"Search Inside Yourself" - Book Review

The full title of the book is Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace), by Chade-Meng Tan.

Tan is one of Google's earliest employees (#107), and his official job title is "Jolly Good Fellow." He's an engineer by trade, but a world-saver by preference. The book is essentially a paper representation of this course he and several associates came up with for Google - not surprisingly called "Search Inside Yourself." The content is about Mindfulness/Meditation and Emotional Intelligence.

As a long time half-assed Buddhist (and thus half-assed meditator), the first 100 pages of the book presented effectively a light-weight refresher course for me. But Tan is - as mentioned - an engineer, and big on the whole "proof" thing, so it was nice to see solid evidence that meditation is as good for you as I've always liked to believe. I started reading Buddhist texts of various types about 20 years ago: at the time, there wasn't a lot of backing for the value of meditation, but Tan is all about "show me the numbers," so he includes the research from the last 30 years. It shows - repeatedly - that meditation/mindfulness has significant (in fact huge) benefits in a Western lifestyle. Confirmation of something you believe in is always a good thing.

But I was wondering what value this book would present to me - I know a fair bit about Buddhism and meditation already. Tan's primary addition was to bring "Emotional Intelligence" into the mix - mostly in the form of the work of Daniel Goleman. But it was his discussion of personal goals and understanding yourself that caught my interest. "Understanding yourself" is something that meditation is supposed to provide, but the general conclusion is that if you don't understand yourself, you should meditate more. Tan's book brings more concrete exercises to the table to help out with that.

Tan's sense of humour is ... annoying. It's not awful, but it's not great, and he waves it like a flag throughout the book with silly cartoons throughout. But it's a good basic introduction to mindfulness and meditation, particularly for the technically inclined. It also includes some interesting stuff about dealing with difficult personal interactions - including how to do this by email, placing it currently in the present day. Not a great book, but both current and good, and recommended to anyone in the realm of technology who has an interest in the subjects it covers.