Google's first Chief Innovation Evangelist: Over 12 years, I learned 3 key lessons that can help anyone ‘live a more meaningful life'

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Working at Google for 12 years changed how Frederik Pferdt approaches his work and his daily routine.

As the tech giant's first-ever Chief Innovation Evangelist, Pferdt sought to create a more cohesive structure for nurturing creativity across divisions. Pferdt created the company's Innovation Lab and co-founded the Google Garage, where he encouraged thousands of employees to collaborate and experiment on fresh ideas.

Before deciding to leave Google in 2022, he learned several important lessons, including from co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, he tells CNBC Make It.

The philosophies and daily routines he picked up during that time helped him and others "build a culture of innovation" at the company, Pferdt says. He describes them more in depth in his recent book, "What's Next Is Now: How to Live Future Ready."

But his top three lessons aren't just useful for tech workers: They can help anyone "live a more meaningful life," he says.

1. Embrace a 'Yes, and' mentality

Too often, Pferdt says, people opt for a more negative outlook, "finding arguments why something wouldn't work."

"Most of our time we spend time saying 'No, but,' right?" he says. "If you turn that around and have a little bit more of a 'Yes, and' mentality — and, that is inspired by improv theater, obviously — it really changes the dynamic of your conversations [and] of the teams you're working on."

In his book, Pferdt writes about how that "Yes, and" philosophy, which depends on curiosity and a willingness to constantly experiment, was key to the development of technological advancements at Google, like the company's Street View technology. 

"Larry Page had been thinking about whether it was possible to photographically map the whole planet ('yes, and …') [so] he mounted the camera on his car to capture video as he tooled around the streets of San Francisco," Pferdt writes in his book, noting that Page's initial idea, and the Google-funded work of Stanford researchers, soon led to others getting involved and adding new features, like spatial recognition and data collection.

2. Spend time with yourself

Meditation and mindfulness are popular methods for reducing daily stress and anxiety: Research shows these practices can improve your sleep and even increase productivity. Google has long encouraged workers to meditate and even offered them mindfulness courses.

Meditating every day helps to keep him open to new ideas and steer away from negativity, Pferdt says.

"From time to time, spend time within yourself," he says. "It is really critical, because otherwise you're just driven by your autopilot and your reactions instead of your responses. Our reactions are usually negative, they're closed, they're non empathetic, they're full of hate [and] blaming. Moving away from these is only possible if you do mindful practices."

Negative reactions to new ideas are typically emotional and informed by anxiety, experts believe, whereas meditation and mindfulness techniques can help you slow down, think about something logically and respond more thoughtfully.

3. Visualize your future self

Google leaders promote the idea of vividly picturing an ideal, successful version of yourself and then identifying realistic steps and choices you need to make to get there. 

"Really try to envision how you want to be in the future," Pferdt says. "That is very powerful, because that really helps you with understanding where you actually want to go and influences your choices in the moment." 

Pferdt, who also spent 10 years as an adjunct professor of design thinking at Stanford University, has spent much of his career teaching others better ways to think about and shape what happens to you: He recommends honing traits like "radical optimism" and "expansive empathy."

It may sound like no more than wishful thinking, but science underpins his approach. Research indicates that visualizing future success can increase your optimism, which breeds self-confidence and correlates to success, psychologist Michele Borba told CNBC Make It last year.

Picturing success can help kickstart your planning for how to achieve your goals, experts note, which can influence the decisions you make in pursuit of your goals. "You don't have to figure it out completely," Rainer Strack, senior partner emeritus at Boston Consulting Group, told CNBC Make It in January. "But you have to know, a little bit, the direction."

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