Search Inside Yourself: Mindfulness at Google

Chade Meng-Tan (Meng) was a software engineer and employee number 107 at Google when he founded the “Search Inside Yourself” mindfulness program at the company. 

In this talk above, Meng offers a standard definition of Emotional Intelligence (EI), which can be achieved through mindfulness practice:

Emotional Intelligence: The ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions. (Salovey and Mayer, 1990)

Then Meng follows it up with his own, simpler definition:

Emotional Intelligence: a collection of emotional skills

Meng claims that developing EI happens when you practice mindfulness which will change your brain via neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity relies on the assumption that what we think, do, and pay attention to changes the structure and function of our brains. Meng claims we can change our brains in 6-7 weeks, 20 hours of practice. 

WHY change your brain? Meng offers an interesting analogy about the relationship between our emotions and our thoughts.

Think of a horse and rider. The horse is emotions and the rider is the thinking mind. With practice, the rider can steer the horse. Learn to influence where the horse goes. And eventually, master that control.

The first step to achieving emotional intelligence is to practice ATTENTION TRAINING. The goal here is to “bring the mind to a state that is calm and clear and to be able to do that on demand. If you have the power to calm the mind on demand, that space becomes reliably accessible. You get choice, power, and freedom.”

Meng suggests a simple practice for attention training: Focus on the breath for ten minutes. When your mind drifts away, bring it back.

The second step for achieving EI is SELF KNOWLEDGE AND MASTERY. Here, Meng claims that the focus is on clarity. Moving from seeing things in a low-resolution way to a higher resolution. Meng articulates subtle yet important shifts in mindset such as a shift from, “I am angry,” to “I am experiencing anger.” From there is even a more profound shift from, “I am experiencing anger” to “I am experiencing anger in my body.” When you experience pain in your body, Meng argues, then you can do something about it. You hurt your hand, for example, then you have choices: you can ice it, massage it, distract with ice cream (his joke).

The third step in Meng’s schema is to CREATE USEFUL MENTAL HABITS. One he recommends trying out is that whenever you walk into a room, without doing anything, wish for two people in that room to be happy. This is a habit of kindness. “Habit becomes personality. Personality becomes you. You become a kind person.” (again, neuroplasticity at work).

Note that Meng is sometimes critiqued for applying mindfulness to what can be viewed as a corporate leadership program. Do with that whatever you will. But hopefully, you can pull some useful gems from his work.

 

Artist Spotlight: Liana Finck, Passing for Human

human

I’m reading a beautiful new comic book by New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck. The book is about her parents–her artistic yet domestic mother, her odd yet professional father–and it’s about the author’s own coming of age. If you’re a reader of comics, then you probably appreciate how different writers play with time and timing. Finck is a master. Her stories are beautifully paced, toggling back and forth between reality and abstraction.

TAKE IT FURTHER

Interview on WNYC, Sep 2018

Finck’s column on Medium

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Crypto Shouldn’t Be Called Crypto

I understand why it’s called that. Security is the feature that enables distributed ledger technology. But the word “crypto” is a description of the technology and says nothing about the user experience or its impact on the economy and society. The word “blockchain” is a description of the tech, too. Both words are so defensive. We need a name for crypto that is more about what the tech allows us to do that we couldn’t do before and less about how the tech works. What might that name be?

How (and why) to help team members articulate their goals

According to leadership experts, helping your team members articulate their goals is an effective way to build motivation and trust in your organization because it helps your team members feel seen and heard.

However, a lot of leaders don’t take the time or effort to do this. Perhaps it’s an oversight, perhaps they feel it will take away from the organization’s goals, or perhaps they just don’t know how.

If you are interested in helping your team members feel seen and heard, help them articulate their goals. Schedule a team meeting or a series of one-on-ones to create a space for active listening. If your team members need a framework to get started, here  is a framework inspired by Zig Ziglar – goals, benefits, obstacles, and people:

GOALS. Ask your team members to state their goals. Goals should be stated within the context of the project, the organization, or mission of the organization. Why are you working on this project? If it’s just for the paycheck, be honest about that. But if it’s to further a professional or personal goal, then say it loud. This is a great thing for all members of the team to know

BENEFITS. As a leader, ask your team members what benefits will be achieved by striving for and reaching their goals. If you feel like you need to explore alignment between team member goals and the organization, ask your team members to do that exploration and to connect those dots

OBSTACLES. Ask your team members to articulate what’s in their way. This is sometimes a hard conversation, but believe me, you want to know

PEOPLE. Ask your team members who they need buy-in from so that they have advocates for, and not obstacles to, reaching their goals.

