DevOps Institute

[EP94] Hacking Humans with Patrycja Slawuta


In this episode, Eveline Oehrlich is joined by Patrycja Slawuta to discuss her mission to give people and organizations clear frameworks and practical tools to “mine their own minds” to find purpose, clarity and alignment.

Australia-based, NYC-educated and Poland-born researcher, entrepreneur and mindhacker.

Patrycja is a connoisseur of the complexity, nonlinearity and messiness of the human nature. Behavioral scientist by training, nerdy science and its application is her passion and work. After spending 10+ years in academia, Patrycja founded SelfHackathon, a NYC-based global boutique behavioural consultancy of scientists that applies evidence-based research to help organizations and enterprises navigate the complexities of human nature in the face of disruption, change and uncertainty.

Patrycja believes the human mind is the world’s most untapped natural resource. As such, her mission is to give people and organizations clear frameworks and practical tools to meaningfully and efficiently mine their own minds in order to find purpose, clarity and alignment. In her free time she runs marathons (28 so far), reads (audiobooks) and meditates. In that particular order.

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Narrator 0:02
You’re listening to the Humans of DevOps Podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas and learning, or the SKIL framework.

Patrycja Slawuta 0:13
Old technology, ancient technology, and new technologies is something that we need to know more about because it’s all speeding up and so you can see systems online are just getting hot very often when you know we work with clients, we say hardcopy hot.

Eveline Oehrlich 0:34
Welcome to the Humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m Eveline Oehrlich, Chief Research Officer at DevOps Institute. When we think about hacking, we immediately assume it’s about the act of identifying, and then exploiting weaknesses in a computer system or network, usually to gain unauthorized access to personnel organizational type data, but mind hacking? Have you ever heard of that? Well, I have not. But today, we will learn about what a mind hacker is and more. Today, we have with us Patrycja Slawuta, founder of UnLab and self hackathon, entrepreneur and mind hacker. But richer is Australia based, New York City educated and Poland born researcher, entrepreneur and mind hacker. She’s a connoisseur of complexity, non linearity and messiness of the human nature. behavioral scientist by training, nerdy science and its application is her passion and work. After spending 10 plus years in academia, Patrycja found itself hackathon a New York City based global boutique behavioral consultancy of scientists, and we’ll hear more about that in a minute. But there’s your beliefs believes the human mind is the world’s most untapped natural resource. She actually has that in her signature in her email. As such, her mission is to give people and organizations clear frameworks and practical tools to meaningfully and efficiently mind their own minds in in order to find purpose, clarity and alignment. In our free time, which she has actually she has actually run marathons 28 So far, and she reads audiobooks and meditates. Welcome to our podcast. Patrycja, thank you.

Patrycja Slawuta 2:24
Thank you for having me.

Eveline Oehrlich 2:25
We are excited to have you here. I’m excited to speak to you because I’ve watched your TED talk, and have been trying to get into that activity you’ve done just recently. But it had to be there in person which I was able to travel. So I’m excited to have you with us. Now, just quickly for your information. Our listeners are a variety of folks in IT leaders, individual contributors, DevOps testers, developers, infrastructure operations, folks, cloud people, all kinds of, I would say, nerds but that’s compliment not the derogatory in any kind in any type. I want you to tell them a little bit about unlap and self hackathon.

