Marc Lesser: “Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader” | Talks at Google

good afternoon. In kind of a
contemplative– and, actually, I think it’s more
and more happening here at Google and other places. We should start with one
minute of arriving, right? Just stopping, just noticing
what it’s like to be here, noticing the body, noticing
that you’re breathing, arriving, just arriving– simple, profound practice. And maybe asking yourself,
what brought me here today? Why am I here? And you can answer that
literally or poetically. Why am I here? Why am I here in this room? Could be, why am I
here on this planet? And then maybe the other
question to reflect on is, why am I really here? What’s underneath that, too? As much as you can
here in this busy work day to allow yourself
to drop in, feel your body, feel your breath, noticing
what it’s like to be here. What is it like right
now to be alive? Breathing, thinking, feeling,
the whole experience, just allowing it, allowing
yourself to experience your full experience. And then let’s come back. Let’s all come back. Well, welcome. So I want to start
today with one of my current
favorite saying, which is, if you’re not
cultivating trust, you’re cultivating cynicism. If you’re not cultivating trust,
you’re cultivating cynicism. This is particularly true,
I think, in the workplace. But I think it’s true,
in general, in our lives and in our relationships
that cynicism is easy. Cynicism is kind of
the default mode, I think, of human
emotion, in a certain way. Trust, trust takes work. And I want to bring
in someone who was a colleague and a good
friend of mine who worked here at Google for many, many years. His name is Mario. Some of you probably know Mario. So I think it’s
worth just a little bit of background about Mario. Mario grew up in Spain and
was passionate about how the human brain and how
the human mind worked. So Mario went on to
get his MD degree. Mario became a doctor. And he was very disappointed
to find that doctors don’t know how the brain works. So he then got his
PhD in neuroscience and again was
somewhat disappointed to find out that
neuroscientists, they don’t know how
the brain works. He then got passionate about
storytelling and filmmaking and got his master’s
degree in filmmaking and, after that, was hired by
Google as a filmmaker, right? Only Google would hire an
MD, PhD as a filmmaker. But his first couple
of weeks here, he was walking by
the main auditorium and saw a lot of people there. And he walked in,
and he proceeded to see someone sitting
on a seat giving a talk that there were hundreds
of people listening to. And he immediately
said, there is someone who knows how the brain works. There’s someone who knows
how the human mind works. It was Vietnamese Zen
teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. And this actually
changed Mario’s life. And it was right
around that time that I was one of
the people helping to develop the Search
Inside Yourself program here at Google. And Mario immediately was
in one of the early classes. The reason I bring
Mario up now is, he was very fond of saying
that we human beings are descendants of
the nervous apes. The apes that were
chill, cool, hanging out, they all got killed. [LAUGHTER] It was the ones that–
part of our evolution was that, as humans,
we’ve evolved to scan for threats, right? We scan for threats externally. And we also are scanning,
quite regularly, internally for threats. I think this is
partly why we seem to have this strong inner
critic, this part of us that is sweeping inside for, am I safe? Did I do it wrong? How could I do it better? That very often unpleasant,
sometimes mean inner voice. But this is one reason why it’s
so difficult to build trust and why cynicism is so easy,
because of this scanning for threats and that
we are descendants of the nervous apes. And we’re also– I didn’t get a chance– I hope to have a chance to
talk about this with Mario. But I think we’re
also descendants of what I would call the
dissatisfied apes, right? That part of our
human evolution is to always be needy,
to always feel like we need that next meal, right? It wouldn’t be
good for evolution if, after having one
meal, you’re done, right? Right away, that next meal,
that next entertainment, that next sex– all those things, these
are good for evolution, not so good for
trust and feeling a sense of satisfaction. And we’re also the
descendants of the apes that– we have empathy, but we
also easily feel separate. Even though we feel the feelings
of others, we’re empathic. We are descendants of these
tribal apes and apes that very easily bring in the
mind of dissatisfaction and the nervous ape mind to
feel a sense of separateness to feel that somehow we’re
separate from others, even kind of separate from
nature, separate from life. We have this really strong
piece about feeling separate. So I think this is why– the underlying rationale
for why it’s so difficult to be cultivating trust
and why it’s so easy to be cultivating cynicism. So what do we do? How can we cultivate
trust, and how can we reduce the amount of cynicism? So for this, I want to tell just
a little corny joke, which is– it’s about a musician
