Jas Rawlinson: “Reasons to Live’”

In a nutshell, ‘Reasons to Live’ is an anthology series of short memoirs from both prominent and everyday people, who share their journeys of finding hope, healing, and purpose after severe adversity or trauma. It’s my hope that everyone who reads this series — whether they have struggled with mental illness or not — can take away at least […]

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In a nutshell, ‘Reasons to Live’ is an anthology series of short memoirs from both prominent and everyday people, who share their journeys of finding hope, healing, and purpose after severe adversity or trauma. It’s my hope that everyone who reads this series — whether they have struggled with mental illness or not — can take away at least one morsel of wisdom that helps them to push through tough times. Just as importantly, I want people to be aware of how they can support loved ones who are struggling and be part of a global movement to stop suicide.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jas Rawlinson, a best-selling author, book coach and resilience speaker who specializes in empowering entrepreneurs and everyday people to use the power of storytelling to transform lives. Endorsed by high-profile names including Kevin Hines and Lifeline,, she is regularly featured across global media outlets to speak on issues such as domestic violence, suicide prevention, and storytelling. In 2021, Jas will star on the award-winning TV series ‘Adventure-All Stars’ as part of her mission to end child sexual exploitation. Above all, she believes that everyone has a story with the power to inspire, impact, and change lives.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Like many kids, I was a big book lover from the time I was a little girl — and when I wasn’t reading, I was writing short stories or journaling in my diary. However, for me writing wasn’t just a hobby, it was also a lifeline. For those who don’t know my story, I spent around a decade of my early life growing up in a home with family violence. I was just 10 when I first spiralled into the dark void of depression, and if I’m honest, it was really hard at that age to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

During the darkest days, the one thing that helped most was writing. It was my safe place; a home for unspoken thoughts and a world where brighter opportunities awaited. In hindsight, it’s no surprise that I became an author and book coach. For as long as I can remember, storytelling and writing have always consumed me.

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 about that?

Embarrassed as I am to admit this, the only books I really read as a kid were your classic horse-inspired novels, like The Silver Brumby, or ‘The Saddle Club’ series. (Sorry fellow book lovers!) That said, one of the most influential books I read in my twenties that inspired me to take action on issues like human trafficking and the exploitation of women, was the book: ‘Not In My Town,’ by Charles Powell and Dillon Burroughs. I was blown away by the knowledge that slavery is more widespread today, than it ever was in the past when the trading of humans was still deemed legal. This book really shifted my perspective.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Imagine this: it’s an early Wednesday morning and you’re getting ready to jump on an inspiring zoom webinar. On this particular day, you’re out taking a walk through a local forest, and since zoom is taking a while to load, you decide to quickly run to a nearby bathroom. I mean, your camera and audio are always set automatically to ‘mute’, so it’s no biggie, right?

(Wrong. So, so wrong.)

Next thing you know, zoom signs itself in and your audio automatically turns itself on…right as that familiar ‘tinkling’ sound rings out in the background.

Yep. That’s what happened to me. And although I very quickly turned my audio off, I know that everyone on that business call heard me peeing for at least a good few seconds! But hey, it could be worse, right? I mean, at least my camera didn’t switch itself on! (Haha.)

I think the lesson in this situation is pretty self explanatory, but at the end of the day, it also taught me about the importance of not taking yourself too seriously and laughing at your own misfortunes!

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always dreamed of using my voice and story to make an impact in the world. When I was 10, I actually made a promise to myself that one day, I was going to make sure I did something to ensure other kids didn’t have to go through the loneliness and deep depression that I did as a then-victim of family violence.

I never forgot this promise, and in 2016, set out to make it a reality. As a freelance writer, it made complete sense for me to write a book that helped spark and empower social change, so that’s what I did. Over 12 months I wrote and published a book called ‘Reasons to live: One more day every day.’ Little did I know it would go on to become a best-selling series!

In a nutshell, ‘Reasons to Live’ is an anthology series of short memoirs from both prominent and everyday people, who share their journeys of finding hope, healing, and purpose after severe adversity or trauma. It’s my hope that everyone who reads this series — whether they have struggled with mental illness or not — can take away at least one morsel of wisdom that helps them to push through tough times. Just as importantly, I want people to be aware of how they can support loved ones who are struggling and be part of a global movement to stop suicide.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

That’s a tough one — but one of my favourite stories from the upcoming final volume of ‘Reasons to Live’ comes from a first-responder who shares his story of overcoming PTSD after decades of exposure to trauma through his job as a police officer (starting from age 21). With everything that has happened in the United States in the last 12 months, I know that often, we can see the worst sides of the police force — but we also don’t see the everyday acts of heroism they take, and the slow ‘drip, drip, drip’ effect of trauma over time. I love that this brave man is opening up about his journey, and the reality of his eventual breakdown, in order to help more police and first responders to understand that it’s not weak to seek support for mental illness.

