Searching Inside Myself (learning from Google employees’ not-so-secret secret)

A review of ‘Search Inside Yourself’, by Chade-Meng Tan (book)

The book’s full title is ‘Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)‘. Which is sometimes shortened to just ‘SIY‘.

Chade-Meng Tan (Meng) works for Google, where his official job title is “Jolly Good Fellow (which nobody can deny)” (Meng was involved in developing Google’s online search function, but more recently has been developing and running the SIY training course for Google employees).

SIY is ultimately a book about controlling your own emotions, largely based on ‘mindfulness‘ (including meditation skills akin to those often applied by Buddhists), leading to greater success and happiness. In the book Meng talks us through various stories, facts, and exercises, as to how one might train oneself to have better emotional intelligence, covering:

  1. Attention training;
  2. Self-knowledge and self-mastery; and
  3. Creating useful mental habits.

The book is well worth a read, but as Meng says in the video below (a presentation he gave at Google, where he presented some of the key points behind ‘Search Inside Yourself’), reading the book alone won’t increase your emotional intelligence – only exercise will help that (and guess what – the book shows you how!).

The book leans heavily on Daniel Goleman‘s work (and books) on Emotional Intelligence, but also includes references to the work and principles of others whose books I have read (or currently reading), including Daniel Pink (on motivation – see video below), Daniel Kahneman, the Dalai Lama, and various others who have written about ‘mindfulness’. The book includes a great list of references for further books to read, and online resources, including numerous YouTube videos.

While on this topic, since first seeing his TED Talk I’ve been espousing Pink’s insights into the three true elements motivation (detailed further in his book ‘Drive‘):

  • Autonomy;
  • Mastery; and
  • Purpose.

Considering these can help better understand how to achieve what you want, when involving others in a project (you might also want to see the RSA Animate version of Daniel Pink’s talk, included in my post ‘RSAnimate Talks‘).

What’s in it for me? – my ‘take’ on SIY

Today’s world is full of challenges and opportunities – through a combination of technology, and scarcity of resources, we often push ourselves to achieve more with less; we’re also enticed by so much interesting opportunities that we often want to do more and more.

These pressures can often result in people stretching themselves to their limits. In a sense, I think that’s good – ie, it’s good to maximise your potential and make the most of what you have. But the downside is that sometimes ‘less is more’, and we can dilute our abilities, or stress ourselves (both mentally, and physically) if we can’t control our emotions.

I myself am delighted by the chaotic and wide-ranging thought patterns that can occur when considering possible ideas, but unless controlled I recognize that these emotions can be destructive, especially if occurring when it would be more beneficial, and respectful, to focus on listening when someone else is talking. I believe that mindfulness will help me with this. Quite simply, better listening.

Some may feel that this is not a challenge for them – they may find that mindfulness helps them enhance other aspects of themselves. Others may feel that this approach is simply not for them (but maybe it’s first worth a try, to find out?).

Personally, I’m envious of Google employees having the chance to attend Meng’s SIY course – hopefully his excellent book will allow the rest of us to appreciate his succinct and joyful guidance.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has read the book (what are your views?), and even better, who has tried the exercises (how did you get on?) – leave a comment below, or reach out to me via twitter (@matthewdbenson).

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3 Responses

  1. […] Searching Inside Myself (learning from Google employees’ not-so-secret secret) (matthewbenson.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Found out just recently that my cousin, Anthony Beardsell, is also active in this space, with his excellent book “Mind Management & Mindfulness: A practical guide to beating anxiety, stress and depression” – definitely worth a look (Amazon allows you to browse the book, and download the first chapter):

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mind-Management-Mindfulness-practical-depression-ebook/dp/B00K1B3LVI/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1400474734&sr=8-1

  3. Chade-Meng Tan recently ran a session at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, “Make Yourself the Happiest Person on Earth” – the BBC have an interesting article on that:

    http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141110-googles-algorithm-for-happiness

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