Category Archives: Motivation

Meet Google’s Jolly Good Fellow

“Meng at 37, the Chinese guy, not the black guy ” (Meng’s own caption on his website.) At Google, it’s a tradition that famous visitors pose for a picture with Meng. Why? Why not?

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Meng’s card, which nobody can deny.

A digital gallery at Google HQ, which features Meng with hundreds of famous visitors, starting with Jimmy Carter and including the Dalai Lama. (photo by Adaline Lau, ClickZ)

Yes, that’s his official title.

Chade-Meng Tan is an early Googler (meaning he probably never needs to work another day in his life) who I had the luck of hearing last week on a visit to the Google campus in Mountain View.

Never once did he stop smiling as he told us about “Search Inside Yourself,” the emotional intelligence program he created and teaches at Google. And his jokes were often corny. But Meng gave us just a glimpse into a surprisingly powerful way of looking at the world. He made a case for how kindness and compassion are keys for personal happiness and peace. All with self-deprecating humor. “I think it’s funny that Google entrusted an engineer to teach emotional intelligence,” he quipped.

As he talked, we were lulled into his world view, which was the last thing I expected, on a visit to what is arguably the most powerful and influential corporation on planet Earth.

But here we was, asking us to learn how to separate ourselves from our emotions. And to practice a daily ritual of looking at total strangers and wishing them happiness.

So, when he described his vision for “creating the conditions for world peace in my lifetime,” I thought, he just might be onto something. Even if he’s wrong, what would be the harm in trying?

I highly encourage you to take 15 minutes to watch Meng’s TED talk, in which he covers some of the ideas he walked us through. Or read about him in the New York Times. Or if you see me around CoCo, ask to borrow my copy (which I just ordered!) of Meng’s book, Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).

Peace out! No, really.

How I made the leap

Not me. For metaphoric purposes only.

Not me. For metaphoric purposes only.

I can remember the day I made the jump from employment to self-employment. I’d like to say it was a dignified moment of clear headedness. But truth be told, I lost my temper. During a less-than-favorable performance review at my first and only corporate job…I quit.

Looking back, that was not a surprising outcome. I grew up always hearing my dad say, “The best thing is to be your own boss.” So, the minute I met my newest cubicle mate, Daniel, who had just come off of a stint as a freelance writer, I knew what I had to do. The disappointing job review was simply an excuse to make the jump and feel fully justified. “I’ll show them!”

What followed was a hit-and-miss but eventually successful freelance career. But until now, I’ve never really given a thought to why I took the path I did, other than the occasional flippant remark about my having severe hangups with authority (which I do). Looking back, I think it was no small amount of pride that motivated me and my bruised ego to leave the cubicle. And it was pride that pushed me to endure the difficulties of establishing myself as a freelancer.

But there was a moment when it became about something more than an ego trip. About two years into my freelance practice, things were going so well that I no longer had a life. Client work dominated my every waking minute. When I complained about it to a friend who was himself a successful entrepreneur, he said I should think about hiring employees and getting a proper office.

“That’s a huge commitment,” I objected.

“How could you be any more committed than you are,” he said. “And becoming a business owner is something that will define your life in a way that few things will.”

My friend made me realize that being my own boss was a big adventure – like going on a jungle expedition. You might come back. You might not. But it won’t be dull! So, that’s what I did. I got an office downtown, I started hiring, and within a couple years I was running a strong writing practice with a handful of employees.

Looking back, it’s been the adventure that has kept me in the game. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that several years later I got tired of managing my writing practice, shut it down and went to work for my best client. But it wasn’t too long before I was craving the thrill and risk of the adventure again. More on all that down the road!

Photo Credit: mikelo via Compfight cc