Review of Search Inside Yourself

Search Inside Yourself is a book that makes big claims – a guide to achieving success, happiness and even world peace.  It is based on a self-development course created  by Google engineer turned personal development expert Chade-Meng Tan.

I was delighted to review the book because it focuses on using development of mindfulness techniques and emotional intelligence to find success and fulfilment at work.

It is rare that the link is made between spiritual development and corporate success and refreshing that this is endorsed by arguably the world’s most successful and ubiquitous organisation.

Overall, this book provides a wide range of thought-provoking evidence and practices based on some of the latest scientific research into the way our minds work.  There is no doubt that any reader will benefit hugely from committing to growing their self-awareness.

In reviewing this book for TLC Book Tours, I thought I’d adopt the approach of “Searching Within Myself” to see how I felt about reading it, so here goes (see I did learn something):

Excited – this a book about important ideas of mindfulness, presence and emotional intelligence.  It is exciting to hear how they have had a real impact on the course participants at Google, in the corporate world and beyond.

There is a genuine passion and commitment in the writing that is infectious – an underlying belief that small inner changes can have huge outer world impact – that is exciting to read.

Challenged – there are some great ideas and practical exercises to help develop myself and grow.  I certainly benefitted from the mindfulness meditations which have helped me become more aware of my thoughts and feelings and how to manage them.

I loved the reminders on treating people with compassion and empathy – particularly approaching every person with love and kindness.

This book challenges the reader to grow and the simple exercises have wide-reaching impact.

Impressed – by the scale of ambition of this book – to spread world peace.  It can feel embarrassing and foolish to make the case that inner change can stop wars happening.

Although there isn’t really a practical blue print for world peace in the book, working on being a compassionate leader, developing empathy, listening and managing afflictive emotions will help the world be a much better place.

Frustrated – As a believer in these ideas, this book was preaching to the converted.  I’ve always found it hard to inject real humour and levity into the ideas of mindfulness.

Although Search Inside Yourself sets out with this intention, it is packed with (in my opinion) bad jokes and rather unnecessary cartoons.  This bit falls into the “nice try” category but doesn’t really add to the book.

One day I’m sure the secret of how to be mindful and funny will emerge.

Happy – I learnt a lot things about myself that genuinely do contribute to a sense of well-being.

The section on stepping back from our emotions and not letting them control really hit home.  Understanding the feelings and sensations and how they drive emotions and thoughts allowed me to step back and avoid riding the emotion train.

With more choice over how to react, I can avoid grasping and aversion and that has helped me feel more content and balanced.

Overall, this is a powerful and useful book.  The series of exercises are great to work through on your own and can also be effective in groups or organisations.

The investment you make in buying this book and following through with developing your inner self will certainly pay off many times.

So, job done and most of the claims are backed up by the content – great work and a great read.

This review was written as part of a TLC book tour for Search Inside Yourself.

Review of Situations Matter by Sam Sommers

Does context matter?

As a TLC book tour host, I’ve just been reading Situations Matter by Sam Sommers in an attempt to find out.  If you’d like to find out too, you can find out more and purchase the book here.

On the face of it, it quite common sense that things can change depending on the surrounding circumstances.  For example, I used to read 20 to 30 of these psychology books every year as I’m fascinated by how research and science can help us be better and more effective.

Since my situation changed and I had my son in November I’ve read approximately 5 pages of one book.  So situations do matter!

My acid test for this kind of book is

1) Is the book fun to read?

2) Does it offer a new angle on something obvious and common-place? (think Malcolm Gladwell or Freakonomics)

3) Will it help me with some practical advice to live a better (less ordinary) life?

Fun to read

Sommers is a psychology professor at Tufts.  He has created a witty and articulate read.  He covers a wide range of topics including love, gender differences, the power of crowds and the challenges of conformity.

This is no po-faced route march through the psychology of context and influence.  There are plenty of good personal examples to show how context can alter a situation for the better (for example getting a shirty airline clerk to give him a hotel room after a missed connection by revealing his wife was pregnant).

The book engages you throughout with things to try and learn from and it will put a smile on your face.  So far, so good.

Well researched

Situations Matters covers the idea of context from a wide range of innovative angles.  Each one is backed up by some scientific evidence as witnessed by the extensive notes at the end.  This feels more than simple conjecture.

The section on self-help and improvement provided some fresh insight for me.  Sommers notes that our self-perception can shift depending on the context – we have multiple, complex and shifting personalities (for example our corporate warrior work self, parent self and all alone self).

Remembering that we are a constantly evolving and changing entity helps a lot.  The book reminds us we have the power to develop, grow and change and that is a hopeful and worthwhile conclusion.

The section on finding love is particularly insightful.  A good reminder that love is much more complex than getting hit by cupid’s arrow and finding the one.

So, definitely some credible and useful new angles on context.  Strike two!

Will it make my life better?

At the end of each chapter is a summary of the key points and an attempt to look at the applications in real life.

The conclusions on the chapter on the power of crowds and conformity encourage the reader not to use the context of a crowd as a reason not to act.  Sommers uses the example of the Liverpool 38 who all saw Jamie Bulger with his killers before his murder and took no action.  Having the bravery to step out from cover could have saved his life.

He also notes that if you need help in a crowd or more generally you need to be very obvious about your need and make a clear request.  A lesson that most of use need to hear in one way or another.

There are plenty more gems throughout the book for you to enjoy.  Sommers has hit the mark on all three counts.

A Great Read

As I’ve learned, context is key with this summary.  This book is well worth a read If you enjoy popular psychology and want to use the power of context to be more influential and happier.  It may not be for you if you like your self-development to be a bit more hard edged and instructive.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the book, or purchasing it, follow this link.

Secrets to a successful job search

You might be finding that one of the most frustrating parts of a career change is finding the right opportunity.
If you have a good idea of what you want to next, it can feel like trying to find a needle in haystack to track down the perfect job.
This post will arm you with a job hunting strategy and tactics that work.
The great news is that the right opportunity IS out there – with a good plan, dedication and the right attitude you can find it.

How to get focused and find fulfilling work

Part one in a seven part series about how to successfully find your next fulfilling opportunity.

If you’re reading this blog, the chances are that you’re considering moving on with your career. The big question is, do you really know what you want to do next? Do you have the focus you need to find the right opportunity for you?

A job hunt without focus is a recipe for frustration for you, your prospective employer, your friends and family (they’ll get sick of hearing you vent).

As a career coach, I spend my life helping professionals to find work that brings challenge, enjoyment and fulfilment.

Work in the 21st century provides a massive range of opportunity to use your talents, skills and experience.

Within business, there are more sectors, industries, niches and specialty companies than ever. Employers range from fast-growing start ups to corporate titans. You can work in an office or totally virtually.

On top of that, there are a huge range of opportunities in the government, education and social sectors. From social enterprises to think-tanks and universities to charities – the variety is endless.

The first step to your successful job hunt is to figure out what really gets you motivated and the type of organization you want to work for.

Once you have this focus you can:

  1. Create a targeted and successful job hunt strategy (see my next post for more)
  2. Create tight and focused collateral (your story, CV, cover letter)
  3. Clearly communicate your intentions to recruitment consultants, the organisations you want to work for and your interviewers
  4. Have confidence and clarity in yourself that you are making the right move

How to find your focus

The first step is to identify the criteria that you are looking to fulfil from your next opportunity. Take some time to think about:

Culture – what kind of environment do you like to work in? What size of team /organization? How much autonomy do you want (and how much support)? How much flexibility (location & time)? Entrepreneurial environment or established culture?

Challenge – what do you want to learn? What experiences are you looking for? Are you looking for stability or variety? What are the opportunities for advancement?  What kinds of problems do you want to solve? How much risk do you want to take?  How open to failure are you?

Pleasure – what kind of work do you enjoy most? What sectors / industries are most interesting? What will get you out of bed with a smile on your face? What are you fascinated by? What type of work will play to your strengths?

Purpose – where does the next role take you in the long run? What kind of life do you want to live and how does it fit with that? How does the job meet some of your values / deeper needs (e.g., making a difference to people, creating opportunity for others, providing validation)? What makes work feel worthwhile?

In answering these questions, you can build up a clear set of criteria for your next role to fulfil.

How to come up with a long list of options

The next step is to look at your options. The best starting point is to create the longest list of options you can based on:

  1. Your thinking and research to date
  2. Existing or potential opportunities
  3. Looking at people in your network and beyond and seeing which roles seem interesting
  4. Undertaking broader research (informal interviews, networking, internet searches, brainstorming, asking recruitment consultants) to generate new options

How to narrow down your long list

Once you come up with your long list, review each serious option against the criteria. You may find that along with this analytical approach, your intuition may tell you strongly what feels best.

Remember you ultimately need to come up with a next step that feels motivating, exciting and fits with your long term career plan. Once you’ve convinced yourself, you have the focus you need to move forward.

I’d suggest you write a clear description of what you are planning to do and why, in as much detail as possible to make the case.

A great way to consolidate this is to prepare a one or two paragraph summary of the job you are looking for. Be as specific about the type of company, industry, and role you would like.

This crystal clear statement will help you to focus on finding the right role for you.  It is something you can share with your network, recruitment consultants and potential employers.

Now that you are focused, next time we’ll talk about how to create a job hunting strategy that really works.

Image Courtesy of JLC Walker (Flickr Creative Commons)

Do you Work to Live or Live to Work?

Has your life slowed down for the summer?
Have you managed to fit in some quality time with friends and family or headed off for some well earned R&R?
I hope you’re taking a little time to look after yourself and prepare for your next adventure.
Here at Less Ordinary Towers, things seem to have been more hectic than ever.  We’re expecting our first child in December which is super exciting, but is already causing some sleepless nights (as the bump grows).
This also necessitates a relocation to accommodate the new arrival – so a summer of talking to estate agents, lawyers, surveyors etc. etc.
On top of that, we’ve been extraordinarily busy with a stream of new clients ready to take on their big career challenges and start amazing businesses.
It was very appropriate that last week I was invited to the studios of the Guardian newspaper to debate the question “Should you work to live or live to work?”.
It’s a great question for you to ask yourself.  To listen to the podcast click the link below (my interview starts around 13 minutes in).
Given everything that going on, I’m not sure exactly of the answer for me!  I do know that work should bring excitement, challenge and fulfillment and add to your quality of life, and that is what Less Ordinary Living is all about.