who’s getting out of a cab, midtown Manhattan
on 57th Street. And a stranger goes
up to this person and says, how do I
get to Carnegie Hall? And the musician
looks at this person and says, “practice,
practice, practice.” So this is my answer to,
how do we build more trust? It’s practice. And I like the word “practice.” And I’d like– you know, there’s
a lot of books about the seven habits and how to build habits. And habits are really important. But I think practice adds
a whole other dimension, that practice contains a
sense of intention, intention, aspiration. Also with practice,
practices, I think, are about transforming
ourselves and embodying, embodying what it is we’re
aiming for as human beings. Right? It’s one thing to say– it’s on dozens of
greeting cards, right? “Life is short,” right? Live as though life is short. That’s easy to say. But how do you live that way? How do you live that way? And it’s easy to say. We all know that trust is hard
to build, hard to maintain. But how can we
actually transform ourselves to embody, to
become trustworthy, to trust ourselves, to connect, to reduce
the amount that we’re scanning for threats, to have the body
of someone who feels safe, to be able to not always
look at what’s missing, to not always be
dissatisfied, but to build the body of someone who feels
that, I have enough, right now? I can appreciate what
I have right now. And to build the body of someone
who feels connected, radically connected– and part of that, of
course, is noticing when we’re scanning for threats,
noticing when we’re needy, and noticing when we feel
dissatisfied or disconnected. This is part of the practice. So seven practices,
there are seven practices that I want to introduce
today that, in a way, I think are radically
powerful in terms of building the body of someone
who is trustworthy and who can build trust, not
only at work, but in all parts of our lives and
all relationships. And these seven practices are
love the work, do the work, don’t be an expert,
connect to your pain, connect to the pain of
others, depend on others, and keep making it simpler. I love the– I find saying these– it’s
kind of like poetry, right? Love the work, do the
work, don’t be an expert, connect to your pain, connect
to the pain of others, depend on others, and
keep making it simpler. But they’re meant to
be very practical. They’re meant to be practiced. Where did these come from? So a little story about
where these come from? Van, I don’t– Van, were you
in the first class of SIY teachers? VAN: Oh, no, [INAUDIBLE], no. MARC LESSER: No. OK. You came on later. I doubt there’s anyone
here who was in that class. Is there? So I got a call one day in 2006
from this engineer here named Meng who said, we’re starting
this mindfulness and emotional intelligence program. Are you interested in coming
and helping us to develop it? Oh, he said, oh, by the
way, there’s no budget. There’s something a little
strange about this– Google, no budget. But of course, I said yes. And I came, and it was
so just brilliantly fun and enlivening and satisfying. I mean, at the
time, we were just kind of experimenting
and testing and iterating how to teach mindfulness,
emotional intelligence, leadership science within
an organization like Google. And in particular, we were
focusing on Google engineers, and there needed to be a
kind of precision around it. And after several years, it
actually was kind of slow. In fact, I often thought the
course would probably go away because it wasn’t
originally being supported by senior management. But it got more
and more popular. And then it got kind
of crazy popular. And we decided that it
was time to figure out how to scale it within Google. And we decided we were going
to train about a dozen Google employees, mostly
engineers, to be Search Inside Yourself teachers. But one of the
big questions was, how do you train people to
be mindfulness teachers? We had this idea that, in
order to teach mindfulness, you needed to have 10,000
hours of mindfulness meditation practice. This was one of the
bars originally set for teaching Search
Inside Yourself. But we realized that
was going to eliminate pretty much everyone at Google. So we wanted to find people
who had some practice. But the question was,
what do you need to know? What are the core elements of
being a mindfulness teacher? So we decided that
we would bring in, to one of the training
sessions, a friend of mine, a man named Norman Fischer,
who is one of the leading Zen teachers in the world. And we brought
Norman in for a day. This was in the Presidio with
about a dozen Google employees who we were training to
be mindfulness teachers. And when this day started, in
front of me was the agenda. And I don’t even– I don’t know who quite
made up this agenda. But it said right
away that Norman was going to give
to talk about how to be a mindfulness
teacher at Google. And I had a feeling no
one told this to Norman. So I very stealthily just put
the agenda in front of Norman and pointed. You’re going to give a
talk in about five minutes. And Norman very nonchalantly got
out a pen and a piece of paper and wrote down some
notes and proceeded to give a talk to this group
about these seven practices that I just named. And I wrote them down. Most people didn’t
