Defining People Skills For Data Scientists (Gilbert Eijkelenboom) - KNN Ep. 79
Updated: Aug 2, 2022
As a former professional poker player, you can find Gilbert Eijkelenboom wherever psychology and data meet. After studying behavioral science, Gilbert has built an amazing consulting career in the data and analytics space. Combining both worlds, Gilbert founded the company MindSpeaking: The human side of data. His training programs help data scientists understand the business, get buy-in from stakeholders, and tell stories with data. Last year gilbert published his best selling book, People skills for analytical thinkers that we will be giving 3 away of today. Just comment below with your favorite part of the episode with a chance to win!
Today we take a deep dive into our minds. We learn about how gilbert found a passion for his work through his career in poker and consulting, how introspection and reading helped him to change how he interacted with the world, and what batman, the joker, and elephants have to do with how we communicate.
[00:00:00] Gilbert: Every year automatically in my app, it shows what I was writing about one year ago or five years ago. And it gives me so much perspective that I changed my mind or that I was worried about stupid stuff or, you know, how I was trying to make a decision and then understand my decision making. And that helps me to improve my decision making in the future.
[00:00:25] Ken: This episode of Ken's Nearest Neighbors is powered by Z by HP. HP's high compute, workstation-grade line of products and solutions. Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gilbert Eijkelenboom. As a former professional poker player, you can find Gilbert wherever psychology and data meet. After studying behavioral science, Gilbert has built an amazing consulting career in the data and analytics space.
Combining both worlds, Gilbert founded the company MindSpeaking, the human side of data. His training programs, help data scientists to understand the business, get buy-in from stakeholders and tell stories with the data. Skills that I think are integral to your success in this field. Last year, Gilbert also published his best selling book, people skills for analytical thinkers that will be giving away three copies of today.
Just comic below with your favorite part of the episode, for a chance to win. In this episode, we dive deep into our minds. We learned about how Gilbert found a passion for his work through his career in poker and consulting and how introspection and reading helped him to change how we interacted with the world.
Finally, we learned what Batman, the Joker and elephants have to do with how we communicate. I had a great time speaking with Gilbert and I hope you enjoyed the interview. Well, thank you so much for coming on the Ken's Nearest Neighbors Podcast. I just finished your book, "People Skills for Analytical Thinkers".
We've had some conversations offline. I know you come from a background playing poker, doing consulting, and now you're, you know, working in data analytics, and I just had to have you come in. I love your story. I really enjoyed the content of the book. And I'm excited about having a conversation with you about some of the intersection of psychology behavior, personal development with this data field that I love so much. So again, thank you for joining me today.
[00:02:17] Gilbert: Thanks so much much for having me, Ken. I'm really looking forward. We had some chats already, indeed. And that only makes me more curious and excited.
[00:02:25] Ken: Excellent. So one thing I do with every guest to get you more familiar with the listeners is. To understand how you first got interested in data or like logic or the sort of quantitative space. Can you kind of walk me down what that experience was like or, you know, was it a single experience or was it a series of experiences that led into your fascination with the space?
[00:02:52] Gilbert: Yeah, it was more a gradual process, but it started in high school already because my favorite subjects in high school were physics and mathematics. And I was very fond of algebra and I really liked, you know, doing calculations and making and doing these calculations in physics as well. And I really liked like this analytical side, but also when I started studying, I also felt I was very interested in psychology. So eventually I started studying behavioral science and I did a master's in behavioral science, but then I needed to start a career, right.
Make a decision about what's next. And for every decision point I had the same problem because I like it a lot. I'm very interested in a broad range of subjects and that doesn't make the decision easy, but I knew I was interested in this analytical side, also heard about data and this growing set of set of data and the possibilities in business.
And that spark my curiosity because I was already interested in mathematics. And also by then I had some experience playing poker. So we can talk about that later, but that made me start a career in in technology and data. And I really enjoyed it because analyzing data you can understand what people need, you know, what type of products they need, what type of communications they need.
And I really like that, but also next to my consulting activities, I. I discovered that I found personal development and helping other people grow with psychology also very, very important and rewarding. And that's why I started doing some training, giving training to other people next to my consulting work. And it was so rewarding to do that. It started with just 15 minutes, but slowly it kind of escalated in a good way.
[00:04:55] Ken: I love that. You know, something I actually just realized is I think there have been more people on my podcast that have a background or really strong interest in psychology than almost any other. More traditional data sciencey like background and, you know, my first interest was in psychology and my first college major was psychology. I mean, long story short, I took a research methods class where I unfortunately had to let down the ... that I had trained for a couple months. And I just couldn't do it after that.
But I think that there is something really beautiful about like the data science domain and collecting all this information and psychology where I felt trapped as a student where we had to do these very specific A/B tests. We had to control the environment so much that you could understand one specific behavior, but you couldn't necessarily understand a range of behavior.
And when we're dealing with human interactions, when we're dealing with purchasing decisions, when we're dealing with any of these human behavioral things, the power of big data makes the psychology insights. That that were getting in these like lab controlled settings available at a lot larger scale.
And at least for me, that's one of the reasons why I was so fascinated in this is can I understand people's behaviors at scale at a larger level, in my own terms, in the real world, that pursuit and that understanding is unbelievably exciting. I think for a lot of people in psychology unfortunately I wish it was a more traditional path to break into data science.
