all levels. The bed is a big part of it, but I also brought a house and learnt to travel comfortably, so now when I quote for speaking gigs, it includes business class flights overseas, and I have that on the website, so that’s in addition to my fee. I’m very blessed, I get a lot of invitations to speak but then my assistant would write back with a quote and they’d said, our budget is $500 and thought she’d be in the area, and it would be for an event in North Scotland. So we are actually talking big money now to get me anywhere. So now I put it on my website, that there are two business class flights as well as my speaking presentation included in the price on my quote.
One of the best systems I’ve done, we created a FAQ’s page on my website, and it reduce my emails by 80%. I just want to say that, because I just want to show how much time we were wasting on kindness and decency replying to things that weren’t making me money.
With money, I’ve used it for self-kindness, I’ve also donated to a lot of organisations that plant trees, the earth is my passion. I’ve been able to home-school my daughter for a while, and now she goes to a beautiful alternative school, we eat organic food, I get two massages a week, there are a lot of things money have gifted me with in the sense of self care. I certainly still have to respect and watch my money, but I have learnt to treat money in a loving, appreciative, respectful way, and I didn’t initially when I had a lot of money from my work, from my book. I just went travelling, went ballistic, then I have a couple of big wake up calls financially.
I love that, if you respect money, then money will come to you. I think that’s a temptation that happens to a lot of people, when they step into more money and suddenly you start spending more money.
That’s right. I’ve really pulled it all back. But also consider when your business is growing that money will come from unexpected sources as well, if you are continuing to move in the direction that your heart is calling you to, without an absolute fixed control over it. So I’ve been paid for brand representation and decent money for it, and there has been a lot of quirky projects I have been involved with that have paid small and large amounts of money, that weren’t book royalties or speaking fees, weren’t the traditional ways I earn my money, so that is something to consider, you think you are going to earn all your money from your online course or retail product or whatever, but keep your mind open to the fact that life is on your side, and if you stay committed to your dream, money can come from surprising sources as well.
I listened to you on the Marie Forleo podcast say that you say no now more than you say yes. I’m curious to know what the biggest opportunity is, that you’ve said no to?
Bronnie’s biggest opportunity that she said no to
There has been a lot. Some speaking gigs that didn’t feel like they had enough integrity. They were too sales and pushy orientated rather than life supporting. I was actually working with a Dutch composer and he wanted to create a symphony around the 5 Regrets, and he was a brilliant man and lovely guy and we got on great, but in the end I realised it took me away from the areas that lit me up more. I said no a couple of times to The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying to be made into a movie, until the right person, with integrity and consciousness to represent the message in a way that was disrespectful to my patients came along. So there has been massive amount of opportunity I’ve said no to, because they weren’t aligned with my values of integrity and honesty.
That’s fabulous. That’s a lesson you’ve taken out, live true to yourself. And if something doesn’t go right, then don’t go with it.
It’s very easy to say yes to opportunity because of money or fear of money, or loosing connections, or if you say no, the money won’t come anymore, but if you are saying no to everything just because you are scared then maybe you are blocking things. But if you are saying no because it’s no aligning with who you are and what you stand for, and because it doesn’t lit you up, then life is like, ok, she is getting clearer now on what works for her, great, now I can give her the right opportunities. That’s what I have found has happened.
Bronnie’s biggest regrets (or are they?)
To wrap up, I just had a few questions about regret. Looking back what have been your 5 biggest regrets in life?
Gosh. I don’t have any regrets anymore, because I’ve been able to develop compassion for my old self, from who I am now, and not look at my mistakes as regrets, but look at them with more kindness to myself and say obviously if I could have my time again I wouldn’t do that, but I don’t have any regrets. But if there were things I could do differently, I wouldn’t put up with as much nonsense as I did in my upbringing, I would speak out a lot sooner than I eventually did, not give other people the power that that robbed me in my youth and early adulthood. I would treat money with more respect, my body with more respect, I would have had a child sooner. I became a first time mum at 45, and very blessed to conceive naturally and quickly and she’s gorgeous, but I never realised how much I could love another human being, and if I could do it again, I mean I didn’t meet her father until my 40’s so she wouldn’t be her, it’s easy to say that, but if I’d had known how much I was going to love her, I would have done it 10 years earlier to have 10 extra years with her.
Fabulous. So if you found out you had only 3 months to live would you do anything differently in your life?
I’d get off social media! I’d probably close the business down, and just enjoy being in nature and in my real life relationships. Perhaps not shut social media but reduce it down to just sharing the love between my audience and myself. I think in my ideal world I’d be offline, I come from a generation that knew life before technology and I still am committed to that aspect of that life, so with 3 months left I’d get offline. I’d enjoy every sunrise and sunset, every bird signing, every time my little girl holds my hand, and every cup of chai, every cuddle, every kiss, everything.
CLARE: Beautiful. I guess that’s the biggest take away from all these peoples regrets from the dying, is to live in the moment in a space of gratitude and be grateful for what we do have. When you have no life left, you realise it’s all the small things, that are the big things. Right?
Exactly! We are really here for such a short time, our life is a scared gift and the more we can face that with courage and honour our hearts in business and personally, then the less regrets we are going to have. So if we are faced with death at a much younger time then what we’d hoped, which a stake of people are, then, at least we know we gave it our best shot.
Thank you so so much, I’m so grateful to have had you hear today. If anyone wants to get a hold of any of Bronnie’s books or learn more about her online course or upcoming retreat, everything will be in the show notes for today which is at clarewood.com.au/podcast/episode25.
Bronnie, thank you so much!
Thank you Clare, it’s been a pleasure.
Thank you so much for joining me today, if you enjoyed this episode, please make sure you subscribe to receive future episodes, and I’d be so grateful for a review on apple podcast! If you’d like a copy of the show notes or any of the links mentioned today, please jump over to clarewood.com.au/podcast and remember that Clare is spelled CLARE, have a wonderful week and look forward to chatting to you again soon!
About your host
Hi, I’m Clare Wood – I’m a numbers geek, a travel lover, a reality tv addict, and a passionate business coach. I’m here to empower you to create an extraordinary business and an amazing life; because I believe you don’t have to choose between the two.