USC Spectrum hosted Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s Jolly Good Fellow, at Bovard Auditorium as a kickoff event for Mindful USC, a new university-wide initiative that was launched this fall to make mindfulness practices integral to the culture of the Trojan Family.
The event started with Tan presenting the tenets of his New York Times best-selling book, Search Inside Yourself, followed by a Q&A with the audience. The attendees were then invited to a reception that included a book sale and book signing.
Tan joined Google as a software engineer in 2000 and helped build Google’s first mobile search service. He later became a founding member of a team that evaluated search quality.
Tan began his presentation by highlighting what he currently works on at Google.
“My job description is exactly seven words: ‘Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace,’” he said. “I mainly work on two things. The first thing is that I’m trying to scale inner peace, inner joy and compassion worldwide. The second effort I’m involved with is called ‘one billion acts of peace.’ We are working with 13 Nobel Peace Prize laureates to try to inspire one billion peace acts worldwide in five years.”
Varun Soni, the dean of Religious Life and co-chair of the Mindful USC initiative, said he hopes that students will be able to develop mindfulness practices of their own to help with the stress of their lives and also to help them think creatively and compassionately.
“I hope it’ll help them think about the big question in their lives, of meaning and purpose,” he said. “There are a lot of challenges being a student in this day and age. Challenges that no generation has ever faced, especially in terms of technology and the job market. It can be overwhelming, and it could feel like we’re drinking from a fire hose, so I believe that mindfulness can be a useful exercise in helping us deal with all the stress and anxiety that we have in our lives and our work.”
Soni described Tan as a man of many abilities.
“He is a great mindfulness leader of the world but he is also a software engineer,” Soni said. “There are people who are writers, actors and athletes who also talk about mindfulness from their own professional perspectives.”
Tan said he moved away from software engineering in 2008 and is now working on thinking of innovative solutions to solve the world’s most impossible problems.
“What I hope to inspire USC students today is something I think you all have already known,” he said. “I hope to reinforce the idea that emotional intelligence, and specifically goodness, is highly trainable.”
Students felt that Tan’s speech was applicable to their lives.
“I love his humor and energy,” said Daniel Luo, a junior majoring in occupational therapy. “It’s really awesome to see someone who’s so passionate about what he is doing and having so much fun while he’s doing it. His presentation was so clear-cut and simple that it provided a lot of real life usefulness for everyone there.”
Tan wrote his book in 14 weeks based on notes he had collected while at Google.
Soni said the book was integral to the foundation for the Mindful USC initiative.
“What Search Inside Yourself does is that it translates this ancient wisdom of happiness and mindfulness into a contemporary context, to a language that’s digestible for everyone. And, it’s no longer an esoteric tradition,” Soni said.
Students also found Tan’s advice on maintaining positive relationships to be helpful.
“I just heard about it online and thought it would be really interesting to come hear the Chief Happiness Officer of Google talk,” said Brandon Metzger, an undecided sophomore. “It has been really interesting and I really enjoyed it. I really liked his whole outlook on fostering relationships with others.”
Soni hoped the event would encourage student interest in the mindfulness initiative.
“[Students] could drop in at the meditating sessions on campus and my hope is that they’ll find it to be a positive and an important resource for them while they’re students here, and perhaps give them something to take with them when they leave,” Soni said.