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3 Principles That Got Me Through a Book Launch While I Had COVID
By using these principles, I knew I'd be coming back to the launch feeling as aligned, confident, and in flow as possible given the circumstances.
Imagine spending two years getting ready to share a body of work that you're excited about and believe in, only to have to spend two of the most important weeks of the project sitting on the sidelines.
That's exactly what happened to me with the Team Habits launch. After years of dodging COVID, I came down with my first run with it on August 20 and it hit me hard.
I don't get sick often and, when I do, I typically go down hard for two or three days and then roll back into things. We usually just need to reschedule a handful of meetings and coaching sessions and it's a non-issue.
This run with COVID was a completely different affair. I tested positive for 13 days and thus had to quarantine for 13 days. I couldn't do much besides sleep for the first week and I had a resurgence a week into it, which meant that I wasn't much good for the second week. Doing the virtual launch party last week and a podcast following it wiped me out for a few days.
I finally tested negative over the weekend and am feeling close to myself again. I'm going to need to be mindful of my energy this week because my schedule is pretty normal and I'm co-leading our second Level Up Retreat next week. Oh, and there's a mound of work for the book launch to get to.
(One day at a time, Charlie. One day at a time.)
At a base level, it sucked having COVID — but since I had to be physically quarantined regardless, I decided to also (mostly) digitally quarantine. I knew I needed to distance myself from devices because there was no way I wouldn't be checking email, LinkedIn, and text messages — and coordinating launch stuff from any connected device I own.
So I had 13 days where all I could do was sit and think, while a potentially career-changing project went on (mostly) without me. I got through it by clinging to a handful of principles, but so that I can keep this post from being something requiring two readings, I’ll stick to the top three.
Principle #1: Being Grateful
The first few days of my COVID run were really bad. But, as bad as they were, I wasn't worried about it being life-threatening or being hospitalized. I knew I just had to quarantine and wait it out.
Although over a million people in the US alone have died from COVID, in just a few years, it's now something that most people will experience as something akin to a bad flu. There's long COVID and a lot we're still learning about, but still, a lethal illness is now a weatherable illness.
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But, more than that, I was and am grateful for the strong partnerships I have with my clients and colleagues. I'm not just grateful that they were gracious with rescheduling meetings; I'm grateful that I was truly bummed to miss those meetings and conversations. It may sound weird that I'm grateful to miss them, but I also know a lot of folks would welcome not having to work for a few weeks.
I love my work and the people I get to do it with. I'm ready to get back to both.
Last, but certainly not least, I'm grateful to Angela. Not only did she have to take care of me, she picked up a lot of the mission-critical coordination while I was out. She was triple-shifting and did so with excellence and grace. (In a future podcast episode, we may talk about how this run with COVID reversed our roles and has been illuminative about our relationship patterns.)
I count my blessings every day, but experiences like this make those blessings count differently.
Principle #2: Lean into Your Success Pack
Everything about a book is a team effort and the launch of a book is especially so.
My original plan was to touch base with colleagues, de facto street team members, and key ecosystem partners individually in the weeks up to the launch. It became extra obvious that that wasn't going to happen, so I instead sent out a mass email letting folks know I had COVID and needed their help for the launch.
Lots of people came through and carried a lot of the launch buzz. I have a lot of thanks that I get to give.
The team really stepped up and saw some things through, too. Shannon upped her schedule Tetris game. Steve grabbed a lot of projects I was in the middle of fumbling and pushed them forward with Maghan and Mary Clare. And I've already mentioned how much Angela picked up; she expanded her already big portfolio of bulk buy coordination to include promotion coordination.
While it's true that I had set a lot of things in motion prior to the launch, so much of a successful launch isn't about what you have in motion but instead about turning general ideas and commitments into specific actions. The shape of this launch was already going to be uncomfortably different from the last in that so much of the word-spreading was intended to start happening last week as opposed to a big build-up the weeks and months before.
For me to be out precisely when the specific coordination needed to happen was potentially a big blow. With how well the team, especially Angela, picked things up and how many folks came through when I let them know what was going on, I'm unsure that the illness made a huge difference. There's a good chance that things worked out better than the original plan precisely because I had to surrender and ask for help.
I'm okay with never knowing how things might have been because I'm grateful for how things were and are. Lots of folks showed up when I asked and needed them to; I hope I can be there when it's their turn.
Principle #3: Focus on the Long Game
As I just mentioned, the shape of this book launch was already intended to be different from the last one, or how many people think about book launches. I was rolling in knowing that the "launch" would actually play out over a couple of years. We obviously wanted a strong opening week AND the opening week is just that — an opener.
As Angela and I were celebrating Sunday night, I asked, "So, what do you think you'll do differently if we get a WSJ Bestseller placement this week?" Her answer was the same as mine: aside from celebrating it, sharing it, and updating a lot of copy, not much. We're going to work the plan regardless and we can't have much of a plan for what would happen with the placement.
Knowing that we were in it for the long haul helped me focus on my recovery. There was no need for artificial urgency at the cost of slowing or jeopardizing my recovery. I did the essentials that I could and let go of the rest, knowing that I'd pick up the rest in time or that they would be unnecessary by the time I got to them.
For me, the lead-up to a book launch is the most nerve-wracking part. It's a lot of pressure and performance depends on strong tactical marketing, something I'm not good at when it comes to my own work. Additionally, there are a lot of conversations I want to advance that are extensions of content in the book, but without the book being out, it's awkward to advance those conversations because of how much you have to rewrite content that’s in your book in order to honor agreements with publishers about how much content you can share in advance.
Even writing at Better Team Habits without the book out has been more challenging than I thought it would be.
I add the above context because it's a critical part of focusing on the long game. I knew that, while I was down for the week before and of opening week, I'd be coming back to the part of the book launch where I feel the most aligned, confident, and in flow. The book is out and I don't have to wonder about whether it's going to advance the mission of making work better for everyone; the emails, social media posts, and reviews are telling me that it is.
It's one thing to claim that your book is a must-read for leaders and people interested in better teamwork. It's another to simply repeat what other thought leaders, experts, readers, and your mentors are saying. 🤯❤️🎉
Seeing what the book is doing is the fun part of the launch, for me, regardless of how the first week turned out.
Sticking with Principles Decreases Suffering
Pain is what happens to us; suffering is the additional story, drama, and emotion that we add to what’s happening to us.
It sucked to be sick the week before and of my book launch. That’s what happened to me.
The bouts of suffering only came when I got wrapped up in outcomes, shame from not being able to contribute and say thanks to the many people helping me out, frustrations about how long it was taking me to recover, worry about how much work Angela was doing, and so on.
When I came back to the principles, though, I was just able to be sick. I guess, then, the meta-principle that got me through it was “focus on the principles that decrease suffering and increase happiness.”
But that meta-principle is what I practice when I’m not sick, too.