Patrycja Slawuta 3:12
Sure, so. So Hackathon, both Hackathon and UnLab, their main idea is that we can actually hack and rewire and upgrade ourselves. It all started about 10 years ago, when I was writing my PhD thesis on shame. And my ex husband actually came home and he said, “you know, you know so much about shame. Why don’t you teach it?” And I say, “Well, I don’t think anybody wants to learn about shame.”. It’s such a obscured weird topic, that especially people in New York City that are so focused on, you know, hustle and, and building their businesses want to know about, and he said, Well, why don’t you just try and I put a little ad on Facebook, actually, back in the day, and I called it shameless summer. And it was really the idea was to how do we break down the science of shame, so that people can understand it? And it turned out that the event sold out within two hours. And I had, I think, 25 amazing human beings in my apartment in New York City. And people were coming from Warren saying, Well, why don’t you explain this topic and that topic, you know, topic, basic human topics, like fear and uncertainty. And it turns out that even though we use it on every in everyday basis, those are very complex psychological phenomena. You know, how do you deal with uncertainty? How do you deal with betrayal? How do you deal with risk? How, what is loyalty? Group dynamics, and so it turned out that actually there was a great need to take things out of science. That’s why I called on lab, the company that’s based here in Australia, we take it out of lab and we bring it into life and we break it down into small chunks. Now self Hawk got dawn, the interesting thing about and we talked about hacking, I was trying to I was thinking I was living in Silicon Valley and working in Silicon Valley with a lot of programmers and a lot of nerds and you know, when they when they think about psychology, they think it’s this boring, weird topic that you know, you go on a on a couch at a shrinks office and you know, and you say, Oh, how do you how does it make you feel, which is part of the therapy, but there’s that much more to psychology than just that and clinical psychology. And so the idea was that, you know, programmers program us they, they create tools, but who programmed them. And that was really the idea that we actually programmable technology, we are probably the oldest technology, one of the oldest technologies. We are 300,000 years as Homo sapiens, which means wonder knows, that knows, and we interact with new technologies. And that being metaphor, Evers, that being all kinds of new things, that you know, that interaction, I find that interesting, absolutely fascinating. And this is really where Cytec, that term comes from. And that’s kind of space that we explore, because I think that interaction, old technology, ancient technology, and new technologies is something that we need to know more about, because it’s all speeding up. And so you can see systems around us I just getting hacked, and that includes our own system, we are constantly hacks. And so my bottom line, very often when you know, we work with clients, we say, How could be hacked, back in the day used to be Know thyself. Now, I would say it’s hacked myself, because if you don’t, somebody else will. And there’s entire industries that are built around hacking us and our vulnerabilities, if you wish, just as humans Yeah, that that we have as humans

Eveline Oehrlich 6:32
Love that hack thyself. So how did you get into the field of behavioral scientists?

Patrycja Slawuta 6:38
Well, behavioral science, I would say, is a simplified version of psychology and Maestria, experimental social psychology. But if you tell that to people, they freak out. And so the field that people are used to the interface that people most people are used to dealing with is behavioral science. And so I say, behavior science. However, my field is way wider than that, you know, I specialized in a way in the complexity and messiness, and non linearity of the human experience, individual and then, you know, we already complex as individual Now, multiply that by two and a couple, or multiply that by four in a family, or multiply that by 100, or 1000, in a company, and you get a very, very complex system. And I find those systems, absolutely, utterly fascinating how they work, how we hug each other, how we can influence each other, how our behavior changes in group dynamics, you know, how can we be one person wiser, one circumstance, and then completely different person different circumstance. So that’s, that really is my field. The simplified version is behavior science, because that’s what people actually understand. So the science of human behavior.

Eveline Oehrlich 7:45
So, in we do research every year on skills, particularly in it, so in our 2023, we found that human skills actually ranked as the third must have skill category, we have these categories of process skills and technology skills, and etc. So human skills was behind processing framework and technical but as third, we also know that there are huge skill gaps. And you know, that I don’t have to tell you, it’s not surprising to you. I was doing some research, of course, on my own looking for, you know, some smart questions to ask you and I, and you did an event, I think, November 29, November 17, we need to buy Florida School, I think it was orchestrated, and you said, or in the event, it said the ability to connect deeply, rapidly and authentically with others, is also a hallmark of great leaders. And one of the most important business skills in our current post pandemic world. This actually gets me to your TED Talk, which is how I found you on hacking humanity, which I was absolutely inspired by and I was, I tried to get you into our London event. I’m sorry, that didn’t work out. Because I thought that would have been fantastic. But it really inspired me and I was watching it and anybody who is listening in go look for her hacking humanity, TED talk, it’s fantastic. But when you say for those who might not want to go there, because they’re so busy, when you say hacking humanity, what did you mean, when you say that? What do you mean, tell us a little bit more about that, because I found it intriguing. But your words are so much more powerful, and you can explain it so much better than I can.