I think that, you know, it's not quite as quantitative as like a math or a CS background, but. And to employers, I think that there is a lot of opportunity to hire people with a psychology background, especially in research because it's a lot of, there's a good amount of math. There's a lot of amount of qualitative, quantitative rigor or whatever that might be. Sorry, I'd grasp a little bit there, but.
[00:06:54] Gilbert: Absolutely. I agree. and as a data scientist, it's so powerful if you understand people because in the end, it's all about people. You're doing the work. You're creating a model. You're getting your insights, but eventually people need to use your results, right?
If people are not using it, there's no business impact and your work maybe was great to do it, but eventually people don't use it and we need to understand their motivations that drives what are they interested in and how do they see success? And how can you contribute to that? And to do that, you need to ask a lot of good questions and understand.
What's what's behind it. And I think that's why psychology is so important in data. and also so interesting in general. I mean, if I look, if I walk on the street in a random city, I love traveling. And I remember the first time I got out of the metro in New York and I saw all these people and what first fascinated me is that I saw people of all types of colors of races or religions.
And then I'm immediately wondering what's behind that. What's their story, you know, what are they doing? Are they on the way to work and what are their frustrations? And I think this is also how we need to look at business people in the world, in our job. And yeah, this story popped up in my mind just now. I haven't thought about this for many years, but I think there's a relation there.
[00:08:28] Ken: That's incredible. and yeah, absolutely. Even in something like like a new job, right. Learning and understanding how people tick and how they work and what they like and what they don't like in the book, you talk so much about understanding, like their algorithms.
But it, at first I think that it really comes down to understanding how you think and how you work and how you understand things. Can you walk me a little bit through your sort of your career and your background as it comes to interacting with people? So, you know, what did you learn about people and how they work and how you work sort of along your career, whether it's in poker, whether it's in school, whether it's in in consulting at these different stages of your life.
[00:09:15] Gilbert: Yeah. Yeah. with consulting, I remember vividly a moment where I was asked to present some insights at a management team meeting. And I was kind of proud or excited that I could present there as a kind of rookie and analyze the data, dive into the technical details and hopefully find some insights that I can present and make an impact.
And I, in the weeks before that meeting, I did all the work, all the research. And in that meeting, I brought all those recommendations and I was not, not very confident back then, but I was confident about my recommendations that they would adopt them. But in the meeting, the stakeholders, they bounced off all the ideas and nothing worked and it didn't listen.
And it was so frustrating for me because I worked so hard on this. And a big takeaway after talking to my mentor was, Okay, I focused too much on the analytical side and not enough on the people side or what they find important, understanding their motivations.
So that's a big, big lesson I learned in my career and I hear from many, from many other data professionals working in data science or other data roles that they, yeah, struggle with this. And they find it annoying that not always that work is being valued. And because often the data people have the logical answers, the right answers, right.
that, that's what we think at least or we need to understand what those answers mean for the business. and I think that's a big, big lesson. So understanding that psychology understanding what they need, what type of questions they are trying to answer with data that will help you make a bigger impact.
[00:11:08] Ken: Awesome. And so how do we, how do we evaluate those things? So I assume we can understand how they're evaluating or looking at a problem by observing and also speaking with them. Can you talk a little bit about the observation first? I would imagine that's something that you picked up from playing poker is how to, how to get insight about someone from observing. And then I'd love to talk a bit more about how you can have a, how you can learn about, so what other people value from a conversation with them?
[00:11:43] Gilbert: Right. Yeah. And I also realize I did not completely answer your question about the algorithms, but I, but I'll get back to it. So about observations in every interaction, whether they are into interaction or the observer, you know, so you're seeing two people interact, you get a lot of data, a lot of information. By the way, they speak how they move their facial expressions and also the way they talk.
And by doing so you can already observe a lot. But yeah, one layer deeper, you also want to understand what they find important. Simple things like how often people want to communicate. Do they want to have a meeting every week or do they communicate via email? But also what are their, what are their goals?
Every professional has certain targets or certain goals in their job description. And based on those targets, they will also be motivated to take decisions left or right. And by understanding what they are motivated by, you can also influence them in an easier way. And then a simple, simple question. I like to ask when I start a collaboration with someone for at least a few weeks, I ask what is important to you.
And this is a very broad question. And some people think, Hmm, Okay. Not many people ask those type of questions, but sometimes you get very useful pieces of inform. About what they want and also about their, their algorithms. And in the book, I have this metaphor that all the decisions that we make, all the behavioral patterns are actually algorithms.
So based on a lot of information, we make a decision. So imagine you're driving a car and you're approaching a red traffic light. Then at some point you're gonna break. Right. But the question is, when do you break? And there are a lot of rational variables, like, what is my speed? What is the distance? Where are the other cars located?
But maybe also some emotional variables like people behind you. How fast do you wanna break? You know, what type of driver do you want to be? Or maybe your child sit next to you. Who's vomiting because she's car sick and all these emotional variables also play a role, but not so much in the example of a car.
But more so in at work because we interact with a lot of people and they make decisions. And that's why my point is we need to be more aware of those emotional variables because that's where all the politics and the decision making happens.
[00:14:28] Ken: Very cool. So this is, this might be a little tangential, but I feel like it's relevant to ask. So, Gilbert, what's important to you.
[00:14:38] Gilbert: I like it. First thing that comes to mind is personal growth and connection with other people. Those two, those two come to mind. So I really like to grow myself, to learn I mean, we spoke a lot about books and about things we've learned and I can, I could talk for hours, for days, for weeks with you in the same zoom meeting, about all the things we've learned and I wouldn't get bored, only hungry and.