write them down. I wrote them down. And I immediately– I felt
like, these are wonderful. These express the
kind of culture that I want to run my
company, the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. I made copies of them,
wrote little notes, and I put them on
everyone’s desk. And I found myself starting
to write and talk about them. And little by little,
I noticed they started to turn
into– a book started to emerge after a couple of
years of writing and talking about these seven practices. And I started to feel funny. And I realized, I need to call
Norman and have what might be a difficult conversation. So I called Norman. Norman, here’s what happened. Remember those seven
practices that you taught? I’m– book about– of
course, Norman’s listening, and Norman says,
what seven practices? I have no idea what
you’re talking about. And good luck with your
book, and send me a copy. So that’s where these
seven practices came from. So maybe what I’ll
do is just talk– I want to talk briefly about
each of these practices and then actually do
some practice together. How’s that sound, OK? Don’t leave if you
don’t want to– if that sounds
difficult. It’ll be OK. So the first practice
is love the work. People, when they hear
that, they immediately think, oh, that means do
I have to love my job? It doesn’t mean that. It’s good if you love your job. But what it means is to love
the work of cultivating trust, to love the work
of self-awareness, to love the work of building
healthy relationships, of kindness, of
curiosity, of compassion. This is, I think, the
real work of human beings. And what’s beautiful
about this is that you can bring this
into whatever you’re doing, even if you’re not so happy. even if you’re cynical
about your work, or the people around you
are cynical, loving the work will help. Loving the work, in
a way, it’s a kind of practice of
being more sincere. Also, it relates a bit to–
you might be familiar with– there’s a model called
the “Hero’s Journey.” Joseph Campbell wrote
about how all humans, across time and across
cultures, seem to go through a similar pattern. And the first part of the
hero’s journey– actually, “Star Wars” was modeled
after the hero’s journey, as was “Star Trek” and many
other books and movies. And the hero’s journey
starts with the calling. What are you called to? Again, this question that I
asked right at the beginning, why are you here? What brings you here? Why are you here on this planet? What’s really most
important to you? So loving the work is
grappling with that question. What’s interesting in that, even
in the hero’s journey model, the second step after
awakening to a calling, a kind of returning home,
is called refusing the call, right? Because this is the nervous ape. This is the dissatisfied
ape just coming– as soon as we even get
some clarity about what’s important to us, there’s
something there that’s like, no, this is too dangerous. I might fail. Why would I do that? Who am I to do that? So it’s good to recognize
that part of loving the work is these refusals, these
other voices will be there. And part of the
practice– this is why practice is so important. How do we practice
with those voices? So the second practice
is, do the work. That practice is
more than an idea. We actually have to have some
kind of physical practice that we’re doing. And this is the beauty
of meditation practice and mindfulness practice. So meditation practice,
actually having some way where, on a daily
basis, or a regular basis, we can actually step into the
body that is feeling safe, and become more aware of how
we are scanning for threats, and over and over
again, practice reducing that from our
lives as much as we can. So we’re feeling
a sense of safety. We can embody the
sense of satisfaction. We don’t have to be
chopping up the world into right and wrong and
worrying about what we need or what we should be doing. We’re kind of
cultivating that sense. And we’re feeling this
radical sense of connection. It’s funny. Being here, I have to
tell another Mario story. Mario and I were once teaching
Search Inside Yourself here at Google. It was a special
program that we were doing for doctors and health
care workers, I think because– I don’t know how it is now. At the time, they
weren’t employees, so they weren’t eligible to
take Search Inside Yourself. But we heard there
was a huge need, that there is an
incredible amount of stress with the people who provide
medical services here at Google. So Mario and I did a
one-day program for them. And it was in that program where
Mario was in front of the room and said– it was actually a slide that– I don’t know if it’s still
in the program or not, but it said “meditation
is like going to the gym.” And it had a
picture of a muscle. And the idea was, again and
again, when we’re distracted, we bring our attention
back to the breath. Well, I was just moved in
that moment to go off-script. And I stood up,
and I said, I want to offer that meditation is
nothing like going to the gym. And Mario– firstly, Mario and
I had a good enough relationship where he just, he kind of
stood up, and he looked at me, and looked at the