If you take the time at the beginning of each project to check in with your team about their goals, then you will help them feel seen and heard, you will build motivation and trust among your team, and you will help individuals and your organization flourish.

 

 

Inventor Spotlight: Jessi Baker, applying blockchain to LCA

Jessi Baker is a technologist, designer, and founder of Provenance, a European startup that uses blockchain to track supply chain of products. Why is this kind of system valuable? It’s valuable for product companies in that it can help streamline supply chain issues. But more important, it’s valuable for customers who want transparency on where and how the companies they buy from source their materials.

TAKE IT FURTHER

The Sustainable Supply Chain. HBR, 2010.

Sustainability in Supply Chains. McKinsey, 2016.

 

How Good Taste Can Get in the Way of Creativity

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

I adore this excerpt from Ira Glass’s longer piece called “On Storytelling.” Glass points to something that he wishes he had known when starting out writing for radio: That there a gap. There is a gap between your good taste and the quality of the work that you make as a beginner. Your taste is good enough to tell you that what you are making isn’t really that good. At this point, a lot of people just quit. But Glass urges us to push through. And he says that the only way to close that gap between your good taste and the beginner work that you are making is to make a lot of work.

 

Childhood Objects

beetle_hi

I’m participating in an online course hosted by MIT’s Learning Creative Learning group. Our first assignment is a lovely one: Share an object from your childhood and reflect on how it influenced you. For inspiration, we were given Seymour Papert’s short essay Gears of my Childhood.

Lucky for me, our mother filled our home with beautiful objects. I’m pretty sure this environment is what led me to study product design in graduate school. From an early age, I remember noticing the details on the objects. And as an adult, I have such an appreciation for combinations of materials in an object (like the leather+wood+brass on my baby carriage) and how they work together to deliver a functional whole.

Check out some objects from my childhood here

CS for All – Program or Be Programmed?

This week my MakerLab students are researching the “CS for All” movement including this short video from Douglass Rushkoff, author of Program or be Programmed: 10 commands for a digital age.

Here’s a taste:

Back in the 1980s, learning to use a computer was the same thing as learning to program one. But as computers got easier to use and more user-friendly, the distance between using a computer and knowing how it worked got longer and wider until we had extremely opaque interfaces in which you do what the program says without any idea of what’s actually going on behind the screen.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Free course on Learning Creative Learning, Lifelong Kindergarten Lab, MIT

 

FOR FUN

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MakerLab students fabricating v1 of “No Waste Challenge”

 

Exploring Media: Mezzotint

 

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Spring Evening by Robert Kipniss, 2017

Today will be a fun art-making day. This morning I’m meeting my students at the new makerspace in our public library to fabricate their designs on a laser cutter.

And this evening I’ll start a mezzotint short course hosted by Cayuga Arts Collective. Mezzotint is a 17th-century printmaking technique in which you manipulate the roughened surface of a copper plate. The media affords soft gradients and a painterly effect unlike printmaking methods before it which are more line based. I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Invention Everywhere

invention

Saturday was a gorgeous fall day here in the finger lakes so we hopped in the car and drove up to Lake Ontario. We had a wonderful day walking at the lake and driving through acre after acre of apple orchards in full swing.

On our way home we saw a sign for the “Savannah Arts Festival” on the side of the road and we decided to pop in. It turned out to be a little community arts festival with craft vendors, DIY activities, a food truck, and a “Trashin’ Fashion Show” that was to start about 5 minutes after we arrived. We got in line.

The love and work that was put into this event moved me. It was clear that volunteers had put a lot of energy into creating the runway and the right atmosphere for the show including a fabulous MC and custom music for each model as they walked the runway.

There were about 10 entries from contestants ranging in age from kids to teens and adults. But my favorite entry is pictured above. This was created by a 9 years old. I didn’t catch her name. And I don’t know if she won a prize. But I thought her use of materials was so clever and graphic. While most entries were bubble wrap and draped table clothes adorned with hot glue and bottle caps, this nine-year-old created a look that embraced industrial materials and a futuristic aesthetic. The foil ducts as leg warmers warmed my heart!