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

For so much of my life, I wanted to do anything but share my story with the world. “Who needs another story from someone who’s been through abuse?” I thought. “Who would even care?”

However, everything changed when I turned 31. It was 2016, and I’d just co-founded one of Australia’s first permanent domestic violence memorials in honour of the men, women, and children lost to domestic homicide in our city. The memorial was meant to be about others, but through the process, I’d found myself being asked constantly by media outlets what ‘my’ story was. Suddenly, I was in the position of having to open up publicly about my experiences with sexual assault and family violence, as well as the suicide of my dad when I was 18. The more I spoke out, the more I realised that there was no reason for me to feel ashamed. Even more importantly, it showed me how powerful our collective voices can be in breaking down stigma and isolation.

Shortly afterwards, I had my ‘aha’ moment. “I need to write a book,” I thought. “And not just any kind of book; one that brings to life the stories of everyday people who’ve rediscovered their zest for life after experiencing trauma or adversity. This was the beginning of what would become a nine-month journey to write my first book, ‘Reasons to Live: One More Day, Every Day,’ a collection of memoirs of triumph over adversity.

Again — the book was meant to be about others, not me. But just like my previous project, everyone kept asking: “Why are you doing this? Why is this important to you? Surely you must have a deeper reason.”

So, slowly — painfully at first — I began to open up. And as I did so, I found out just how liberating it was. Today, I realise that it’s a gift to be able to use my story to help heal and encourage people. There is no greater honour than being able to show others that no matter how dark life feels, that there are always reasons to live. I believe that our stories are our legacy to the world, and by sharing them, we can help heal millions.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

There’s a moment in time I’ll never forget; a completely random day around eight years ago, when I received an email from the other side of the world penned by a female survivor of human trafficking. This woman (let’s call her *Sarah) had come across my blog at the time, where I was writing about topics such as child abuse and trafficking, and opened up with me about her own story. I had no idea that we would become fast friends, and that over the next several years, I would be one of the major lifelines in her life as she faced her demons and fought for the happiness and peace she deserved.

Sadly, a few years after meeting, Sarah passed away suddenly from an unknown health condition. I was shattered. Some time afterwards, a mutual friend shared with me one of the last messages she had received from Sarah. It read: “I’m so jealous that you get to hang out with Jas in Australia. She really has helped me work through a lot of my past and see myself for who I am today.”

Though we never had the chance to meet, I’m so grateful that my work reached Sarah across the other side of the world and that we connected. She will always remain in my heart.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Three things I’d like to see addressed in the movement to reduce suicide and trauma are:

  1. For Governments globally to provide greater financial assistance and healthcare to our most vulnerable members of society. Just in the last 12 months, we have seen so many people who are on welfare able to finally pay their most basic of bills just from the slight increase in Australia’s Centrelink support payments during Covid. When vulnerable members of society (who are unable to work) can receive adequate financial support to live day to day, we see a decrease in other social issues such as domestic violence, mental illness, and addiction.
  2. For media outlets, businesses, and advertisers who promote and glorify sexist or objectified portrayals of women to be held to account financially and legally. In Australia, 1 in 6 women experience physical and/or sexual violence from the age of 15 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018), and we know as a society that violence always starts with disrespect. Research shows that children and young people who are exposed regularly to hypersexualised and objectified portrayals of women report higher levels of disrespect/acceptance of violence toward women. Higher rates of violence against women and children leads to higher levels of mental illness, trauma, suicide and addiction.
  3. Therapy and mental health support need to be widely available and accessible to all — not just those who are financially blessed. And as people, we need to learn how to support our loved ones, colleagues, and friends who may be struggling with trauma. The bottom line is, there is no ‘perfect’ thing to say to someone who is struggling with trauma or depression. But it’s better to ask the question: “Are you okay? What do you need right now?,” or to even offer an honest: “I don’t know what to say right now, but I’m sorry for what you’re going through and I’m here,” than to say nothing at all.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