audience and said, that’s why we have two teachers. And I said that, yes, there is
an aspect of meditation that’s like going to the gym. But there’s another aspect
that, it’s about completely letting go of wanting to
change anything or do any– it’s this paradoxical piece
about completely accepting what is. And that transformation
comes through that– which is actually maybe a good
segue into the next couple of practices. But the second practice,
doing the work, means to have some
kind of a regular– what I would call a dedicated
practice, a sitting practice, a journaling practice,
walking meditation. And then the other
bucket of practices is what, referred to as
“integrated practices.” And this is often
what people think of when they think about
mindfulness, is taking that embodiment of safety, of
satisfaction, of connection, that body that is completely
accepting, aware, curious, and bringing that into
all of our relationships as much as we can,
again and again. So this is the second practice,
which is to do the work. The third practice,
don’t be an expert. Don’t be an expert. Again, I feel like it’s
kind of in the water these days, some
of this language. The language you
might be familiar with is cultivating a
beginner’s mind. So just to make it clear,
of course I want my surgeon and my car mechanic to be
really good at what they do. But this practice is more
in the realm of relationship and being human. And this was in the context– again, coming back to where
these practices came from. The context was, being
a mindfulness teacher is not about being an expert. It’s again and again,
practicing, not knowing, letting g– It’s funny. So often, when I’m
teaching meditation in the corporate world,
I can see people really wanting to be good
at it, and wanting to be the best meditator,
or the best breath-counter. And it’s like, no, you
need to– it’s hard. It’s hard for us–
especially people who are super, super
successful– to somehow, paradoxically, to let go of
this idea of being an expert. And what is it like? So, in some way, one
of the themes– and I think this is a theme that runs
through all of these practices. And this is some of the– a
little bit of the practice that we will do. It’s the practice of listening,
and listening wholeheartedly, listening with a
sense of curiosity. When we started the Search
Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, the original
mission and vision was, “All leaders in the world
are wise and compassionate, thus creating the conditions
for a more peaceful world, or for world peace.” And it’s easy to
roll your eyes– world peace, all leaders. But there’s something about
the power of listening, the power of
creating a safe space and just listening,
being curious about, one, even listening to ourselves,
starting with ourselves. But it’s really interesting. And we’ll do some
listening practice in a little while– of
actually just bringing our full attention
to another person, not knowing who they are. It’s the secret of
long-term relationships. I think it’s the secret
of long-term marriages is, the longer you’re married,
to know the person less and less, right? That this person– as soon
as we know who people are, we generally stop listening–
so powerful practice. Don’t be an expert. The next two,
connect to your pain and connect to the
pain of others– the first one, connect
to your own pain. A little bit like Buddhism
101 starts with the Four Noble Truths. the very first teaching
of the historical Buddha was, don’t push away
what’s difficult. Embrace what’s difficult. Being
a human being is difficult. It just is. We’re subject– everything
really does change. I’ve often joked about wanting
to form a support group called Buddhists Against Change. Because I don’t like it. Who likes getting older? Who likes seeing friends die? Who likes losing jobs? Life is difficult.
So this practice is to connect with
that difficulty. There’s a lot of evidence,
a good deal of research. But I think, in particular,
of a conversation that I had several years
ago with Bill George, who wrote the book “True North”
and who works with “Fortune” 500 CEOs and executives. And at a dinner
that I had with him, he shared with me that
the key breakthrough that all leaders need
to have is to connect with their own sense of pain
and even sometimes shame. But this is– there’s
a positive shame. It’s the shame of,
I’m not doing enough. I could connect better– so connecting with
that sense of pain. And connecting with
the pain of others is– again, this is
empathy practice, the practice of feeling
the feelings of others. Lots of research
about the relationship between leadership, emotional
intelligence, and empathy. And oddly enough– you
might have seen some of this research. [? It ?] shows
that the higher you are in an organization, the more
responsibility that you take, the lower the empathy– is a pattern. And yet, the need for
empathy in leaders becomes greater and greater,
the need to connect with people. I think what happens is, as
people take on more leadership roles, their focus tends to
be more toward the results and toward things other
than the human beings that they’re actually there
for and need to care for. So love the work, do the
work, don’t be an expert, connect to your pain, connect