Patrycja Slawuta 9:24
Well, that was five years ago. So back in the day, five years ago, now I think it’s even multiply and it’s happening stronger and deeper and faster. The idea was that our systems were being hacked on many levels, our human systems were being hacked by technology. The idea was that actually every single event that we have created an opportunity for us to upgrade or downgrade if you wish, and the choice whether what happens is really up to us. And I think now after COVID This is actually even more pressing. What a week. In a downgrade and will turn into kind of against each other, and you know, it’s all about me, or are we going to connect up in a way and create something that’s meaningful now, hacking humanity, the idea was that actually, at any point, we can hack, we are an upgrade ourselves. And every single event that happens is an opportunity to do that, as I say, we are 30 300,000 year old technology that’s has, you know, throughout ages has been kind of upgrading if you wish, you know, we’ve been collaborating more, we we’ve been creating more, etc. And every single big event in in humanity creates opportunity to kind of upgrade. Now we have had many, many main downgrades, and that includes many wars that we have had genocides and things as such, you can think of yourself as a code, and I see us as a code. So your brain is a code, it has a very simple function. Every single neuron has zero or one. And so multiply that by 100 billion neurons 100 trillion synaptic connection and you get consciousness. But oh, it’s a very simple system. It’s like system of dams. It’s either on or off. Your DNA is also a code. It’s the we call it code of life ACTG. So those are the four letters of life that create all of life. Now, that’s also hackable. And that’s also upgradable. And we know that from epigenetics, we know that things get transmuted through generations, and there is no dispute over that. And our behavior is a code as well. And you know, as a behavioral scientist, I can write down your behavior. And it’s actually not that complicated. It’s stimulus response and reward, we do things because we want some type of reward, or we don’t want some kind of punishment. And so the idea was, can we as humanity can understand how are being hacked, hack ourselves and actually kind of upgrade ourselves. And I think now after COVID, we actually have ability to do that, because things slow down. And they’re, you know, one of your question is, you know, these scary times, and exciting times, and I think those are precisely the times that actually require us to stop and reflect because this is where wisdom comes from. And I think this is where upgrade will come from. And so, it is about practice, it is about tools. And most importantly, it really is about awareness of how we function. And that’s, that’s why I find those times, so absolutely exciting and an amazing opportunity to actually change redefine, how things are being done, and how are we with ourselves? Because I think, you know, a lot of people are reflecting and after COVID, you know, there’s a quiet quitting this whole bunch of things that are happening. And I don’t think they’re happening just like that, you know, the burnout is happening. And this is actually my newest tech talk that I gave two weeks ago. And it’s not out just yet, but it will be out soon. You know, we you know, we want certainty. And we look around and we see the world radicalizing, we feel burnout. When we look around and we see the world burning. We get frustrated, we look around, we see conflict around us. And so that connection of what happens inside and while we actually is being reflected, I suppose is a fascinating one. And, and I think looking around and seeing what’s going on, we actually have an amazing opportunity to upgrade right now.

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Eveline Oehrlich 13:56
Upgrading sounds very attractive, I am going to look for your next TED Talk, of course, but one other question ever remember you were talking about in the second humanity, heart, head and body? Can you elaborate a little bit on that and be a little bit more specific if I want to upgrade my head, my heart and my body? My body? I think, yeah, I’m, you know, trying to do that. But heart and head is something which is a thinker to our listeners and to myself, very important, and I’d love to hear more about it.