And so that that's really important to me and growing gives me a sense of purpose, but only, but the thing is, I don't only want to grow myself. You know, it gets a bit shallow or a bit yeah. Egocentric. What gives me most motivation and sense of purpose is when I receive an email by, by a client or a person or a friend who tells me, Hey, this is how you helped me grow. This is what I've changed in terms of thinking in terms of behavior. And these are the new results I'm getting. Thank you so much when I get that message my whole day and, or weak is great.
[00:15:51] Ken: I love that. I think, you know, that's something that, that I really picked up in the first two parts of this book is that I very much felt like the first two parts were like, Wow, this is like a great.
This is right out of the self-help section of the store, where it's like personal development, helping you understand yourself because without personal understanding, how can we, how can we develop empathy for what someone else is feeling, right. If we don't, if we can't articulate or if we can't understand what we're feeling ourselves, right.
To me that that's such a useful stepping stone to like actualize on other people's beliefs or interactions or understanding. I mean, like, it's the famous, like, you can't love someone else until you love yourself type of thing. But I think that there's a lot of truth to that. Like you can't know who someone else is, or you can't know how you feel about someone else.
If you don't know how you feel about almost everything, if you don't know how you feel about, you know, I always bring this down to the data science job, right. Is that if I don't know if I like programming, if I don't know if I am comfortable with the math associated with the field, if I don't know that I like autonomy.
And if someone gives me a very vague project structure that I can fulfill a project to do it on my own, how am I gonna know if I would like the role of a data scientist? You know, I might see on the outside that there's this price tag, Oh, I'm gonna make X amount of money, but does that mean that I'm gonna be able to do that career with all of these unknowns associated under that umbrella and have success in it or have enjoyment or have fulfillment?
No, I have to do work on myself to see if I like those things. I have to do some projects. I have to get my hands dirty. I have to be proactive about understanding myself before I can make that decision that's outside of my sphere or I can interact with the outside world.
[00:17:48] Gilbert: Exactly. That's such a good point that I think there are many people in the world who don't really understand themselves and I'm not saying I figured it all out because it's a long journey and it's a never ending journey. It's never ending and you never, you never arrive at 100. Right. And that's also the beauty of it. You keep learning and you keep growing, especially with other people.
So that that's, that, that, that's great. And, but you really need to understand yourself. I completely agree with that. And I was, I was wondering because you showed me some journals and you certainly did a lot of introspection. When did you realize self-awareness was important for you? How did you find it out? And what did you change?
[00:18:35] Ken: I'm the podcaster. No, I'm just kidding. So I'm gonna ask you a very similar question as well. But for me, After college, I went in and I tried to play professional golf, and that's all I wanted to do with my life. Like I was like, Oh, there was no other exit strategy.
It's like, this is what I'm gonna do. And this is like, that's how I've set up my life to pursue that. And I came to a really aggressive realization that the professional golf lifestyle style was not something that I particularly wanted after I lived it for a little bit. And I also just did either had, did not have the capabilities, like physical capabilities, mental capabilities, whatever it is, or I was not willing to put in the effort to like maximize on that career path, essentially like long story short, I wasn't good enough, right.
And this was, this was devastating to me, right. I went, you know, 22 years believing that I was maybe not that long, but you know, at least 18 years while I had conscious thought about playing sports, that I was gonna pursue this. And then I had a blank slate and I said, what am I gonna do? I don't know what I like outside of golf.
Like I've dedicated all of my time and all my effort to this. And I really, I was like, Shoot, I'm just gonna read a lot and maybe try and figure this out. Like there are no in the book you talk about, there's no manuals for understanding other people, right? When you go into a new interaction, there's, you know, it'd be great.
if I could read a little pamphlet and say, Oh, this is how this person does it. I think at capital one, they, everyone does wear a card where they have like personality types and communication styles. It's I think it's a decent practice, but for myself, the closest thing to having an instructured manual for our own minds is a lot of the books in like the self section that I really enjoy.
You know, I read the book, awaken the giant within by Anthony Robbins. And that was something that kickstarted a lot of things. It very similar to your book. It has a great framework for breaking down how we personally feel, how we think about things, what our value systems are, what are like what are our emotions?
What are they telling us? Are they good things? Are they bad things? You know, if anything, they're just signals to help us understand what's going on in our world, they're neither good, nor bad even anger. Any of these things. They're just like sensory pathways that are alerting us to some stimulus, right?
And that put me on a tear of reading, a lot of other books in that genre, someone meditation, some on like habits, a lot on just personal understanding. And I realized that like golf, like anything. I had to be a student of myself to be able to figure out the things that I valued, what I wanted to build and what I wanted to create.
And like, what, how I wanted to live my life, you know, up until then I was just going with this linear focus of this is what I think I want because of X, Y, Z reasons. And if I look back now, like I love golf, I work in golf. I think it's a great sport, but there is so much more to life and creating value for other people.
And like actually doing good in the world. That is, that is outside of just me, like working in a golf space. And you know, honestly, that's how everything started is I was lost and I was looking for a place to figure out who I was and what I liked and reading is the best place was the best place for me to uncover that.
So I'm taking up time talking about myself on your podcast here. So I would love to hear the same thing for you know, like what are not only where did you kind of make that shift, but what are some of the like very tangible things that you do to help understand yourself better?
This episode of Ken's Nearest Neighbors is brought to you by Z by HP. HP's high compute, workstation-grade line and products and solutions. Z is specifically made for high performance data science solutions. And I personally use the ZBook Studio and the Z4 Workstation. I really love that the Z line can come standard with Linux and they also can be configured with the data science software stack. With the software stack, you can get right into the work of doing data science on day one without the overhead of having to completely reconfigure your new machine. Now back to our show.
[00:23:03] Gilbert: Reading is a big one. So I agree with you there. I think it's fantastic to have the opportunity to have a look in someone's mind and usually great people. Right? Great authors. You can understand what they're thinking and how they structure their thoughts. So reading is a big one.
I do meditation every day. I fell off track a few times, several, many times, but I'm back on track now. And it feels really, really good, and the first time I heard about meditation, I thought, Okay, meditation is this fluffy thing. And you know, what are the results? And show me that it works.
Prove me prove to me that it works. But eventually I read about some research that meditation is actually changing your brain. And I decided to give it a try and I do it every day, not for too long, just 10 day, 10 minutes a day, but it gives me so much mental clarity and this peace of mind that I need to have a great day, not just at work, but also having personal conversations and conversations like this.
I should not think about anything else right now as, except for. The dialogue that we're having and meditation helps with that. So it helps me get better relationships with friends, family, and professional complex as well. What I also do is asking for a lot of feedback, not just about my trainings, my podcast, but also on a, on a more personal level.
So when I made the jump to full-time entrepreneurship, I thought, Okay, this is gonna be a big move. I really want this to make this to be a success. So I'm gonna ask six, seven people in my surroundings. So friends, other entrepreneurs my parents, and a lot, I ask them a lot of questions about what do you think is needed to make this a success?
What is my biggest biggest trap? You know, where should I not step into what is the biggest risk or where should I put more attention, all these type of questions. And they gave me so much insight and. I think I got this idea from a person I don't remember anymore. It it's an author and she it's Tasha Eurich.
She wrote the book Insight and she recommends to have a dinner of truth. And the idea is that you have a dinner with a friend or a person, you know, very well and you ask him or her, what is the thing that bothers you most about me? And it's daunting, right? It's a daunting question. It's very vulnerable, but it's because it's so vulnerable, it also opens a way to connect and a lot of insight about yourself and maybe it's tough to listen to, but it will certainly give you new new perspective.
So to conclude meditation journaling, I do a lot every day, a little bit. What am I thinking about? What. What am I worried about? What are the decisions I'm I'm taking and every year automatically in my app, it's it shows what I, what I was writing about one year ago or five years ago. And it gives me so much perspective that I changed my mind or that I was worried about stupid stuff or, you know, how I was trying to make a decision and then understand my decision making. And that helps me to improve my decision making in the future.
[00:26:31] Ken: I think that that's so awesome. I I'm actually reading a book right now called "Altered Traits" and it's about meditation. And the two authors go very deep into the science of what studies are saying is real about meditations benefits.
What studies are saying is, you know, like fabricated, so like kind of like social news, that's out there. And, you know, to that point on the, on the books, like you're able to get. 20 years of someone else's research of their mind of their entire life. In a couple hours of reading a book, to me, that's unbelievably powerful.
You can distill all of their knowledge, all their information, everything that they've learned over the course of their life into just a couple hours of your time. If you're talking about time efficiencies to me, that's, that's like unbelievable, right? I mean, you still have to digest that you still have to integrate it, but that's where meditation.
That's where journaling, that's where these other activities come into play is that, you know, there's, there's, I'm learning now. There's many different types of meditation. You know, you have like where you're focusing on your breath and you're silencing your mind. You can practice gratitude. You can focus specifically on a problem or a phenomenon or whatever it is.
And in doing that, your brain. Like intuitively like naturally processes, all these things and produces a framework without, without you having to do anything. You have the subconscious mind that's working all the time, which is incredible. You know, to me, I'm interested in, when you decided that you wanted to do this like more public facing, like when did you decide that, like, Hey, I've gotten to the point where I'm comfortable enough with myself where I feel like I can share insight and I can I can actually like provide value to other people around understanding who they are in connecting with other people.
[00:28:26] Gilbert: I like that question. No one ever has ever asked me that, that question, but I really like it. And, but the answer is it. It grew gradually. What I, what I did for years is reading, reading blog, post and reading Quora articles. And I followed many, many people, you know, as I got a lot of insights about what they were thinking, the research, and I got a lot of knowledge and I also learned from these entrepreneurs, like 10 years ago, you know, they were creating an audience and creating their own business.
And that's something I always thought about, but I had no idea how you know, how to do it. And yeah, I think that was the first realization that it's, that is important or you can it will get you something. But second is the confidence part, like you mentioned, and there was a lot of imposter going on, like who am I to share this?
You know, I'm not the expert and all these, these kind of uncertainties and insecurities, but at some point I read somewhere that it's not about being the expert or giving all the answers. It's just about sharing your thoughts and reflections, and it doesn't need to be the perfect or the best way the best content, but it's about sharing your stuff and getting the feedback.
That's how you learn. And that's also how I took it, because in the beginning I was writing on LinkedIn short, short articles, and I had no idea that articles were performing way less. And I was like writing articles, which were very short. I should have published this as a post. But anyway, my confidence grew and I started publishing and it was one, one big moment for me because I, when I had been writing for quite some time online on Quora, on LinkedIn, but then.
I was on a trip around the world was a few years ago. I was in New Zealand. I was, I was doing this high quit with three other people. And one of them was a German girl and we talked a lot about personal development. She was a psychologist right away, and we had great conversations and I, she also asked me, do you write, or do you give presentations about this?
