A quick review of an unique book

So my good friend and colleague Dhivakar gifted me a wonderful book the other day – “Search Inside Yourself” by Meng. And knowing Dhivakar, am sure he would want me to share the gift of a review with everyone – so here I go!

The book’s author is a senior googler (google employee number 107 for all of you detail-loving chaps) and deals not with technology but surprise of surprises – – with “mindfulness and meditation”.

Now why would a googler (And a senior one at that) want to write a book on something like this? A few minutes into the book is all it takes to realise that this author is as a different as they come. His official title (self affixed I suspect) is:

The jolly good fellow of google
which nobody will deny

Intrigued you turn the pages and find that that he piloted this program at Google after consulting with multiple-giants like Daniel Goleman (yes we are talking about the EQ guru) and to his delight the googlers just lapped it up. Quite a few very inspiring testimonials from the participants dot the book and such run-a-away success at google has led him to aim for something a little bigger – namely world peace (yeah I know- a little bigger!)) – and this book is an effort by him to help folks such as ourselves who aren’t from the google family access the program and reap benefits. And he gets to enjoy the royalty too for the book. So a win-win really!

OK, let’s get this straight – isn’t this what you are thinking right now – Geek boy, meditation, world peace – that combo’s got to be boring!

Well, let me confirm its patently anything but boring. For one thing the author has a wonderfully self-depreciating sense of humour that ensures you leave every page sporting a grin on your face. To top it he has plenty of cartoons distributed throughout – these poke gentle fun at concepts in his own book – while enlightening you on the side. I did say its a fun read, right?

To round up this post, here are a couple of super takeaways for me – that can you get started right off the bat.

1. He starts off on the premise that “self awareness” is the goods for success. Self awareness is really the art of knowing yourself well – and he calls out some very simple methods to get up and running. “So why is this important again?” you ask.  Because it allows you to catch yourself before doing something unwarranted – if you can catch yourself before bursting out with anger at a colleague (and therefore save all that repentance and guilt that would follow the anger like a shadow!) – it makes life that much better no? Mindfulness meditations are his tools for developing self awareness – these are meditations in which you do simple stuff like experiencing how your body reacts to emotions (so when your fist closes and your somatic clenches – you know you are getting angry – and can quickly step out of the scene before an ugly episode!!) and watching your breath. The exercises take 10 minutes or less at a time – and the value is priceless (yep, just like visa!)

2. The second is the biggie – its his experience that the more “self aware” you become, the more empathy you develop for others (colleagues, families, friends, strangers – everybody). So its a case of buy 1, get one free! And what can empathy do – it can help you win friends, nurture relationships and all-in-all make you the most popular guy or girl on earth. And the more you understand another person, the better you will become as well – a bit of a virtuous circle if you will….

3. Finally, as your meditation deepens- a sense of clarity, tremendous productivity and perpetual inner joy become yours for the experiencing. So as he states in his quaint way – you can have your cake and your promotion too!

If you are one of those who want to try the miracle of meditation but don’t know where to begin, some of these exercises are a great startup point(each taking but a few minutes) and soaking in the abundant-data anecdotes may also convince you of meditation’s value in your everyday life – or at least to give it a try. For the experienced meditators out there, you guys (and girls) may get bigger insights into the why’s behind a few of the practices – and of course gain some good anecdotes to share with your skeptic colleagues (with a “I told you so right – now google agrees!”). Most importantly – novice or guru – you’ll enjoy the read. gentle, wise, fun reads are hard to come by – and this one ticks all the boxes. Convinced already? Why not give it a try and blog your experiences for all of us?

Whoa! Innovation unlimited in the consumer computing space…

It’s been a fascinating period, technology-wise. Form factors have changed and parts we thought were fossilized have been dusted, given face lifts and are back looking smarter than ever.

A quick recap:

Apple decided to make the iPad smaller, so we have a smaller tablet, the iPad mini now. And they’ve brought back the 4:3 aspect ratio (everybody else sports the cinematographic 16:1 these days). And by the way, this is not a bug (they say it increases display area very significantly). It’s also got a great tag line depicting the experience – “there’s less of it, but no lessto it”.

