Grace Tsao Mase: How To Write A Book That Sparks A Movement

Books provide a tangible way for readers to own the information they need, and access it on their terms and timeline. It is something that they can always refer back to or bookmark a key point. There is a satisfaction in knowing that “I finished the book.” It provides a feeling of accomplishment and confidence. […]

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Books provide a tangible way for readers to own the information they need, and access it on their terms and timeline. It is something that they can always refer back to or bookmark a key point. There is a satisfaction in knowing that “I finished the book.” It provides a feeling of accomplishment and confidence. In this context, many homeowners want to upgrade their home, but are afraid or don’t know how to get started. When the gap between desire and reality is so great, the movement becomes more critical and people expect there to be a better way.

As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Grace Tsao Mase.

Grace is the Founder and CEO of BEYREP, an all-in-one project management tool that provides peace of mind by putting people in control of their home addition, remodeling, or renovation projects. She is passionate about helping people achieve a better life through a better home and believes that a home can change a person’s life profoundly. She believes that no one should suffer through a home improvement nightmare. Following her own painful home renovation experience, she decided to develop the online home improvement management application to help other homeowners achieve project success and avoid common pitfalls.

Fascinated with home improvement since childhood, she earned her architecture degrees from UC Berkeley and Yale University. She worked in the tech industry for the last two decades in digital strategy, user experience design, mobile applications, market research, and management. She led product and design teams to address customer needs and create meaningful customer experiences.

Grace’s mission is to empower people to own their potential and stand in their greatness so that we can celebrate our present joyfully and upgrade our future. As a continuation of her mission, she published her first book, “Revivify Your Home,” to help homeowners navigate through their home improvement and achieve project success. In 2019, she was named a Power Player by Angeleno magazine, and an Icon of Beverly Hills by Modern Luxury of Beverly Hills.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?

I grew up in Taiwan and immigrated to the U.S. when I was eleven years old. When we moved to Los Angeles, I couldn’t speak a word of English. However, I was good enough at math and drawing that I taught younger kids after school, and in exchange, I learned English from them. Those two universal skills helped me define myself and ease into a new life in the U.S.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story?

WhenI was about five years old, my oldest uncle, who was a civil engineer, gave me a picture book on Taiwanese Architecture. I was fascinated that people built their own traditional courtyard homes and lived in them together with multiple generations of family. About that time, my parents decided to build our new home, and I recall walking with my dad through the construction site. My parents had poured their entire life savings into our new home, a mid-rise building in a newly developed area suburb. Every Sunday morning I followed my dad through the construction as it progressed and saw how proud and happy it made him to witness his dream of a better future transforming into a reality. My dad, a typical engineer, didn’t openly express emotions very often, so this was an incredibly powerful moment for both of us, and one that had a huge impact on me. It propelled me to pursue a career in architecture so I could help bring that pure joy and sense of accomplishment to other people.

What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

Several years ago, as I attempted to address a leak in the second-floor bathroom in our family home, I found myself in a home renovation rollercoaster. It didn’t turn out well, and I was almost taken for a ride. I doubted myself and felt embarrassed and ashamed because I thought I knew how to manage a project better.

I shared my experiences with a close friend who is extremely intelligent and always on top of things. I was surprised by her response — she seemed uncomfortable, her body tensed up, and she put a pillow in front of her as she slumped down. After a long pause, she started to speak and her voice cracked, and she was visibly angry. She recalled an incredibly demoralizing experience with a contractor who told her, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Like me, she also thought she could manage a project like a pro. The floodgate of pain, self-doubt, frustrations, and resentment poured out of her. To make it worse, this all occurred just as she had started up chemotherapy again. She didn’t have the energy to fight him. At the same time, she was too embarrassed and too proud to admit that her project went off the rails under her watch. After the setback, she tried to bury the pain and decided to suffer in silence. Unfortunately, her wound was never healed properly.

As we shared our stories, we felt relieved knowing that we weren’t alone, and our experiences weren’t isolated. We started our healing process together. I have asked many homeowners to share their stories, and although they all had different experiences, the results were similar. They all reminded me of a bad breakup, with a range of emotions such as self-doubt, hurt, embarrassment, disappointment, resentment, and feeling out of control. These conversations helped me realize that home improvement projects can have an emotional impact on one’s life. Though I survived it, I knew I had to learn from these painful lessons and turn them into something positive. That’s when I decided to write my book, Revivify Your Home, and develop my online home improvement solution BEYREP.

What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?

My goal is to help other homeowners prepare both mentally and emotionally for their home improvement. The physical space within our home can have an extraordinary impact on our life emotionally. Our home is a place where we share meals with people who matter to us, where we rest our heads after a tiring day, where we celebrate our accomplishments. Yet many people are too afraid to even start on a renovation project. The simple act of improving one’s home should not negatively impact a person’s mental health and financial reserves. I hope to instill confidence and peace of mind in people as they navigate their journey towards project success.

Did the actual results align with your expectations? Can you explain?

I have been pleasantly surprised with the positive feedback. I am excited about the many readers who have expressed that the book helped them complete their home improvement project and enjoy the process. The surprise was that many readers said that it helped them with other aspects of their lives as well.

What moment let you know that your book had started a movement? Please share a story.

I started receiving messages from various homeowners about how the book helped them overcome their fear, demystify the home improvement process, and re-energize their lives through their newly updated space. The book made it simple, helping them take control of the process and achieve project success. That’s when I realized this movement of reclaiming people’s happiness through their home was a simple concept that could have a profound impact.

What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?

Right away, I was stunned to see so many people have similar emotional reactions to my book, even though all of them were dealing with very different home renovations. They’re using the principles outlined in the book to gain confidence, which empowers them to take on home improvement projects and complete them successfully. I’m also really inspired because readers have given feedback that the principles in my book are applicable to many situations in life — beyond just home improvement.

What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book? Can you share a story?

A reader shared her story with me, and I’d love to share it with you here:

“I was very unhappy with our house. Since my husband was the main provider for our family, I didn’t feel like I had a voice. When I read Revivify Your Home, it changed my life. I found my voice, and had my husband read the book with me. We had different expectations and priorities. But we worked through the exercises in the book together and became united and stronger. I have heard that home renovation projects can break a marriage; ironically, it brought us closer. The book motivated us and gave us the tools to work through our differences before we engaged with a design professional. Because of the planning we did together, our project went smoothly. We are very happy with the end result. The best part is seeing my kids enjoying every space in our home the way it was meant to be.”

Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?

I didn’t experience any negative issues. In fact, I had a positive experience. As an immigrant, writing a book to help others was a life goal I always had, even if it seemed like a stretch at times. Having accomplished that goal, I feel extremely empowered through the process of enabling others to empower themselves as well.

Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?

Books provide a tangible way for readers to own the information they need, and access it on their terms and timeline. It is something that they can always refer back to or bookmark a key point. There is a satisfaction in knowing that “I finished the book.” It provides a feeling of accomplishment and confidence. In this context, many homeowners want to upgrade their home, but are afraid or don’t know how to get started. When the gap between desire and reality is so great, the movement becomes more critical and people expect there to be a better way.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

I try to focus on helping others and not worrying about being judged. Like any project, it will never be perfect, but you can always improve and make it better. When you focus on how you can serve others, the outcome will be a lot more fulfilling and impactful.

What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?

After a couple of years running BEYREP, I learned a lot about the frequent mishaps that many homeowners experience. So I decided it was time to share my learning with homeowners and provide tips on how to avoid common mistakes when embarking on a sizable home improvement project. After extensive research on how to write a book, like a good overachieving Chinese immigrant I set an unrealistic target. I would wake up at 3 AM to write while keeping up with my regular day job. Trying to run a business with four hours of sleep while rushing to write a book was stressful. Then my wonderful husband reminded me that I have a choice to have fun and make this writing journey enjoyable. That was a good wakeup call. So I started to block out Friday afternoons to focus and hold the space for myself to immerse myself in writing. Some writers tend to shut themselves away while working on a book, and it becomes their sole focus, but I was balancing multiple things, so there were times I had to put some extra conscious energy into writing. Luckily, I loved the topic and knew that it could help many people to have a pleasant home improvement process, so it was motivating. Like Zig Ziglar said, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” I was able to achieve my life goal of writing a book.

Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book? (please include a story or example for each)

Here are the five things I would recommend to new writers who want to spark a movement with their book:

  1. Make the effort to truly understand your readers’ pain points by learning and talking to others. I was fortunate to have years of valuable learning from customers while working for Yahoo!, YP Yellow Pages, and BEYREP. I have conducted extensive research: quantitatively through nationwide surveys; crunched search data; and qualitative in-person interviews. The insights helped define the framework for my book.
  2. Validate your hypothesis with people you don’t know. Once you have a general outline, seek honest feedback from others who are not your friends and family, because they are usually way too lovely to provide painfully honest and constructive feedback. I posted a general announcement on the NextDoor app, shared my book outline with neighboring homeowners in the planning phase of their home remodeling projects, and offered free consultation as part of my continuing research effort. It turned out to be the most effective way to reach my potential readers. I was able to coach them through their project while gaining additional insights to refine the outline further.
  3. Figure out how your readers want to receive your book. The concept of “meet them where they are” is to connect with your readers effectively. It depends on the topic, and you need to figure out the best way and best tone with which to communicate your message where they would want to receive it. For my book, the primary audience is woman homeowners who want to improve their home but are worried about being taken advantage of. I also know that they don’t want to read an academic textbook on how to navigate through their project, so I decided to model the writing style like how I would talk with my best girlfriends over a cocktail, in the form of edutainment (educational + entertaining).
  4. Iterate on how best to communicate your message effectively. Collaborate with a great editor who understands your vision and respects your goals and intentions. I was fortunate to work with someone who I have tremendous respect for, and we would meet weekly on Fridays to work through the book line by line to ensure the intended message was clearly communicated.
  5. Starting a movement is a journey. One of my mentors often quotes Voltaire’s philosophy, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough,” which brilliantly illustrates this sentiment. If you wait to achieve perfection, you will never finish, so don’t worry about being perfect. I learned to take one step at a time to reach the next milestone. Along the path, I will learn more about the next version of the book.

The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?

The movement we are committed to is helping people achieve a better life through a better home. We believe that when people have a comfortable physical environment, they will likely have a better outlook on life, feel better about themselves, perform at a higher level, elevate their lives, and be motivated to help others. Our home environment can have a significant impact on our mental health. Often people don’t appreciate this implication until they lose it all. I volunteer for various non-profit organizations to help homeless communities get back on their feet. Many of the homeless neighbors shared with me the trauma they experience when they are displaced and out on the streets. Then it becomes a downward spiral. If we can be intentional and help reverse the homelessness crisis, then we have a chance to improve our overall mental health.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Personal LinkedIn:

Business Instagram:

Business Twitter:

Business Facebook:

Business Pinterest:

Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.

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