Chade-Meng Tan: Google’s Jolly Good Fellow

Chade-Meng Tan
Courtesy: Elisabeth Fall

Leading companies, such as General Mills, Aetna, Black Rock, and Goldman Sachs, are encouraging their employees to establish meditation practices. At Google, perhaps the world’s most innovative company, meditation has taken off. Chade-Meng Tan, who is known as Google’s Jolly Good Fellow, has taught thousands of employees how to meditate.

Chade-Meng was born in Singapore, a child of Chinese immigrant parents. He was exceptionally bright, becoming the national programming champion at 17. In spite of his accomplishments, Chade-Meng says, “I was deeply unhappy as a child because I didn’t fit in. I had the perpetual feeling I didn’t deserve to be loved. After I completed my master’s degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara, I joined Google as employee #107.”

My breakthrough came in 1991 when I discovered meditation. It was a moment of great insight where suddenly everything in my life made sense. Before I was a meditator, I was very depressed. Since meditating regularly, I have become very happy. It was a huge change. Through meditation I learned the ability to calm my mind on demand and stay in a state of clarity and calmness as long as I want to. A key part of my practice is kindness and compassion. You cannot be genuinely compassionate toward others if you have no compassion for yourself.

Chade-Meng describes the creation of Google’s meditation program:

In 2003, I had an epiphany that we could create the conditions for world peace through scaling inner peace, joy, and compassion worldwide by aligning them with success and profits. The solution was emotional intelligence (EQ). I engaged some of the world’s top experts, and together we created Search Inside Yourself. In addition to teaching 2,000 Googlers per year to meditate, we also founded the non-profit Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, which has been training clients like SAP and Kaiser.

Meditation isn’t for everyone. There are many other introspective practices that leaders find effective: centering prayer, taking a long walk, or having deep discussions with a loved one. The important thing is to have an introspective practice you do daily.