“Jolly Good Fellow”
Before Chade-Meng Tan’s retirement in 2015, his title at Google was Jolly Good Fellow (as in the lyric “which nobody can deny”). Like much in this intermittently fascinating, intermittently self-aggrandizing guide to mindfulness and meditation – and how to apply them for profit and career fulfillment – Meng’s title is both endearing and irritating. It’s endearing because his tone throughout this guide, while impersonal, conveys a high level of jolliness and warmth. He seeks to spread “good” by encouraging everyone to meditate and reach new levels of mindfulness. It’s irritating because his philosophy places even the ancient art of meditation in the hands of the Google monolith.
Meng intends to teach you “contemplative practices” that – aside from having the imprimatur of the ages – can make you happier. He is committed to these practices personally and professionally. He explains that determining the “relative activation” of an area of your brain’s left prefrontal cortex as compared with its right prefrontal cortex gives you a reliable indication of your happiness. The greater the activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the more you register delight, passion and energy. More right-side activity means darker emotions. Meng is the first Google engineer to abandon engineering for “People Ops” – Google’s name for human resources. He took this extraordinary step so he could teach “emotional intelligence” to Googlers. He was part of a team – “including a Zen master, a CEO, a Stanford University scientist and [author] Daniel Goleman” – that created the three-step “Search Inside Yourself” program, which has been part of Google’s curriculum since 2007. The steps are: