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Search Inside Yourself - The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness

I was recommended this book during a training. This is based mainly on meditation technic. Even if you don't like the breathing exercise, or think this is useless, the book ask many question about meta-thinking. Thinking one level higher, how the other feel, trying to better empathize. The book present some works about great leaders, who most of them are warm people. This book presents some keys to thinks about problems and people. It doesn't solve them but allows to open the eyes.

Introduction: Searching Inside Yourself

2012, Chade-Meng Tan

Made at Google. This book is full of “lists” of concepts going together. Also, many exercise, that is worthless writing down here. This summary is relatively rough. It is more to know what is in the book or a kind of index to stuff in which you might be interested in.

The book is easy to read, enough illustration, examples, not too much endless stories, so the good trade-off for beginners.

3 steps:

  1. Attention training: Create a quality of mind, where you can think clearly
  2. Self Knowledge and self mastery: Develop a way to analyse the stream of emotion, to better know how you react / feel
  3. Creating useful mental habits: Teach yourself to have special behavior, that enhance productivity

Even an Engineer can Thrive on Emotional Intelligence

What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters to what lies within us., Ralph Waldo Emerson

Definition of emotional intelligence:

The ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions. 1

These are learned abilities, not innate. There are five categories of EI:

Compare to IQ, it is considered as a form of intelligence as you would understand how to behave, why, how to adapt…


What distinguish average from star performers:

  1. Strong achievement drive and high achievement standards
  2. Capability to influence
  3. Conceptual thinking
  4. Analytical skills
  5. Initiative / taking challenges
  6. Self confidences

Among them, there are only to IQ related skills (Analytics and conceptual thinking)

Outstanding Leadership

Communication and trust. Create a positive work environment, where you feel like in your family. Someone who lead is someone who is appreciated for many reason:

These traits are observed among the best military leaders, where we would imagine barking leaders

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

The way EI is taught in this book focus about learning how to feel people (and ourselves), and not to fake our behavior to look nicer in the apparencies. When understanding people, behavior automatically changes. EI is trainable, as IQ. Neuroplasticity plus motivation are the keys.

Train Attention

Stable, strong and perceptive attention that enable clamness and clarity are keys to emotional intelligence. If you cannot pay attention to yourself and others, you won’t go far.

This is also called mindfulness.

Train Physiology

After mind, there is body. For two reasons:

The better we are aware, the better we can manage them.

Easy way to mindfulness in two minutes

The exercise is to pay a consistent attention to the breath. Keep thinking to it, pay attention to the rhythm, the muscles, the temperature of incoming and outgoing air.

This is the difference between doing and being. Look at anything in life, are you doing your job or being someone improving stuff ? Are you doing the cooking or being preparing healthy food to be stronger tommorow ? There is a difference in the intention, where when you do, you are passive, following a command. When you are, you are part of the process, you know why you are doing it, and you are fully implied with. This is the easier way

Breathing as if Your Life Depends on It

By non-doing, all doing becomes possible. —Lao Zi

Meditation is just mental training. Mindfulness develop attention and meta-attention (attention of attention, self monitoring).

When both are developed, mind becomes focused and stable while relaxed. There is no stress while paying attention to signals. When calm and clear, the happiness emerges spontaneously, as if it was the default state of the mind.

Meditation is Like a Sport

Without the sweating.

There is an interesting picture in the book, describing the process when breathing.

  1. Attention: you follow the breath, you are concentrated.
  2. Cognitive process: You will think to something: what you would do tomorrow, eat tonight, whatever. You get distracted (you ruminate / are worry/ fantasizing on smth)
  3. Attitude: to go back to the attitude of breath-monitoring, you have to be self-disciplinated, and regain attention, without judging thinking “I am very bad at this exercise, I cannot stay two second focused”. The goal is to change behavior without negative feeling.
  4. Intention: focusing in the loop will learn you to not focus on your though (positive or negative). Removing negative one would reduce stress and well-being.


The first step is intention. Keeping in mind that you want to do it. Even if you have no time for it, at some point this intention would be printed in your mind, and you will start one day.

After, practice the breathing method. There are other possibility, watching people moving, but breathing is the simplest as you can do it alone anywhere. There is no special position: sitting, standing, eyes opened or closed, doesn’t really matter, as long as you are relaxed and focussed on the exercise. If you need to scratch your face, focus on the movement: think first to the intention of itching, focus on raising you arm, moving the finger, the sensation in the face.

Where is Science ?

There are some study about the impact of meditation over global health:

Mindfulness Without Butt on Cushion

Mindfulness, I declare, is useful everywhere. —Buddha

Mindfulness because very useful when you are able to bring that mind on demand.

