April 18, 2012

News & Opinion: Search Inside Yourself

By: Sally Haldorson @ 5:47 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

You know this book is about Google the minute you lay your eyes on its cover. The title Search Inside Yourself showcased in the familiar font and primary colors of that online monolith. And yet there is no mention of Google anywhere in the title. Instead, the subtitle reads, surprisingly: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace.) And the author's name is not Eric Schmidt (though he has a blurb at the bottom) but Chade-Meng Tan. So what is the connection? Chade-Meng Tan is Google's Jolly Good Fellow. Yup, that's his job title. And the description of that job is to "Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace." After many years in engineering helping make Google's search engine what it is, Meng (as he is called throughout the book) "currently serves with Google's Talent Team." So is this a book about Google or self-development? Well, it's kind of a hybrid. Meng explains: "This book is based on the Search Inside Yourself curriculum at Google." But the goal of the curriculum, both for Google and for the reading public, is to share "methods for extraordinarily capable mind...." Meng doesn't shy away from making some steep guarantees:
You will find many things in this book that are very useful for you, and some things that may even surprise you. For example, you will learn how to calm your mind on demand. Your concentration and creativity will improve. You will perceive your mental and emotional processes with increasing clarity. You will discover that self-confidence is something that can arise naturally from in a trained mind. You will learn to uncover your ideal future and develop the optimism and resilience necessary to thrive.
To do all this, the Search Inside Yourself curriculum happens in three steps. The first two are:
1. Attention Training: The idea is to train attention to create a quality of mind that is calm and clear at the same time. 2. Self-knowledge and self-mastery: Use your trained attention to create high-resolution perception into your own cognitive and emotive processes.
These are both intriguing, but it is step three that really caught my attention:
3. Creating useful mental habits: Imagine whenever you meet anybody, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, I wish for this person to be happy.
This struck me like a bolt of lightning. I'm not kidding (and yes, I just used a really uninspired simile, but it's what came to mind.) It is not that I wish ill of the people I meet; instead, when I meet someone else, I rarely think of them at all. Instead, I suppose I'm thinking about me. My "habitual, instinctive first thought is" something closer to "I hope I don't say anything stupid," or "Am I dressed well enough?" or even "Say something clever, for god's sake, Sally." I approach most meetings from this kind of defensive position, maybe because I'm much more comfortable meeting people via a keyboard and screen versus a smile and a handshake. Now let's revisit Meng's words from above: "You will discover that self-confidence is something that can arise naturally from in a trained mind." Ok! I'm sold. Clearly this is something I can improve on. Let's dig in. The first few chapters attend to the basics. First, the value of emotional intelligence (there is also a foreward by Daniel Goleman so EQ/EI is an important aspect of this process), then, as any good yogi knows, the value of the breath, and third, the value of meditation's resultant mindfulness--and how to hang on to that mindfulness even when you aren't meditating. Chapter Four is titled "All-Natural, Organic Self-Confidence." Meng writes, "This chapter is about looking within ourselves. If the whole chapter can be encapsulated in a single word, that word is clarity. Deepening self-awareness is about developing clarity within oneself. There are two specific qualities we like to develop--resolution and vividness...." In the following paragraph he explains the value: "This combination will give us very useful high-fidelity information about our emotional life." Developing this kind of awareness is a practice and doing body scans (for emotion) and journaling are part of the process. But to what end? To learn that "We are not our emotions." Which helps us calm ourselves as we drive in rush hour traffic, as we talk with an irate customer, or, as we meet people for the first time and need not let the nervousness take over. While the first section of chapters--a hundred pages or so--may focus on the individual and how each of us can fine-tune our minds and attain a greater level of self-awareness, the second half of the book hews more closely to traditional business book material in that it applies this new practice to such topics as, "Making Profits, Rowing Across Oceans, and Changing the World: The Art of Self-Motivation" and "Being Effective and Loved at the Same Time: Leadership and Social Skills." Meng closes Search Inside Yourself with "Three Easy Steps to World Peace," in which he explains how the resolution to that eternal pursuit may indeed lie in meditation and the inner happiness that results from it.
Hence, in a serious way that is almost comical, the key active ingredient in the formula for world peace may be something as simple as meditation. It's such a simple solution to such an intractable problem, it is almost absurd. Except it may actually work.
To that end, Meng started with himself, then developed the Search Inside Yourself curriculum (a name indeed meant to be humorous) at Google beginning in 2007, and is now ready to spread the good word. "It has become effective enough that we are now ready to "open source" it and make it accessible outside Google. This book is part of that effort." Search Inside Yourself will be on-sale April 24, 2012.

About Sally Haldorson

Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.