to the pain of others. The sixth one, super
interesting– and again, all of these are
lifetime practices. It’s not about mastering these,
it’s about practicing them. Depend on others. Actually, in there, I
cite two Google studies, which I kind of imagine–
maybe you’re all familiar, but maybe none of you are. Who knows? I don’t know what
you’re familiar with. But if you haven’t checked them
out, you should check out– “Google Aristotle,”
the study that Google did several years ago,
asking the question, what is it that makes great teams? And “Google Oxygen,” the
question, what is it that makes great leaders? And the results of
both of these were– the first study, the “what it
is that makes great teams,” was that people are
listening to each other, that they are
trusting each other. They called it
psychological safety. There were norms
created around trust. And the big takeaway
to the second study, “Google Oxygen,” what
makes great leaders? It was more coaching,
more mentoring. And the third was listening,
that great leaders listen. And what I’ve read, in
the preamble to the study, Google assumed that leaders
don’t matter, right? The assumption– this being
such a strong engineering-driven company– the assumption was, it’s
the products that matter, not the leadership. And they were actually surprised
to find that leaders, in fact, do matter. So depend on others. Again, this is, I think,
one of the huge changes in the workplace
that’s happening. I think there’s this huge
macro shift happening, that we’re all part of
this big experiment. Work, for the past
several hundred years, has had this
assembly-line mentality. There is a sense that you
should take the humanness out of workers and put people
into boxes, org charts, and things will work great if
the human element isn’t there. That is changing. It’s changing big-time at
places here like Google. And I see it. I see it all over. And it’s one of those norms. It’s one of those
invisible assumptions about just how important
human relationships are. And partly, it’s because of
the need for collaboration, that almost nothing
gets done by one person. Things get done in teams– teams of two, larger teams. And things are now
happening across the globe, across culture. The need for
collaboration has never been higher– so this
practice of, depend on others. And the seventh is maybe
one of the hardest ones, but one of the
most important, is to keep making it simpler,
to keep making it simpler. Again, this goes
against the grain of what it feels
like in terms of, not only technology, but
the part of us that’s scanning for threats,
and feeling dissatisfied, and not feeling connected. That leads to lots and
lots of complication. So in a way, all
these practices are about making our lives
simpler, staying– coming back. Coming back to this question
that we started with, is why are you here? What’s really important? Something about staying with
what’s really important, and other things
tend to drop away. Oh, Let’s do some practice, OK? So if you can put things
down, put things away. And again, I want to make this– this is not going to
be mystical, magical. It’s going to be quite
simple, and accessible, easy. And we’ll get to the mystical,
magical piece, maybe. We’ll see. But just start by noticing what
it’s like to be sitting here. Make some conscious
choices about how you are placing your feet,
how you’re placing your hands. Bring some consciousness
into the body. I love the image– in fact, this was an early–
we used to show a slide called “sit like a majestic mountain.” It’s a beautiful
image of the body, that we’re sitting here, sitting
upright, opening the chest, opening the shoulders,
allowing breathing to be full. Often, we constrict
it without knowing it. So just feeling this sense of,
what is it like to be relaxed? Relaxing the jaw,
relaxing the shoulders– and at the same time, alert. Just this is such
a great practice for all parts of our lives. Whether we’re trying to solve
a problem, or in a meeting, or playing sports. Relaxed and alert,
relaxed and alert. The alert piece– be lengthening
the spine just a little bit. Taking some full breaths– especially this time of day,
a little hard to be alert, middle of the day, warm day–
so oxygenating the body, breathing in and breathing out. So just checking
in with the body, checking in with the
breath, noticing whatever is happening with
your thinking mind. No need to try and
change anything. Just bringing awareness to
the body, to the breath, to your thoughts. Totally letting go,
as much as you can, of any scanning for threats,
of any– there’s nothing lacking right now. Right now you have
everything that you need. everything that needs
to happen, it’ll all be there when you leave here. Right now, safe,
satisfied, and can you feel that sense of connection? Connection with
yourself, connection with the people in this room,
connection with the people who are important to you in your
life, and connection with life? I heard someone say recently,
the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. The opposite of
addiction is connection. Connection is so important,
and I think something important for our well-being, important
for trusting ourselves, and for building trusting,