Generalize Mindfulness

Normally, it is easy to incorporate mindfulness in other areas of the life. The way to quickly improve is to in some of your daily life, to take a few minutes to think to what you are doing:

You can also synchronize breathing with walking movements.

You can also do that towards people, when listening paying full attention on what they are saying, and not on your thougths. Listen without interruption, acknoledge that you are listenning. Being listen is very appreciated.

Mindful conversation

Three pilars:

Sustaining the Practice

We cannot take benefits of these methods just by learning theoreticaly how to do them. We need to practice.

It is often easy to do the exercises for one week. After, we are less commited to do it. You may like the idea of meditation, but not the practice of meditation.

Some ideas:

  1. Find a friend to practice with. It’s often easier to run with someone than alone. Talks about your motivation, what changes arised
  2. Do less than you can: It seems counter intuitive, but if you force yourselve to do a particular amount of time, what is written in a book, rather what you prefer, than you will be demotivated at some point.
  3. Practice once a day, not seven times a day on the week-end. Habit sustains habits.

Do not push too hard. Have expectations before meditation, but not during meditation.

Open attention

Focused attention is a strong focus toward an object / person, and undisturbable.

Open attention is an attention towards new object… TODO

Mindfulness develop the two at the same time.

All-Natural, Organic Self-Confidence

You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it. —Albert Einstein

self-awareness: knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions2

Emotional competences:

On 360 degree self assessments, average performers tends to overestimate their strengths will star performers rarely do.3

Self-confidence is not ego. It is about honesty and humility.

Self-awareness … is a neutral mode that maintains self-reflectiveness even in the midst of turbulent emotions.


Take the time to analyze each part.


Self discovery by writing to yourself.

You are not trying to communicate with someone, but to let your thoughts onto papers, so you can remember what was your state of mind. It helps you to think better about them. Take three minutes to write down “how am I feeling right now ?” “My wishes”, “What hurts me”, “Other are”, …. Focus on writing, do not stop until you have written all you wanted to write.

According to studies, writing things down helps to feel better on the long term. 4

Positive Things

Write about:

Negative Things

Write about:

Take also the time to read what you wrote before.

Emotions are not me

Emotion is a feeling, not what you are. Existential vs experiential.

Riding Your Emotions like a Horse

One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself. —Leonardo da Vinci

From compulsion to choice.

Self-regulation is far more than self control:

Everyone wishes to have these competences. But we don’t master all.

Self-regulation is not Suppressing Emotions.

This is not denying. If you have a cancer and one month left to live, sure it is not easy, but denying it won’t help.

Suffering and pain are different. 90% of suffering is link to:

These two concept are neither sensation nor perception.

How to experience pain VS suffering ? Mindfulness helps to separated both.

Second facet is to experience pleasure without aftertaste, as pleasure does not last forever.

General principles for dealing with distress

  1. Notice when you don’t have pain: Remember that it feels good, so freeing from pain is a target. Remember the feeling when you don’t feel it.
  2. Do not culpabilize about feeling bad: This is a natural phenomenom.
  3. Dot not feed monsters ! Try to fight the sources of the problem. Do not let pain increases.
  4. Start thoughts with kindness and a bit a humor: healing effect, try to see the glass half full than half empty. Make your failure as if it were a comedy.

Neural Model of Emotion Regulation

Wehn shifting to fear and anxiety, the best remedy is to address the problems.

We must control ourselves not to burst into a dragon for a small displeasant remark. Contoling the triggers.

  1. Stop: if aggressed in some way, take the time to pause to think about this.
  2. Breathe: Focus on your mind, calm down with the breathing strategy
  3. Notice: Which emotion are you feeling ? Tension ? Anger ?
  4. Reflect: How the person is feeling ? Why is she saying that ? How can you interpret the message ? Think about these two statements:
    • Everybody wants to be happy
    • This person may feel happy saying that,
  5. Respond: Make an answer such you will have a positive outcome

Retrospective training:

From Self Regulation to Self Confidence

First instinct with unpleasant emotions is aversion Taming it allows to tame the others like rumination. This improve self confidence.

Making Profits, Rowing Across Oceans, and Changing the World

The art of Self Motivation

There are three types of happiness: 5

Three practices for motivation:

A complementary vision

Incentive effect

Discovering higher purpose

We often don’t wake up the morning saying “my purpose in life is xxx so lets start our day”. However, knowing them may help to make the good choices consciousously.

Two questions to answer:


It is easier to achieve a goal where we can visualize the outcome and the steps.

Imagination of the futur

Try the writting exercise thinking about the future. If you accomplish everything you would like to do, you overperform your expectation, what would be your life in x years ? If you succeed:

Next is to talk about your ideal future, for two reasons:


Ability to pass through obstacles.

Three training levels:

Success is 99 percent failures

Problem is that we pay more attention to negative feelings, so life is hard !