To me, leadership isn’t some alpha male CEO or dominating ‘boss lady’ standing before you in a Prada suit or Jimmy Choo heels. It’s that person who is scared and anxious but chooses to listen to the inner voice telling them to take a stand for something and raise their voice when others aren’t yet ready. It’s that person who bears their vulnerabilities to empower and support those around who are yearning for guidance — whether it be in their personal life or in business. You can be a leader in your workplace as well as in your community. You can be a leader in your family, and also within your friendship circle. Leadership is about courage, resilience, collaboration, and — as I mentioned before — vulnerability. You don’t have to be stoic or have the perfect answer to every problem; you simply need to be someone who takes a stand for something important and works with people around you for a common goal.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Set boundaries and accept that you can’t help everyone.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but I promise, it’s important. As an author who is passionate about creating social change, I get that you want to help everyone. But at the end of the day, you are just one person and you need to also care for yourself. That means learning to say ‘No’ and being comfortable doing so. The larger your public presence grows, the more people you’ll reach with your story and book. This means you’ll also have more people sliding into your DMs, emailing, or tweeting you for help. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself trying to reply to every person, and if you’re not careful, you’ll be inviting strangers into your life at all hours. My best piece of advice? Learn to set and enforce boundaries early. Get good at saying ‘No’. Because if you don’t look after yourself first, you can’t help anyone else.

2. Build your email list early. When Donald Trump was recently banished from several large social media platforms, many people suddenly realised just how much we — as a society — rely on social media to promote ourselves and our message. And while socials are incredibly helpful, the most important thing you should be doing if you want to successfully launch a book or raise awareness of a social issue is to build your email list early. Speaking personally, I wish I’d known this when I launched my first book! It was the major difference between my second book selling out before it had even launched, versus my first book, which cramped up my house with boxes of books for a whole year.

Hot tip: Don’t end up like Trump. Make sure your audience is in your email list, and that you’re nurturing and building them before you launch your book.

3. Stay in your own lane.

Can I be honest with you for a second? I still struggle with this. But it’s important to understand that — just like writing a book — creating a global movement of social change takes time. It’s hard not to get struck down by ‘comparison envy’ when everyone around you seems to be achieving their goals faster, but remember that everyone’s journeys are different. (Also, don’t forget that social media is just one steady stream of highlights. You rarely see people’s failures!)

Focus on what you need to do, and take small steps consistently to move closer towards your goal day by day. Also, create a ‘brag sheet’ so that you can keep track of your achievements and progress. Somebody mentioned this recently in a business group I’m part of, and I really love this concept!

4. Find a mentor or coach.

Staying motivated when you’re journeying alone can be really hard. So get yourself a good book or business coach early on. If you can’t afford to work with a coach, surround yourself with others who are on a similar journey to you so that you can cheer each other on when you need some encouragement. Not many people know this, but I almost gave up on my business completely in 2018! I was so overwhelmed, and I felt like it was all too hard. Looking back, I’m so glad that I chose at that moment to invest in the support of a coach. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here doing this interview right now!

5. Self-care is not a ‘luxury’ — it’s an everyday necessity.

When you’re focused on changing social inequalities within the world, it’s so easy to put aside — and forget about — your own wellbeing. Especially when you’re consumed by passion. HOWEVER, self-care is essential if you truly want to write your book and make a global impact. I learned this first hand after burning myself out in 2019. My top tip? Schedule self care into your diary just as you would your business goals and doctor appointments.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was show up for my life and not be ashamed.” — Anne Lamott.

This may not necessarily be your typical life lesson quote, but it’s one that has always resonated strongly with me. Every time I work with a new book coaching client, I think about how powerful it is to see people owning their life stories. Because when they do, they transform not only their own lives but those of so many others.

There are millions of people who dream of sharing their story with the world, but never tell a single soul; millions who hold themselves back from truly owning the parts of themselves that could make the biggest difference to the lives of others. I believe that our stories are our legacy to the world, and one of the most powerful ways that we can change and heal our communities. To me, the life lesson in this quote is it is all about owning your life journey and standing courageously against shame.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jason Mraz. Throughout my teens and early twenties, his music was a huge part of my life — including my journey through depression. I’d love to just hang out with him on his avocado farm and talk about life, music, and the power of human connection and gratitude. I was an official photographer for one of his Australian concerts many years ago, but am still yet to meet and interview the dude. On that note, BRB — just manifesting it now!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I’d love to connect with you! Send me a DM on Instagram at @jas_rawlinson or head to www.jasrawlinson.com. If you’re an aspiring author, I’ve also added a link here to my free author checklist: ’10 steps to becoming a published author’.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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