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Thoughts on Indra Nooyi’s book “My Life In Full”

Did I really want to be reading a “business” book while on vacation? Clearly my mind hadn’t got the memo. But somehow, I found myself on holiday with Indra Nooyi’s autobiography titled “My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future”.

To be very honest, I didn’t know anything about her. I hadn’t watched a single interview, never dug deeper into her journey or her life, didn’t follow her on social media. She never cropped up on those “what can we learn from business leaders” type threads that routinely show up on Twitter to indirectly reinforce that you can’t really become like them. What did I have in common with this person aside from being a South Indian woman? Especially after the brouhaha around her NY Times interview in 2021 where she said “I never asked my board to give me more money. Some of my reports would say to me, “Your problem is you’re not asking for more money because our compensation is pegged to yours and you’re not asking for more.” I said: “I will never ask my board for more money. Whatever they give me is much more than I would have ever had.”

I was disappointed, angry and frustrated to read this. But as life has taught me, internalising someone else’s experiences to be ours and acting on that is almost always dangerous because the context, depth of feeling and resulting consequences faced are never replicated. This is even more relevant today when I engage on social media around topics related to casteism & privilege in India – there’s a fine balance between taking up space & making your voice heard.

Nooyi’s book doesn’t take up space – it is an honest account of her story without any unnecessary drama or masala injected into it to create a “larger than life” persona for herself. There is straightforward recognition of both privilege & frustrations as a women in the corporate world at regular intervals. What I find most fascinating is her meticulous – almost clinical – approach to dismantling daunting professional & personal challenges. An approach that is unlike mine, because I am often accused (by myself and by others) of wearing my heart on my sleeve and getting caught up in my feelings.

This book has helped me realise that there is so much value in being able to absorb lessons and recognise moments of true leadership when I remove the pressure of trying to emulate the behaviour of seemingly successful individuals. So much of Nooyi’s success rests on her ability to compartmentalise, seek help from experts when she doesn’t know enough and pick her battles without being overcome with emotion. I struggle with all of these things, but I didn’t end this book feeling disconnected or deflated because I realised Nooyi forged her path with steady consistency & patience, and no Twitter thread on leadership lessons can replace that!

About Author

Bangalorean. Foodie. Bookworm. Animal lover.

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