Last Wednesday I joined a bouyant crowd Camden Town Hall to hear Chade – Meng Tan explain about how he got the coolest job title in corporate (Jolly Good Fellow – in Google Corp) America and his mission for world peace “in my lifetime”. I had recently bought a copy of Meng’s book and was curious to hear him in the flesh so to speak.
The evening was hosted by Action for Happiness, a great UK outfit that’s put on some stimulating talks featuring speakers from across the globe. I must admit to an unease with the use of the “happiness” as a goal statement. I know it almost invites us to define it and question it, which is useful but I still find myself being resistant to it.
I must have been in a sceptical mood because I had found myself with similar unease as Meng bounced onto the stage with his well rehearsed banter, stories and amusing slide set. With some mindful effort I did my best to watch my judging mind as well as listen to Meng’s story and explanation of emotional intelligence.
It is an extraordinary story too. Meng has made a journey from software engineer to one of the best connected evangelists for emotional intelligence and mindfulness on the planet. His book is endorsed by no less than ex president Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama!
Meng gave a cogent explanation of his 3 stage programme for emotional intelligence and want on to explain his extraordinary goal of world peace “in my life-time”. His conviction is that the development of the mind through conscious effort and neuroplasticity will become universally understood as beneficial in the same way that physical exercise made a similar journey from the early 20th Century. He believes we are two or three generations away from meditation being a commonplace activity whose usefulness is no longer questioned.
As for “in my life-time” Meng just wants to set himself and others a challenge.
Meng left a lot of time for questions and clearly relished to opportunity to connect with his audience. For me this is when my reservations melted away as Meng listen carefully and compassionately to a variety of questions, some very general and some very specific and personal. In each case gave a skilled answer or declined when he had none. His experience, knowledge and compassion came through. He knows his theory and practice too. I warmed to this man with a whimsical and self deprecating humour who is also so serious in his intent.
When challenged about what difference his courses have made at Google he was realistic “not much” I think he said. “Google is too big”. When asked if he worries whether he is worried that individuals and companies are coming to meditation motivated by money and profit .. he says he believes that the practice itself will undermine and and reorientate the practitioner for the good. Just as good practice will enevitably give you and advantage in life and business even if you do not have those as goals when you start.
This is part of an interesting theme touched on in my other blogs. Are bankers going to meditate and cease to be motivated by bonuses? Will they become new philanthropists?
If you want to check out Meng’s new enterprise .. it’s SIYLI (silly .. get it!) www.syli.org