healthier relationships– connection. So quieting, quieting
that critical voice, quieting that cynical voice,
not suppressing it, noticing it. Maybe, what would it be like
to appreciate that inner critic that, I think, just really
wants us to be safe? So this practice, there’s a
Zen teacher who founded the Zen tradition in Japan in the 13th
century named Dogen who says, this practice is about
studying the self and going beyond the self. To study the way is
to study the self. To study the self is
to go beyond the self. And to go beyond the self is
to feel our radical connection with everyone and everything. To me, this is another way
of talking about practice, these practices of
studying ourselves, accepting ourselves, seeing
the gaps between where we are and maybe
where we aspire to be. So let’s keep it simple. Just breathing in
and breathing out. And let’s just sit quietly
together for a minute. [BELL RINGING] Beautiful. Bringing attention back. So if everyone can
stand up, please. And feel free to
stretch from sitting. And what I’d like to ask you
to do is, without talking, and pretty quickly,
find a partner. Find someone– you can just
turn to the person next to you. You can walk around– someone you know or someone you
don’t know, but find someone, and have a seat. And I’ll give you
some instructions. [INTERPOSING VOICES] OK. So anyone need a partner? Is there anyone who
needs a partner? Need a partner? So here’s what
we’re going to do. So what I want to do is do
some practice, practice this– taking what we just
did and stopping, but now taking it
into a conversation. So one person is going to speak. The other person is
just going to listen without asking questions. Some of you have taken SIY. You know the routine. But many of you
probably haven’t. But I’m going to tell
it different, anyhow. One person is just
going to listen, completely giving
their attention to the person who’s speaking. So what I want to
suggest for the listener, see what it’s like. Just experiment. You don’t have to sit
there like a stone. You can make facial expressions
and be in your body. But you’re not going
to ask questions. You’re not going interrupt. You’re going to experiment. What is it like to just listen? For the person who’s
speaking, I want to suggest that you don’t
need to be impressive, that it’s OK to– imagine saying
something that surprises you. This would be great,
that you’re kind of discovering for
yourself– it’s OK to be a little bit awkward. If you run out of time,
person speaking, that’s OK. Just sit there quietly. We’re just going to do
this just pretty quick, for a couple of minutes for one
person, and then we’ll switch. So the suggested topic– I have two suggested topics. One is the original questions,
what brought you here today, and what really
brought you here today? Or whatever you
want to talk about. Because who knows when you’re
going to get this opportunity to have someone just
listen to you for two– we’ll do this, literally,
for two minutes. It’s a great opportunity. So let’s just jump right in. So decide who’s
going to speak first. And I’ll ring a bell
in a couple of minutes, and then we’ll switch. So let’s go ahead. [INTERPOSING VOICES] [BELL RINGING] OK. [INTERPOSING VOICES] And let’s all just
take a breath together. And the second person,
you’re now– the listener is now the speaker. The speaker is now the listener. And I’ll ring a bell
in a couple of minutes. Go ahead. [INTERPOSING VOICES] [BELL RINGING] And the second person finishing. And then, just very briefly with
your partner, back and forth, how was that? What did you notice? Literally, for a
minute, just quickly, what did you notice doing
that with your partner? Go ahead. [INTERPOSING VOICES] [BELL RINGING] And finishing, and thanking
your partner, and come on back. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Lots of energy. Clearly, they don’t let you talk
to each other here, generally. [LAUGHTER] You should try it more often. We have a couple of
minutes for questions. Although, it’s funny. As I was– while you
were talking, I realized, oh, I skipped a whole big
part of what I wanted to say, so we have to start over again. [LAUGHTER] Actually, we don’t. But the headline for
what I wanted to say was, I forgot to talk at
all about my experience living in a Zen monastery
and how it was working– it was working in
the kitchen, and then leading this place
called Tassajara, that was my kind of
aha and inspiration for combining these
contemplative practices, integrating these with
the world of work. And I ended up going
to business school, running a company, and then– and I think part of the
sense was, how can we bring that sense of joy
and love that I experienced and that people a
lot of people who I’ve worked with experience
working in a Zen kitchen. Why isn’t all– why aren’t
all workplaces like that? And how can we bring
that into Google was where Search Inside
Yourself started. OK. Any questions, comments? Anyone make a new best
friend doing that– yeah? Get you a mic. AUDIENCE: I’m trying
to frame the question as clearly as I can
because there are too many thoughts in my head. I haven’t found the
purpose of my life. And I’ve questioned