And I told her I did some blog post and she asked me to, yeah, if she could read it. And so back in the in the hotel, she read some of those articles and she was very encouraging. She said, you need to write more. This is, this is really good. And it gave me so much confidence and motivation to write more and long story short in New Zealand.
I started to write, and I decided, Okay, I'm gonna just write a kind of a PDF document of 20 pages and then publish it online for free hoping it will help other analytical type of people like me. But then I started to brain dump everything I've learned. I had learned until then about from books, from my own experiences.
And it started to grow to a document of a few hundred pages. So eventually with editing and cutting a lot, it turned out to be a book. And that was people skills for ethical thinkers.
[00:32:02] Ken: That's incredible. I love the like origin story there. I also think that that story highlights something that is very, very like recently new to me. And understanding about personal development is that your personal development is aided so much by other people. I think in the last year and a half, two years who I am and my under my understanding of myself, Has grown so much from podcasting. Like I talk with a new person every week, sometimes multiple people, every week, we have a deep and meaningful conversation about about life and history.
What motivates people, where, where they, where they came from. Right. And I have to reflect on how I think about someone else's life, a completely different perspective, completely different viewpoint, a completely different experience set. And I have to evaluate how I feel about that in real time and think about, Oh, you know, what does that mean to me?
What should I ask next? How, how do I get to know this person better? And the more I have those experiences, the more I understand myself better. I also find that like, just like your your friend in New Zealand encouraged you to do something.
There's an automatic sounding board in every conversation that I have, that's guiding what I should do based on like these other interactions that I have with other people is that they're subtly informing the next steps that I should take. And you know, something that you really encourage in the book is just connecting with people and having these conversations.
I think in technical domains, that's like, people are scared of doing that. People are not comfortable doing that. And this isn't everyone, this is a mass generalization, but like doing those things can also help you to understand who you are, where you fit into an organization where you fit into your friend group, where you fit into your family, all of these things, that you know, that might be really difficult to understand if you're coming from just a static viewpoint of pure introspection.
[00:34:04] Gilbert: Yeah, no, absolutely. I certainly see a lot of value from having conversations and getting other other people's perspective to understand yourself. And I think a lot of analytical type of people, people working in data science many are many think in a quite binary way, you know, analytical way.
Like you can calculate everything. I was the same, having a conversation. I was thinking, you know, what should I say next? And what is this gonna be funny enough or smart enough? Or I was thinking a lot, therefore pushing away all the emotion of myself and maybe also other people. And the thing is, like you mentioned, in the beginning of this podcast, you, there are a lot of decisions that you're making right about your career, what job to take, where to live, who to marry and all those decisions, especially the big ones we cannot calculate the next best action.
Of course we can model it and get some rational effects on the table. But in the end you need to make the decision and. That part we can only do that we need, we need emotion for, and that's actually, what's what's happening because decision making is based. The majority of decisions are based on emotions, whether we like it or not, of course, all data professionals want to make these rational decisions, but most of our decisions are north rational were incredibly flawed in our decision making and our stakeholders in business as well. So we might as well understand those flaws and biases biases to so that we can put out the best work. And I think it's, I think it's very important to yeah. To do understand yourself and your own biases.
[00:35:49] Ken: Absolutely. I think the example used in the book is that of, I forget who the person was, but they had part of their, I think prefrontal cortex destroyed or from from, from a surgery and they surgery.
Lost the ability to truly feel the main emotions that we feel. And they could not make decisions after that point. And like that is essentially what happens. And I see it happen in data science. When we take emotion out of the equation, like what should we do? We're just gonna keep analyzing forever.
Right. And if we think about any decision that we, that we face in theory, there is an infinite feature set for everything, right? How do we, if we could, if we looked forever, find seemingly infinite things to analyze, to make that decision. And at a certain point, we do have to make decisions there's a premium on making a decision over making the right decision or like the perfect decision or like a high probability decision at a certain point.
And I don't know of any better systems than, than our emotions or, you know, like the combination of emotion and logic to actually make a good decision reliably. I mean, we heuristically, we've had to do it for hundreds of years. Oh no, I'm sorry. Not hundred thousands of years. You know, to survive and you know, there's a lot of us still here on the planet, so there's something to be said positive about the emotional system at the very least.
[00:37:13] Gilbert: Absolutely. Yeah. And it's, I mean, we are always trying to optimize and make the best decisions rationally, but yeah, like you said, emotions play a big role and for sure it's important to to understand.
[00:37:27] Ken: Incredible. So, you know, I think a lot of the first part, Let's talk, you know, primarily on the book now, again, I really, I really enjoyed it and I'm happy we can continue to have these conversations but you know, you starting off we are focusing on introspective, understanding ourselves. You use a great metaphor about the elephant and the writer. Can you explain that metaphor just a little bit more and tell us what that teaches us about how we think and make decisions
[00:38:01] Gilbert: Sure. Yeah. I use the metaphor of the elephant and rider to explain how we make decisions, because we have the elephant, the big elephant and the rider on top. And the rider on top tries to steer where the elephant is going, where they're both going, but eventually the elephant of course, 70 times heavier. The rider can say, Okay, we go, right. But if the elephant sees something attractive or candy on the left, they'll go left. And of course the elephant represents the emotional brain because the brain consists of two systems to process information to make decisions, namely the emotional brain and the rational brain and the emotional brain is represented by the elephant, by the impulsive irrational elephant, which is very heavy and therefore controls the decision making and the rider on top is the rational brain.
