Normally, I do not write book reviews, but I recently heard an outstanding talk by Chade-Meng Tan, who trains Google employees to meditate, practice mindfulness, and improve their emotional intelligence. His talk motivated me to buy his book, Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace), and reading his book lead me to think, “I should write about this,” which I am doing here, and now!
What do meditation, emotional intelligence and searching inside yourself have to do with your money and your heart? This is a good question! One of the goals of my blog is to help you make wiser choices about what you do with your money, in ways that take both your rational brain and your emotional heart into account. In a similar vein, this book offers suggestions and tools to manage our emotions in ways that will improve your professional success, your interpersonal relationships and your overall happiness.
Why should we trust the author to advise us on how to achieve professional success, better relationships and personal happiness? Well, I will tell you. Meng spent years as a hot shot Google engineer, and later worked as a manager at Google directing other engineers. His current job description at Google is even more ambitious: "Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace.” WOW!
Aside from being a hot shot at Google, Meng has delivered a TED talk at the United Nations and has been featured on the front page of the New York Times. He has met with President Barack Obama, and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. His friends include best selling authors Daniel Goleman, John Kabat-Zinn, and Chip Conely as well as Google Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Meng has also been hugged (on his birthday) by the Dalai Lama, as well as by many others who have (like me) waited in line to thank him in person after they hear him speak. In short, this guy knows something about both professional success and connecting with others! When you see him speak, it becomes clear that he also knows quite a bit about happiness.
Enough already on my reasons for choosing to review this particular book. Here are some basic points from the book that we can all apply to improving both our financial and our emotional lives. While I can’t give you all the gold nuggets of the book in this little blog of mine, these were a few highlights that stood out:
1) Meditate and Practice Mindfulness: OK this is not new or original, but he offers some insights and advice for how to, when to, and where to, as well as some interesting research describing the benefits of meditation. He also offers lots of humor and useful analogies to keep us amused as we read through his advice on this. The goal is to be able to do this anywhere, even at work.
2) Work on Self-Knowledge and Self-Mastery: Meng is a big fan of Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman is also a big fan of Meng’s work, and in fact wrote the foreword on his book. Based on Goleman's work, Meng encourages us to see our emotions vividly the moment they start to arise. This helps us gain objective self-knowledge.
The next step is mastering our emotions. Meng suggests we think of choosing and managing our emotions the way we think about riding a horse. You can let the horse take you to wherever the horse wants to take you. (Yikes! You could end up anywhere!) The other option is that you can learn to ride the horse, and lead that horse to where you want to go. (Again, horse = emotions in this analogy.)
Finally you can learn to master the horse (your emotions), in which case you are empowered to do things and go places you could never dream of otherwise. Mastering emotions gives you far more options as to how to feel and how to act.
Meng doesn’t want us to think of ourselves as being our emotions. He wants us to think of ourselves as choosing which emotions we experience, and being able to refine those emotions to fit what works best for us. He talks about emotions as physiological experiences. The idea is that with practice, we can start to consciously choose both which experiences we want to have and their intensity.
3) Dedicate Time and Energy to Positive Mental Habits: Meng wants us to create positive mental habits such as being kind to strangers, feeling empathy for others, and wishing the best for everyone we interact with, even those we are not particularly fond of. He also asks us to think of ways that we are similar to others, rather than different. He tells us that this is particularly valuable when you are in conflict. Think about things you share in common with that OH SO ANNOYING person you are upset with. You likely share a desire to be successful, a desire to be appreciated and/or a desire to be loved. Seeing what you have in common increases empathy and reduces stress. Meng says it also helps you succeed professionally, even if you have one of those tough jobs. In fact, Meng tells us about published research showing that even in the military, being nice is a strong predictor of success. He also talks about all the positive stories of Google employees sharing that they feel that these tools made them happier, improved their marriages, and helped them achieve far more at work.
There is plenty more in the book, including advice on preparing for difficult conversations. I myself have already applied that advice to a particularly difficult conversation. Guess what? It made the conversation far less difficult.
Thank you Meng!
Get Your Own Copy of Search Inside Yourself:
Related Books & Some Great Videos:
Conley, Chip. (2012). Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness+Success. New York, NY: Free Press.
Kabat-zinn, John. (2011). Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Momentand Your Life. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, Inc.
Goleman, Daniel. (2011). The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights. Northampton, MA: More Than Sounds, Inc.
Hsieh, Tony. (2012). Delivering-Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. Mundelein, IL: Round Table Companies.
Great Talks by Meng and Others on Related Topics: