A quick review of an unique book

So my good friend and colleague Dhivakar gifted me a wonderful book the other day – “Search Inside Yourself” by Meng. And knowing Dhivakar, am sure he would want me to share the gift of a review with everyone – so here I go!

The book’s author is a senior googler (google employee number 107 for all of you detail-loving chaps) and deals not with technology but surprise of surprises – – with “mindfulness and meditation”.

Now why would a googler (And a senior one at that) want to write a book on something like this? A few minutes into the book is all it takes to realise that this author is as a different as they come. His official title (self affixed I suspect) is:

The jolly good fellow of google
which nobody will deny

Intrigued you turn the pages and find that that he piloted this program at Google after consulting with multiple-giants like Daniel Goleman (yes we are talking about the EQ guru) and to his delight the googlers just lapped it up. Quite a few very inspiring testimonials from the participants dot the book and such run-a-away success at google has led him to aim for something a little bigger – namely world peace (yeah I know- a little bigger!)) – and this book is an effort by him to help folks such as ourselves who aren’t from the google family access the program and reap benefits. And he gets to enjoy the royalty too for the book. So a win-win really!

OK, let’s get this straight – isn’t this what you are thinking right now – Geek boy, meditation, world peace – that combo’s got to be boring!

Well, let me confirm its patently anything but boring. For one thing the author has a wonderfully self-depreciating sense of humour that ensures you leave every page sporting a grin on your face. To top it he has plenty of cartoons distributed throughout – these poke gentle fun at concepts in his own book – while enlightening you on the side. I did say its a fun read, right?

To round up this post, here are a couple of super takeaways for me – that can you get started right off the bat.

1. He starts off on the premise that “self awareness” is the goods for success. Self awareness is really the art of knowing yourself well – and he calls out some very simple methods to get up and running. “So why is this important again?” you ask.  Because it allows you to catch yourself before doing something unwarranted – if you can catch yourself before bursting out with anger at a colleague (and therefore save all that repentance and guilt that would follow the anger like a shadow!) – it makes life that much better no? Mindfulness meditations are his tools for developing self awareness – these are meditations in which you do simple stuff like experiencing how your body reacts to emotions (so when your fist closes and your somatic clenches – you know you are getting angry – and can quickly step out of the scene before an ugly episode!!) and watching your breath. The exercises take 10 minutes or less at a time – and the value is priceless (yep, just like visa!)

2. The second is the biggie – its his experience that the more “self aware” you become, the more empathy you develop for others (colleagues, families, friends, strangers – everybody). So its a case of buy 1, get one free! And what can empathy do – it can help you win friends, nurture relationships and all-in-all make you the most popular guy or girl on earth. And the more you understand another person, the better you will become as well – a bit of a virtuous circle if you will….

3. Finally, as your meditation deepens- a sense of clarity, tremendous productivity and perpetual inner joy become yours for the experiencing. So as he states in his quaint way – you can have your cake and your promotion too!

If you are one of those who want to try the miracle of meditation but don’t know where to begin, some of these exercises are a great startup point(each taking but a few minutes) and soaking in the abundant-data anecdotes may also convince you of meditation’s value in your everyday life – or at least to give it a try. For the experienced meditators out there, you guys (and girls) may get bigger insights into the why’s behind a few of the practices – and of course gain some good anecdotes to share with your skeptic colleagues (with a “I told you so right – now google agrees!”). Most importantly – novice or guru – you’ll enjoy the read. gentle, wise, fun reads are hard to come by – and this one ticks all the boxes. Convinced already? Why not give it a try and blog your experiences for all of us?

Multi-tasking to multi-focus

A decade or so ago, multi-tasking was a much revered skill. People would flash it in their resumes, coffee corners would resound with whispers of the star who could do many things at the same time and supervisors would put that up as a skill to acquire proficiency in as you made your way up the corporate ladder.

Over the recent years, the experts have started leaning the other way – multi-tasking is driving you to distraction and driving your productivity down claim recent reports. If you are one of the people who have a chat conversation going on on your laptop, 50 emails screaming for your attention, your mobiles beckoning you for a calender meet or a whatsapp message and a colleague stopping by to drop off a memo for a priority task – you can but agree with the experts. Everywhere, everyone is busy but work doesn’t get done!

An alternate approach seems to be multi-focus – the ability to do many things but one thing at a time. Interestingly, this is exactly what the buddhist meditators have recommended for our wellbeing for thousands of years. There is a story where a disciple asks a monk what meditation is and the monk answers something to the tune of “be mindful. when drinking tea, drink tea. when walking, walk. when eating eat. when working, work”.

This principle seems to be at the heart of all successful work today. Jack Dorsey seems to be able to balance time between “twitter” and “square” – one company at a time. As does Elon Musk. As does AR Rahman with his “school for music”, his various concerts and of course his pilgrimages. Bill Gates brought in legendary focus into Microsoft and now into the Melinda Foundation – one thing (only) at a time. Dr.Abdul Kalam played rocket scientist, president and continues to be a role model – each role is perfect in itself.

There seems to be a lesson here for many of us. If dinner, TV shows and conversations with loved ones compete for attention – at the same time – time to evolve from a multi-tasking individual (where focus stretches thin) to a multi-focus individual (lesser time on each activity but with absolute focus).

You agree?