And they determine they both determine where you end up, but the emotions have a big, big impact. And you may have seen very very emotional, emotional people, and they don't have any rational decisions. And. We even in working in data science, we also don't have many rational decisions, for example, it's it's so it's so difficult to stick to habits, right?
If you say, Okay, today I'm gonna tonight, I'm gonna do a workout, but afterwards you may find yourself sitting on the couch. So what happened? So that's your emotional element at work? And there are many examples where the emotional element has a big, big impact.
[00:39:49] Ken: So I'm trying to think what what, like the metaphor would be to describe what meditation and journaling and some of these things do, is it that, you know, rather than being the writer, you're a giant, that's leading the elephant.
And if the elephant Ts at something, you can observe that behavior and understand like, Oh, like why would it want to go that way and calculate it and then choose what way to go? Or is it something else? But you know, it's inter...
[00:40:13] Gilbert: I think that's the right way. I think I talk a lot in the book about. You know, understanding your own, understanding your own emotions as well. And what is your, what is your drive? You know, why do you want to work in data? Why do you wanna live live at a certain place? What are your hobbies to really understand yourself so you can make better decisions.
And a lot of those that understanding yourself part is understanding your elephant. However, irrational, the emotional elephant is anyway, you need to really understand this emotional elephant. And I think it comes down to what you said is observing the emotional elephant, seeing, Hey I want you a chocolate now.
That's interesting. You know, what is this driving or, Hey I'm facing a business stakeholder and I'm going to present, but I feel a bit tense or I feel the need to explain all the technical details. Hmm. Maybe that's, that's not the way to go.
[00:41:15] Ken: Exactly, exactly. So, through this personal evolution where we're talking about, again, like your own understanding of your writer and elephant, and then the understanding of other people, which we addressed earlier.
You talk about the idea of being a mind speaker and a MindSpeaking. Can you like explain that concept just a little bit better? I think it's really important thing in the book. Something I took away is like, you know, rather than talking for myself, rather than talking from, you know, like trying to be a PIL pleaser, what does this concept mean?
[00:41:54] Gilbert: Yeah, yeah. To explain that first. Let me talk about a different concept, which is a concept of the nice guy. And many people are familiar with this, the pleasing personality and the pleasing drive that many people have, whether you're pleaser or not many people like to have good connections, right?
Because back in the history, when we were in a tribe, it was not good. When you were rejected over a tribe, you may face very very difficult situations, but looking at yeah, looking at this pleasing mindset of of a nice guy, it's not just that you're trying to keep the connection good, but actually many people are trying to trick others into liking them.
They're just being nice only to get something back. And that's the purest form of manipulation, which I've done. I've been guilty of many times as well in the past and maybe still. This is this temptation that I need to be mindful of and understand the emotional elephant. Okay. So that's the nice guy.
So pleasing personality, not expressing your boundaries and saying what's on your mind. And on the other side, is the mind speaker being honest and very direct about your intentions, about what you're feeling and expressive about your emotions as well, so that other people understand what's going on and you're very truthful and you're not trying to hurt other people. But you're just being direct and sharing what's on your mind because you think that's the right way to do. And that's a mind speaker.
[00:43:31] Ken: So how can someone be direct? Not hurt other people's feelings. For example, I recently was talking to my girlfriend. I was like honest about something that I wasn't happy with. And, you know, frankly, it was a little bit hurtful what I said, I we've resolved things now it's it. But, you know, I was, I was like, look, I'm like BA being honest, this is how I feel about X, Y, Z. You know, what are some what are some steps that someone can take to deliver a message in a way that another person that, that is effective, but the other and truthful, but the other person will not find offensive or hurtful.
[00:44:10] Gilbert: Yeah. First thing is to avoid any, any type of judgments. So if someone is not imagining your you're living to ghetto with your spouse, and that person is not cleaning the dishes, then you can say he or she. Is an asshole or whatever you wanna call it. But, or totally inconsiderate or whatever, but what's much more powerful and effective if you keep it.
If you stay closer to yourself saying, Hey, make an observation seeing, Hey, I see the dishes are still out that the dishes are not clean and that makes me feel angry or sad or whatever. So it, you keep it really close to them, to yourself. I mean, so you make an observation which is rational and and concrete, and then you stay what it does to you without making any accusations or even worse generalizations. Like, yeah. You never care about me. Because that is the highway to a really bad fight.
[00:45:18] Ken: Yeah. Well, let's say there's something in work that someone cannot change. , you know perhaps it's like a way they speak or something hypothetically. Right. How do you give feedback on something about things that, that people have very little control over, right.
But, you know, perhaps it's bothering you, perhaps it's having an effect on the company, you know, tho those are things that I think are very challenging. You know, for example, you have an employee that works in a different time zone and you know, that that's causing huge inefficiencies with the business, but you can't tell them to up and move, right.
Or you can't, you know, like there are certain constraints about their life that you can't change. Like, is that something that's like, Hey, like that's an inevitability, this is immutable. There's no point in talking about, and I point focusing on it like, you know, is it, what framework would you use around something like that?
[00:46:22] Gilbert: Yeah, I think it's important. I think there's always, you can always discuss it, but it makes a difference how you discuss it, right. If you say yeah, about the time zone example, you can always make an observation say, it's not say from your perspective, it's not really working well. And that you're curious to hear from their perspective, how it's working.
