Interview with Chade-Meng Tan

Chade-Meng Tan
Chade-Meng Tan, the co-founder and chairman of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI),
author of Search Inside Yourself and Joy On Demand,
previously the “Jolly Good Fellow” and one of the earliest engineers at Google.
Q1: How did SIYLI Come About?
It started with a very small simple dream. All I want to do is to create the condition for world peace in my life time. The way to do this is to scale peace, joy and compassion worldwide, and to relate the three qualities with success and profits. Everyone knows Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is good for success and profits; it also cre- ates condition for inner peace, joy and compassion. Therefore I created a curriculum on EQ using mindfulness where people can be successful and where goodness is a side effect, and that was SIYLI. It soon became the most popular course in Google. by Fast Company in 2015.
Q2: For people who have never tried mindfulness.
Can you explain in a very brief way what mindfulness is?
And how can they practice?
Mindfulness is defined as moment to moment, non-judging awareness. Simply be aware of this present moment in an objective way, by bringing gentle, full attention to the process of breathing. In-breath, out-breath. When the wandering attention runs away, just bring it back. It’s like doing one biceps curl for the brain, especially for the prefrontal cortex. If you do a lot biceps curl, you gain strength. And that’s how mindfulness leads to calmness and stability of attention.
Q3: Some people think that they have to be sitting when practicing mindfulness
and it takes long time. What are the tips for people, particularly those at work,
to practice mindfulness for few minutes in everyday life?
Mindfulness is about quality of attention. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere, in one moment. Let’s try to do one breath practice. By doing one breath with full and gentle attention, you feel calm already. When you bring full attention to one breath, slow and deep, you’re stimulating the vagus nerve to further stimulate relaxation response. So your heart bit goes down, your blood pressure goes down, your body and muscles get relaxed. This is the physiological benefit. The psychological benefit is even more powerful. To regret, you need to be in the past. To worry, you need to be in the future. But now you’re fully in the present and for the duration of one breath, you’re free from regrets or worries. And that’s how you become calmer and joyful. It’s so simple, and if you go beyond one breath practice, the depth, the reliability, and the duration of calmness and joy will increase. And that is life-changing.
Q4: So that’s the benefit for individual. But how does a company benefit?
How to turn compassion and kindness into success or profits?
Mindfulness helps to build resilience. You will be able to handle more difficulties and be able to relax. A relaxed mind is also a creative mind. And through mindfulness prac- tice, your mind will be infused with joy. Joy leads to happiness, and happiness leads to success. Being happy has a sales premium. People prefer buying from a happy guy. Resilience, creativity and joy together make a person more productive. You can multi- ply the results by the number of people in the company. They listen more, cooperate more and understand each other more. It reduces friction within organization. A mind- ful organization is far more effective than a non-mindful one.
Q5: Can you name some examples of companies or organizations that have implemented SIYLI?
When SIYLI was first implemented in Google, it soon became the most popular class. It sounded ridiculous but every time we opened a class, it was full in 30 seconds. Later we expanded a number of seats, but still it took only an hour to fill up the registration; SAP also benefited from many ways they had measured and found tremendous benefits more than justifying the course. ROI was very high.
Q6: Search Inside Yourself, beside the curriculum, is also a best-selling book.
Please share with us how many languages it
has been translated into, and briefly introduce your new book.
earch Inside Yourself was published in Apr 2012. For the first week, it was on The New York Times Best Sellers and has now been translated into 24 languages. It was the No. 1 seller in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. And right now it’s on the best sellers list in Japan. I’m proud of the endorsement part, especially from Dalai Lama and Jimmy Carter. They are both my heroes. My new book is called Joy on Demand. It’s about how to create conditions for joy. By calming the mind, it turns out joy is the default state, like the sound of air conditioning in the room that you never notice it, but it’s always there if you calm down. Once you can access the source of joy reliably, the over-reliance on sense pleasure and ego pleasure reduces. We’re training to calm the mind towards joy, and towards sustaina- ble happiness. Inclination of mind is compared to the slope of a mountain. When the slope is inclined, water flows effortlessly. So if you incline your mind in a certain direction, joy flows effort- lessly. The way to do it is to familiarize your mind with joy. Notice thin slices of joy in daily life. For example, when you’re thirsty, enjoy drinking water and notice the subtle pleas- ure. When you pay attention, joy can be found everywhere. What is more important is the absence of pain, and finally kindness and compassion. That’s the most powerful source of joy, and is enough to change your life.
Q7: SIYLI has been touring around the U.S. and even around the world. Finally it’s coming to
Hong Kong on Oct 27-28 with Marc Lesser, CEO of SIYLI, and another experienced instructor
to do teachings for the public and the executives. What would you say to
people in Hong Kong and how they can benefit from the 2-day conference?
I want to invite everybody in Hong Kong to sign up for SIYLI, the biggest thing you will gain is the possibility that SIYLI can change your life, by showing you something really important called emotional intelligence. Several things including self awareness, self mastery, empathy, social and leadership skills, all belong to the emotional faculty and they are trainable. You will then find yourself becoming more resilient, creative, self-aware, happier, and you work with people better and more effectively as a leader. Most importantly, it doesn’t take a lot of time. But the shift is life-changing. You will have inner peace, inner joy and compassion. It’s good for your soul, and it’s good for your success.
Q8: Mindfulness is not only beneficial for business and business executives,
but is also for parents, for teachers and for kids. Globally a lot of
schools are implementing mindfulness. How do schools benefit?
The first benefit is academic performance. There was a study on GRE scores in the U.S. Students with mindfulness practice had their academic performance improved signifi- cantly; and for a problem school we encountered, truancy rate went down by 90%, academic results went up with behavioral improvement. It’s life changing shift for kids. For parents, the effects are similar. It’s like health and fitness, if you’re unfit before, and then you become physically fit and healthy, you find that every single aspect of life im- proves, and relationship with children also improves.
Q9: You have come cross a lot of global government leaders, presidents,
celebrities and stars. Any interesting stories to share on mindfulness?
For example, Arianna Huffington (co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post), a very successful, smart and capable woman. Her life was amazing until she had a black out, hit on her desk and lying on the floor bloodied. That was a wakeup call. She realized that working so hard and sacrificing sleep, health and wellness was unsus- tainable and unwise. Later she took up mindfulness and also tried to have more sleep. She wrote an article “Sleep Your Way to the Top”, one have to be well in order to thrive. Mindfulness is a big part of her transformation.

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