Optimism and Pessimism have an impact on success. Pessimist people would say “I am just realistic”. Maybe. But optimist people get a better success rate in hiring, because they naturally feel and reflect more confidence.

We need to unlearn pessimism. We have to pay more attention on successes and less on failures. We have to learn from failure, to check what was wrong. But we must not judge our capabilities to success later.

Empathy and the Monkey Business of Brain Tangos

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. —Stephen R. Covey

Compassion = suffering together.

People with high empathy are better at recognizing feelings.

People often confuse empathy with agreeing and psychologizing. Empathy is about understanding why the person is feeling like that.

So when agreeing, the listener fully agree, and psychologizing fully disagree. Empathy is just receiving the feeling of the other with kindness. This is not judgment, just understanding the other person’s state.

The book takes the example of closing companies. Suppose the company will shut down the plant in two years.

  1. The company acknoledges people two years before and help people relocating / finding another job (empathy, helping them)
  2. The company acknoledges people two weeks before closing, without helping people.

In the first case, people would say that it was a great place to work, while in the second case not. Because in the first case, the company understood that loosing a job is a big life issue, and helping people to find a new one is beneficial.

Improving empathy

“I feel what you feel if you are similar to me”. Visual remapping of touch.

Bringing out the best in People

Five ways a team becomes disfunctional:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict: without trust, cannot express calmly ideas with others.
  3. Lack of commitment: if inputs are not taken into account, they lack of involvment next round
  4. Avoidance of accountability: Similar to 3, if people are not implied in the decision process, they don’t want to take responsability in.
  5. Inattention to results: People want to be recognize for their individual contributions.

Empathic listening

People love to be understood, deeply. Political awareness: been aware of emotion inside an organisation and power relationships.

People can be in conflict while being 100% correct and 100% reasonable if they don’t have the same targets and values.

Being Effective and Loved at the Same Time

You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Which is just another way of saying that the way to make a friend is to be one. Dale Carnegie

Being loved is Good for Your Career

Warm managers do better than those that act like a jerk 6

Three essential skills:

Leading with compassion

Necessary for obtaining the most effective form of leadership.

Compassion: sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved.

In three components:

  1. Cognitive: “I understand the other”
  2. Affective: “I feel the other”
  3. Motivation: “I want to help the other”

Related book: “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and others don’t”. Great leaders have two conflictual qualities: ambition and humility

Influencing with Goodness

Understand the social brain. Minimize danger while maximize reward. Reward effect is much smaller than threat effects. So you must more rewards than threats to be balanced.

SCARF model: Primary rewards / threats

How to influence people ?

  1. Be aware first that you already have influence.
  2. Improve self-confidence. The more you know your strengths and weaknessess, the more confident you will be.
  3. Understand people, help them to progress, influence, not manipulation, this is a 1-1, not a 2-0
  4. Serve for a better world. This is not serving your own interest, this is part of a larger plan.

Communicating with Insight

Difficult conversation are hard to have, but important. We often try to avoid them.

  1. Prepare by walking through the “three conversations”. Try to understand the impact / the structure.:
    • Am I competent ?
    • Am I a good person ?
    • Am I worthy of love ?
  2. Decide to raise the issue or not:
    • What would you get if you raise it (and if not)?
    • Is it productive ?
    • Is it selfish ?
  3. Start from the objectove “third story”: What would say a third disintesrested party about the situation ?
  4. Explore their story and yours: Listen, empathize, share, reframe.
  5. Problem solve: Propose solutions that meet each side interests and concerns.

We often judge ourselves by the intention, and the others by their impact.

Behind content and emotions in every difficult conversation, there are issues of identity.

Identity issues are hidden, but usually dominate.

To prepare a difficult conversation, the best way to train is to talk with other. You will know what they think (third party), they will give you arguments, information you don’t know and that will help you to understand your “adversary”. Otherwise, you can write down to think clearly.

Three Easy Steps to World Peace

To reach peace, teach peace, —Pope John Paul II

Happiness is contagious. Happy people tends to impact positively the others around.

The author of the book present his own personal goal: to develop the practice of meditation, and make it more scientific.


This book is a kind of tutorial to meditation, knowing better ourselves. In the book, there are many parts skipped in this summary, full of practical exercises.

It correctly documented, the set of resources is not very large, but that’s enough to open up all topics that have been aborded.

  1. Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, “Emotional Intelligence,” Imagination, Cognition, and Personality 9, no. 3 (1990): 185–211 

  2. Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence 

  3. Cherniss and Goleman, The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace. 

  4. “Know Thyself,” Very Short List (March 2, 2009), http://siybook.com/a/knowthyself

  5. Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (New York: Business Plus, 2010). 

  6. James Kouzes and Barry Posner, Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others (Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2003). 

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