And also you can also ask if they're open for feedback, you know, and after gift of feedback, but what, once you're discussing it and also really listening to the other person, the emotional elephant of the other person will like calm down and not become totally emotional and defensive. So by doing so by asking questions about their perspective, how they see it, you have a more likelihood to succeed with the conversation.
And also there's often an option C, right? Where but first you need to uncover what they need, maybe. They actually like to start earlier or maybe they can work four hours in the early morning. And then the rest in the evenings are, there's at least some overlap in time zone, something like that.
But you first need to ask questions and understand what matters to them. Maybe they want to do a calisthenic workout, you know, in between those four hours. And it's perfect because that person likes to do a workout in between, in the middle of the day. And that person assumed that it was never possible because you're supposed to work for HR straight. You know, there's a lot of assumptions in personal relationships and that's why they're hurtful.
[00:47:58] Ken: That's one of my favorite things about this topic and that you describe in the book is that the assumptions we make about other people are usually really poorly formed and they're based on how we feel, not based on how other people feel and simply the best way to break through those is communicating, right.
It's communicating to other people what our assumptions are like, how we view or how we respond to feedback or any of these things. And also eliciting those from other people. I think for most people, including myself, it's difficult to be open with people about how I feel and how I respond to things and like be forthcoming with those things.
How would you recommend communicating to other people, you know, how you are best to be interacted with or like what you value and what you care about?
[00:48:57] Gilbert: Yeah, it really depends on the type of people. But if you're a person that is more, that is not very expressive, normally I always advise to, yeah. To have more open conversations with people that are closer to you with your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, with your, with your close friends, and maybe step by step, open up also to our colleagues and eventually clients or whatever it is, the next step.
And by doing, by taking the gradual approach, it's gonna be gonna be easier. And for sure, it's also easier if you understand yourself because often we don't really understand what we feel, you know, let alone express it clearly to others. So that's, that's where it all starts with self-awareness.
Then you can communicate step by step expanding your comfort zone and also getting feedback. And I think an assumption that we all make is that sharing our feelings is not good or will lead to a difficult conversation. But I think we overestimate that we and we underestimate the power of vulnerability saying if you start saying something about how you feel about a situation or about another person, then often you get a lot of positive response where other people share what they think as well.
As long as you don't make any accusations or point any fingers, as long as you have the mindset that you're curious about their perspective, and also asking questions, saying, Hey, this is how I feel, but I'm really interested in hearing what you think that opens up so much for connection and understanding yourself and the other person that it makes it much easier. Does that answer your question?
[00:50:48] Ken: It does. It does. And it got me thinking about vulnerability. So one of my favorite books is called captivate by, I think it's like Vanessa van Edwards. Yeah. And one of the most effective ways to build rapport with someone is by vulnerability, like talking about something you're insecure about or fearful about, or alluding that you're not perfect, right.
And I, you know, that comes very naturally to me, but there's also the other side of that coin, which is like pure self deprecation, which signals very different things. Right. If you are vulnerable, that's actually a very good sign of like strength and confidence because you know, I can talk with a stranger about something I'm insecure about or whatever it is.
But I find that that line between those two things is, can be very thin for some people. I don't think anyone would say that I'm not confident in what I do, but on the flip side, I know many people that are scared to put, you know, they put on a face because they, you know, they believe that that's a slippery slope. How do you differentiate those things and how can someone make sure that they stay on the vulnerability side and less on the deprecation side?
[00:52:02] Gilbert: Yeah, it's a tough question. What, so vulnerability, it's brilliant. Yeah. It's curling me. Maybe we need to swap sides again and me being a podcast. So I ask you question, but that, so the difference between self-deprecation and vulnerability, I think a vulnerability comes from, from power saying, Hey, I'm not, not very good at this, or I'm insecure about this.
But that's okay. And I'm willing to share it and judging yourself and saying, I'm not good at this. I cannot do this. And all these kind of. Spiraling down thoughts are not helpful of course. And also they don't get anywhere, right? If I'm saying to you, Hey, I'm struggling with this part of my business.
Training are not going well, or the it's not selling, blah, blah, can you help that's vulnerability? Let's saying I cannot do this. I feel that entrepreneurship and I'm I'm never gonna make it. That's that's not very helpful. Of course we can start there. But staying in that loop, doesn't, doesn't really make sense in the end. It's about opening up and having the dialogue because of that. If you, if you listen to me and I stay in the spiral, it's not very, it's not going anywhere.
[00:53:24] Ken: Honestly, that was the perfect definition. I'm glad I put you on the spot there because I don't think I could have said it better. You know, I think something you really highlighted was the connection to sort of a growth mindset and like a purpose, right.
If you're vulnerable, because it's gonna help the situation, right. If you're talking about something you're inadequate in currently, or you're inefficient or you're scared of, and it's like, it's towards building connection with someone or towards like, Hey, I was scared about this when I did this too.
And it's encouraging them to do something. And like now you're obviously not scared about it. Like there is there's beauty in showing that progress and like, absolutely. Yeah. The deprecation side is there's, there's no value, right? It's not towards a greater end. It's just knocking yourself down for no reason.
[00:54:12] Gilbert: Exactly, exactly. And often for no reason, because many, I hear many people saying these things that who have incredible talents, but sometimes they don't see it themselves. And I think what makes it this more difficult is vulnerability is because a professional environment there we are supposed to be achieving, be getting results and getting the best, getting the promotion, you know, becoming the best data scientist.
And I think that makes this more challenging to do at a workplace to show that you're, you don't have all the answers, right? There are a lot of managers or any type of professionals who pretend they have all the answers who would never ask a question or say, Hey, I'm not so good at this. Maybe you can help to a person who's more junior.
