Spreading world peace one reader at a timeWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Chade-Meng Tan is one of the personalities behind that search button that you click every day.
He has been an engineer with Google since 2000. He has solved countless problems when search engine functions crash. He has mastered Zen. And he has hugged the Dalai Lama.
Tan jokes that he has spent 12 years with Google — and he’s serving 20 to life. But with an official title like Google’s “Jolly Good Fellow,” nobody can deny he’ll soak up every last minute.
This is because he has created a new way of life for at least 1,000 Google employees and wants to take that way to the broader public. In April, he released his book “Search Inside Yourself,” which chronicles his three-principled method to achieve better balance in the workplace and in your personal life. Tan spoke with Toledo Free Press last week.
He started teaching Search Inside Yourself (SIY) classes for Google employees in 2007. He teaches 60 people at a time, four times a year for 20 hours each. About 1,000 have taken the class and the waiting list exceeds 300.
“Embarrassingly, the motivation was world peace,” Tan said. “I wanted to create the condition for world peace in my lifetime, so I asked myself, ‘What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for world peace?’ And I think I figured it out. I think they are: one, the end of global poverty and, two, inner peace, inner happiness and compassion on a global scale.”
So he decided to work on the latter. His three principles are attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery and the creation of useful mental habits.
Attention training has to do with easing the mind into a calm and clear state by focusing on breathing.
“The mind is usually gravitated to things that are very pleasant or very unpleasant and breathing is very, very neutral,” he said. “So you train your mind to be able to come to a place that’s neutral, then you have mastered your attention. Any time you bring attention back to your breath, it’s like doing a bicep curl.”
Self-knowledge and self-mastery are about cultivating the power to choose an emotion. Tan challenges his students to train parts of their brain that can perceive the process of emotions at a “high resolution.” Thus his students can sense the moment an emotion is triggered, can analyze why the emotion is starting and can choose to “turn it off,” Tan said. This eventually leads to “mastery of the self” because it enables a person to assess his or her weaknesses, strengths and what makes him or her happy or upset.
The third piece, creating mental habits, encourages SIY students to foster better social skills. Tan said creating a habit of kindness would entirely change your social interactions. This can be done by interacting with an individual with the goal of making that person happy, he said.
Tan aims to attract more businesses, schools and governments to his methods. He said he is working with one outside business and has a few prospects for the future. SIY not only reduces stress for Google employees, but could reduce stress levels anywhere, he said.
Tan grew up in Singapore and taught himself how to write software by the age of 12. He won his first national academic award by the age of 15. He earned a master of science degree in computer science at University of California at Santa Barbara.
He helped build Google’s first mobile search service and headed the team that kept an eye on quality control for Google’s search engine.
But after all of this, it is important to note one of his mottos, (which, by the way, he said he was using before he knew it was an Oscar Wilde quote): “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”