this for a long time. And I think because I couldn’t–
you make little purposes. For example, a promotion,
a bigger house, or whatever that you can– the next fancy thing that
you can get your hands onto. I do want to feel satisfied. I feel ashamed to say this. I hate people who feel
satisfied in their life. [LAUGHTER] I just don’t know
how they do it. I do want to feel satisfied,
but I’m very scared, if I get satisfied
with what I have, would I lose the
ambition, or wanting to be better, or maybe
achieve more than I could have otherwise? MARC LESSER: Mhm. Great question. I think we– well, let’s see. Several things there. One is, I wouldn’t get too
hung up about this thing about having a purpose and that. Sometimes I feel like my role,
I’m like the Wizard of Oz, right? What’s the difference between
you and someone who doesn’t have– who needs a purpose? So I want to give you something
that says your purpose, be the best human
being you can be. Be the best human
being you can be. And I think you
already have that, just like the people in
“The Wizard of Oz.” So I think, in our culture– and our culture, I think, has
managed to really infiltrate this idea that we have to– not only do we have
to want things, but we need to have
a tough on ourselves. A lot of people, either
very consciously or almost unconsciously feel like,
if I’m not tough on myself, if I’m not hard on myself,
nothing’s going to happen. And there’s some
great research now. Kristin Neff is doing
a lot of research on this whole realm
of self-compassion and demonstrating
that, actually, the more we love ourselves,
the more creative we can be, the more we can get done. So there’s a funny– it’s
very nuanced and funny. I don’t think you ever
have to worry about the– so the desire to excel– so there’s a paradox. Even when I say, be the
best person you can be– I thought you were
supposed to accept yourself the way you are? Yes and yes. Like, part of acceptance
is accepting where we are and looking for, what’s
the gap between that and where we really want to be? In an accepting way, though, not
in a beating ourselves up way. In fact, there’s an expression. These are called
creative gaps, right? So part of this part of this
awareness is recognizing, oh, my mind is really busy,
and I’d like to work on that. Or I’m judging
myself a lot, and I’d like to be scanning
for threats less. So to work on that, to
accept it, to see what is– to have the courage
to see what is– and to practice with, what
can I do to become a better, more thriving human being? And there’s a
beautiful expression from Shunryu Suzuki, who was
the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center. He was once doing a long-term
retreat with people. And he looked out and
said, you’re all perfect just as you are, and you could
use a little improvement. [LAUGHTER] And I think what’s brilliant
about that is, too, they’re not opposed to each other. Our minds make them
opposed to each other. What if you were
perfect as you are, and what if you were working
toward becoming even better? That’s part of the paradox. Yeah. Get a mic? Yeah? Thank you. Thank you, Van. AUDIENCE: I’m wondering if you
have any tips for improving meditation. So I started meditation
a few months ago. And just five minutes,
it’s very effective. I feel refreshed. And now there’s– usually
it’s 10 or 15 minutes a day. I feel stuck and not improving. [INAUDIBLE]
constantly wondering. I feel like maybe,
after practicing, I will feel more happier
or more refreshed. And after meditation, I just–
for the past two months, I feel stuck. Any recommendation? Also, is there a
chair [INAUDIBLE] make a special chair for meditation? MARC LESSER: No. No special chair. And my short answer– we
could talk more about this. But my short answer is,
try doing a retreat. Do a one-day retreat,
or a three-day or– try it. Just see what happens. I want to respect time, and
I see that it is 1 o’clock. And I also want to– yeah. I hope– I know some of you were
lucky enough to get here early and got a copy of my book. For some reason, Amazon– I don’t know why. They’re selling it at a
ridiculously low price. They’re almost giving it away. I don’t know why that
is, but you can go on and buy my book on Amazon. Of course, write reviews,
would be so appreciated. I have a mailing list
over here if you want to– I’m now doing a
weekly newsletter. Incredible benefits to being– and just signed up
for my mailing list. You can always unsubscribe. And I also do a regular
Wednesday night meditation group in the North
Bay in Mill Valley. If you’re ever up there,
come join me there. And is my– M-A-R-C. And it’s such an honor
to be back here at Google. And I hope to get to spend
more time back here at Google. And thank you, Van and Anthony. Much appreciated. And thank you all. [APPLAUSE]


  1. Go for trust with practice, seven practices are – Love the work, do the work, don't be an expert, connect to your pain and to the pain of others, depend on others and keep making it simpler.

  2. Nothing new. Totally boring. This dude thinks that he is genius. He is saying nothing interesting and new. What a joke. People know this stuff intuitively. We do Not need some narcissist like you.

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