Samsung’s decided to make the phone a little bigger – let’s welcome the new phablet Galaxy Note II. Oh God! they have also brought back part II of the stylus and it looks cooler than ever (the newly christened s-pen!). So much for Steve’s quipon the best pointing devices in the world…

Amazon has decided to put a custom amazon shop in everyone’s home and called it the Kindle Fire – and priced it at zero margins – maybe they reasoned supermarkets don’t price for the use of their shopping carts! If this move succeeds massively (and it does seem to be happening), maybe the company should call itself the Amazing Amazon?

Google showcased its beautiful chromebook at a fraction of the Mac air’s price. From a feature and capabilities standpoint, it could very well be called the cloud book (and it comes with lots of Dropbox space too) – and interestingly rather than adding, they’ve left stuff out (their new architecture allows them to knock off the fan and also become much slimmer) and decided in favor of a Samsung chip. A new ecosystem brewing here?

Microsoftprobably deserves the biggest space. Newly architected hardware( the surface), a new OS which promises a seamless operation between form factors – they are certainly headliners this year. Very interestingly, they brought back the keyboard. Instead of opening out a new genre of computing machines, have they collapsed the PCs and Tablets into one category now?

This seems to be a most interesting period in the timeline of personal computing device innovation. Computer-human interaction has increased, home-work life is blurring, SoLoMo technologies bring context like never before into the picture – and these innovations reflect the evolving times. The question of whether we will adapt to an-always-online, always-visible world or whether we will make the devices adapt to our requirements (and free up our time and lives because of the increased context and on demand nature of these innovations)is of course a matter for debate – as always…

Information? Reputation?

So much for that experiment! I tried to put together a small note on what I thought was priceless information and in a pocket-sized format, and there were no takers (ha, ha!)! Not the regulars, not the folks coaxed by WordPress, nor those diverted by the search engines. Maybe the time wasn’t right, it wasn’t packaged right – or maybe it just plain sucked! So, let’s do the next best thing, call it off and move on to more sturdy ground…and do some meditation on “information and reputation” instead..

It seems to me information is no longer a “differentiated and powerful” currency. It’s a commodity – we have too much of it, and we have it everywhere. We have google to look up all sorts of worldly stuff, the newspapers for keeping count of all the depressing stuff, tons of metrics (and even more dashboards) at work and the psychiatrists to tell you more about yourself than you want to know. The age of “information being power” and the “middle managers ( please click to checkout a very nice piece from HBR)” – seem truly dead. Commodity exchanges (linking farmers and marketplaces), eBay (linking vendors to clients directly), social media (connecting news sources and client) and many like these – ensure brokers are going digital everywhere. As managers, information by itself seems to be a fairly ineffective  weapon in our arsenal. The quicker we recognize it, the better – unless we’d like to figure as  another pink slip statistic!
So what do we do after decades of playing the “parse and pass information” game? Do we have an alternative? Establishing a “reputation” of being able to assimilate different information sources and providing solutions seems to be one good alternate. In other words, technical consulting, implementation and support (advisory support on a technical or business aspect), mentoring (enabling a fellow human being achieve her potential), evangelism (espousing a cause we believe in, provided its not “information brokering!”) all seem to be dimensions we should tap into to avoid the failure game. Be the best and a beacon light for the multitudes to be successful – seems to be the mantra of the day. Isn’t “reputation” the currency which makes Eliyahu GoldrattKen Blanchard, Steven Covey, Anthony Robbins, Al Gore, Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle and the like so very sought after?
Interestingly this “reputation” over “information” thinking seems to have pervaded the digital world too. The Wolframalpha search engine gets a lot of rave reviews due to its ability to serve you contextual info, klout scores and pinterest leaders seem to have no correlation to the account owners’ “bigness” but more on the quality and appropriateness of the content shared, quora emphatically believes that humans are better than machines at answering queries and YouTube continues to “discover” teen wonders (that was meant to shock you!).
So is this the moral – information is now hygiene – it cannot deliver greatness by itself? Are what we do with the information and how consistently we do so – what gets us the laurels?
If you are a manager, time to reach out for a  “knowledge to wisdom” transformation exercise. If we are a digital provider, time to introspect – are we an artist or a painter of houses? And is that who we want to be?

P.S: if you are intrigued by the piece that inspired the first para, I have decided to leave it in this blog (titled “mindfulness”) for a week or so…