This time last year, I had huge butterflies in my stomach and probably hadn’t slept well in a few weeks. My book, Inclusion on Purpose, launched on March 1, 2022 and I was navigating the reality of how an idea that I had spent developing over two years mostly alone–in the depths of a pandemic––was now out in the world. For public consumption and for public review.
Would people hate it? Would it resonate? Would I get angry reviews? Would it be helpful? Most of all, would it add to the changes we were so desperately waiting to see around creating more inclusive workplaces and societies…or further harm the cause?
I spent the week before launch doing what most authors don’t do. I took a vacation and spent very little time asking people to pre-order the book.
Pre-orders matter immensely to a book’s success, and I was surprised to return to my office on this day last year, to learn that Inclusion on Purpose had the second highest pre-order numbers in the MIT Press’ history.
Honestly, the “buy my book” narrative doesn’t work well for my personality, but what does is telling myself I need to market my work because my goal is to be helpful, educational and authentic. I, like many women, have a complicated history with being socialized not to speak up but later, in workplaces being told I would be more successful if I was more confident. Eek. When I reflect back on this period last year, I’m glad for my mental health that I chose offline time and vacation over heavy book promotions. Being away from it all for a bit gave me the fortitude to be in full book promotion mode when it launched…and that meant a total of podcasts and media interviews in the hundreds and addressing thousands of people in person and virtually through presentations and book talks, as the year went on. Did my book become a New York Times bestseller? It did not. That was on my vision board for 2022 and it did not happen. What did, which wasn’t anywhere on my vision board, were the thousands of comments, direct messages and emails, organic posts from strangers sharing the book, book clubs being formed all over the country and an overwhelming outpouring of support and love for Inclusion on Purpose.
What I learnt quickly is that the metrics of success we assign to ourselves because we believe the world tells us it's the most important measure of success, isn’t quite what you can feel in your soul. (To be fair, I haven’t had the NYT bestseller accolade, so maybe I’m wrong.) But I can confirm that the individual notes I got still beat out the other press mentions and accolades that the book got. On a hard day, I’ll go back to my “Read to Smile” folder in my inbox, not visit the link to where my book was named a top leadership book or one to watch. Then, there were the personal victories. It was the moment when my (then) five-year-old told me he wanted to write a book when he grew up because “mum is a famous author and I want to make her proud.” It was the moment I saw a picture of my 85-year-old Nani’s (maternal grandmother’s) reading glasses on the cover of my book, after she had fallen asleep with it by her bedside. It was the moment I saw it in my mum’s hands and the pride in her voice of me being the first person in my entire lineage to be a traditionally-published author. It was in carving a path in my marriage where my husband stepped up to take care of my child and me, as I traveled multiple times last year to promote the book; something both of us growing up in Indian households had never seen modeled for us.
It was in hearing from various friends and colleagues around the world that my voice mattered and that they were so proud of knowing me. And that many had felt inspired to take a leap in their own careers: leave jobs that didn’t serve them, support other women of color, write a book proposal, make a speech. I learned that professional successes are meaningless without personal connections and victories. That could be the pride in a loved one’s face when you get your first job or promotion. The way a colleague turns to you and says you inspire them. The way a child in your life says they want to be just like you when they grow up. I believe we can never fully enjoy professional victories without the personal context. And so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making 2022 a transformative year! Despite a very painful year from a macro-perspective, my little world was transformed forever. In solidarity,