And I think many people are wearing a mask like a professional mask, but you need to dare to take it off. And of course you cannot know every everyth. You need someone other people to fill your gaps. And if you're not open about your gaps and about your insecurities, then everyone stays closed.
Because as I said, vulnerability moves and inspires when you, when you show it and then other people are gonna talk about it too. And I think it's so important, especially in the data space that people show that they don't have all the answers and it it's okay, but you're gonna work towards the answer and another great book about this is all the books by Brene Brown.
[00:55:45] Ken: I have one of her books sling around here. I think my. I forget which one it was. I, she has a very good podcast as well. My I've listened to a couple of episodes there, her one, I think it was with Adam Grant was really interesting. I'm a huge fan of a lot of the things we talk about you know, related to your book are are, there's a couple themes that are pretty similar. With think again by Adam Grant, you know, I think that you expand on some of the things that, that he goes into there and vice versa. I really like that, and...
[00:56:18] Gilbert: But it's interesting. I bought the book a few months ago. It's here in the back, but I haven't read it yet.
[00:56:24] Ken: I've tell everyone it's very relevant right now, too with, you know, the stuff going on in U.S. with people, you know, not wanting to get vaccinated, wanting to get vaccinated and thinking about the assumptions that they've created or like reasons why you know, people are sticking with certain decisions around that.
I think it's very fascinating. I think it would be an incredible podcast if Adam Grant went on the Joe Rogan podcast and they had a conversation at a bit that that to me would. Well, I know it probably will never happen. I would love that too. That would be a really good show. So I have one last, like I think challenging question I apologize for all the challenging questions.
I like hearing your take on things. So I think people skills, right? They vary tremendously by country and by culture. Right? I think that there's at least for the first three chapters of the book, those are almost completely universal, right. Where everyone can stand to better understand themselves.
Everyone can better stand to better understand how other people Think and work and how their algorithms work, but the way we interface with other people, for example, in Japan, where, where things are extremely hierarchical, right? There is no tolerance of even questions or anything going up the chain of command it's, you know, like do, as I say effectively versus like you know, south America where everything is a lot flatter. Anyone can say anything to everyone that like, there's just these strong cultural differences. How would you like recommend building in a cultural component into, into this framework that you've created?
[00:58:21] Gilbert: Great question. What I do think is that it's partly in the framework already. And what I mean with that is that it becomes even more important to understand yourself if you know, About yourself that you have a tendency to be blunt, not tactful then going to Japan and talking to you'd be great Germany.
Yeah. It is tricky, right. Or Germany. And yeah, so you need to be, you need to be mindful of yourself even more. And of course, culture makes it more complicated because we have different type of rules, different type of unwritten rules. And we need to know, we need to get to know more about other people.
We cannot ask so much about those, those questions because it's, it doesn't work in that dynamic. But what I do think we can do... Still get more information because in the end, the frameworks I talk about the algorithms is about decision making and getting more information, more data, more data from your about yourself and more data from others. I think in a cultural setting that you're less aware of, you need even more data, more outside data, and you can do that by talking to other people, not to the person directly.
If that person is far away conceptually, but talk to other people who know that person to know their interest and know their communication style and know a bit more about them. So I think talking to other people will also help in that case, but it starts, but it's, but I think it emphasizes the need for self-awareness and that component becomes even more important.
[01:00:15] Ken: I've spoken like a true data scientist on the, on the data collection on that front. And yeah, I agree. I think that there's, you know, doing your, doing your homework and research, talking to people and observing, I had a friend I think, you know her as well, Christina Polis, you know, she lived in Spain for quite a while after being in U.S. and culturally like time is very different, right?
If you're late to something in Spain if you're working with people from Spain is not a big deal. Like you work late, you eat dinner late. You like, you just do different things. You work on different time schedules. And that's an adjustment. But to understand that, I mean, she knew that from working with them on calls before and like doing her homework and preparing, and I think that if you can create that cultural framework that you layer on that, that is one input into understanding.
Other people's algorithms as well. Right. So you know, you have like the input, what goes into their, their model and output. That's just another thing that feeds into that model of who they are and how they make the decision. So absolutely. You know, if anyone has any questions about understanding who you are, and in a professional standpoint, I highly recommend the book.
Also just interact with people. if you're in your first data science job, if you're a PM, if you're trying to advance your career, I think that there's a lot of benefits taken away from reading here and we will be giving away three copies of people's skills for analytical thinkers. So make sure you read the description and the pinned comment to figure out how to take away one of those. Gilbert, I have super enjoyed this interview. I always enjoy talking with you. What are you working on now? How can people get in contact with you? You know, where can people learn more.
[01:02:08] Gilbert: Right now I'm working on two things. Giving training programs for companies, for their data scientists, data analysts, to communicate better. So to communicate their insights, their models, so that they make an impact with their data.
So that's for companies and also I'm working on an online course, which individual people can can go through. And I'm gonna launch that in the beginning of of next year. So I'm excited and people can connect with me on LinkedIn. And that's the platform I'm active, found the most. You can find more information about my trainings, it's communication skills training for data science on MindSpeaking.com.
[01:02:48] Ken: Incredible. I will make sure that I link all of those resources in the description below. Thank you so much for coming on. I super enjoyed this and I can't wait till we talk again.
[01:02:58] Gilbert: Yeah. Likewise. Thanks for inviting me. I really enjoyed the conversation.