Patrycja Slawuta 14:33
Sure. So as I said, you know, I work, we work as psychologist, we work with technology that has 300,000 years and this technology has evolved over that time and has certain rules and has certain schemes and certain system they runs on and so I think of this as a back so you have the front facing kind of a Um, software, user engagement and recall. That’s exactly right. And then there’s there’s the front end. And there’s the back end, right? The front end is the things that I see this is, you know, kordia conversation we’re having right now. But you don’t really know what’s going on in my bucket, right? There’s whole bunch of things that are happening computation stuff that is happening. Now for most of the people that runs in the background. What we have done, talking about human operating system is the system that actually has 300,000 years, and it has four parts. And those are four big branches of psychology. So the head is the software, right? This is our thoughts. This is our assumptions that we have about the world. How should this conversation look like? This is our biases. This is you know, what I how I evolved as a child growing up in Poland, moving to New York City and all those assumptions what it means to be a woman when it means to be a woman in business, you know, what it means to be a mother, things are such so our assumptions and expectations about the world. And those very often are a great source of our pain, because you know, things don’t look as we want it to people disagree with us. And we know we are absolutely right. We want to know what is the truth, oh, we know what the truth is. But you know, all those idiots around us disagree. So this is really the software. So this is the head. Then the second part is the heart. And this is system one versus system two, as Kahneman Tversky will call it those are our emotions and motivations. And this is how we really make decisions. Right. This is what our heart yearns for, what our dreams and desires are. But this is also what keeps us up at night, when we wake up at three in the morning, if some of us do, right with the spinning thoughts and thinking, oh my god, what what is going to be. And so this is really hard. This is the space of emotions, motivations, what motivates us what we don’t want it, what our biggest fears that we’re not even willing to admit to ourselves. It’s a fascinating space, because this is, you know, in my, in my research, this is where the otherness comes from. This is where secrets lie. This is what you know, when conversations that should be have don’t don’t happen, because we’re afraid of what’s going to happen. And thinks as such. Then the third part is actually the hardware which so think of the heart as the electricity that jobs, the entire system into action, it then move towards a move away from the third part is actually the hardware, which is the body. The body is ultimately the hardware, I think what COVID has showed us is actually we’re not only the brain, but we actually have a body, the body is very important because it affects everything else. It’s a giant, it’s a gigantic communication antenna, and not only to others, but also to ourselves, how we stand, how our body is actually very deeply formed our thought patterns, flex our mood. Others react to our bodies, others can read our bodies, probably very often better than we can, our nervousness, anxiety, anger shows in our body. And you know, even though we can say, you know, now I’m perfectly fine, others can read that. So it’s a fascinating tool that we can work with. And from my perspective, I actually think our breath is the most portable mind hacking tool that we have. Our ability to control, manipulate, withhold, our breath is a fantastic capacity that we have as one of few species in the world. So that’s the that’s the third piece is really working with the body. And there’s heaps of research about embodied cognition that goes, you know, books written about it. And that is really the field that’s, that’s blossoming right now in my field in behavioral science. And then the four piece is our network is ultimately we are hardwired to be social, we grow up in social environment, we need others, and others need us. And that’s beautiful network of human to human connection is actually what nourishes us. And so my, actually, my newest TED Talk talks about distributed immune systems. So it turns out that our immune system is not only internal, but it’s also distributed others our number one source of happiness, one of the major sources of health, but also they deeply affect our immune system. And so that is fascinating how actually our relationship to others affect our directly affect our health and functioning of the immune system. And that’s called psycho neuro immunology. And it’s a fantastic field of study that is connecting everything with everything. But it’s very, very cool. And so those four pieces, pretty much every skill that you want to learn has to go through those four layers if you wish of, of stacking. So there’s the mind, very often we make a decision to do something we get excited about something but we never follow through, right because the heart is not there. We don’t know where to start. So the hand is not there in a way you know, we don’t have the discipline and ultimately we don’t have the social support. So very often, you know decisions are made people go to inspirational event that they come back to the net work and then at work pulls up back into the old South. Right? So I go back home, and suddenly I can see the old forces working on me, you know, my mom’s saying something that I reacted as if I was seven and not 37 or whatever. And so those are the four elements that we work with. And they’re very, very nice, because it’s a very nice framework that you can hang any skill set off.

Eveline Oehrlich 20:22
So where do I start? Let me ask you exactly this question. We’re going a little bit off script. But as you know, we’re a community, we’re trying to help people to learn new skills, new behavior, and the community, as you said, it’s the network, right? The head, the heart, we at the DevOps Institute sometimes feel like that, we’re working on one end, where we’re trying to get their head into the game, but if their heart is not in the game, so if I’m an individual, and I’m sitting out there right now, if it’s the end of the year, as we have new year’s resolutions, we all are trying to wade through something. So what would your advice be for somebody who says, hey, 2023 is going to be my year of success? And I will do x? Where do I start? Do I start with the head, the heart, body?

Patrycja Slawuta 21:13
You start with them, they actually need to stack up because one, we’re running force the other. And so first of all, it’s the reflection awareness. You know, your awareness is the most scarce resource in the world. By far as you probably know, their entire industries that do attention merchanting attention selling our attention is such a valuable resource right now that companies feed off it. And so first of all, do you own your attention? Do you do can we reflect on the year I would actually start with reflecting on the year? Like, what do I actually want? And I think what COVID has caused is moloto People change the protests in the life because it turns out, you know, it’s not necessarily doing the work. It’s like, why am I doing this? And because things slow down during COVID, a lot of people actually had time to slow down and actually reflect. And a lot of those reflections unfortunate, fortunately, show that Oh, my God, what I’m doing is actually a not making me happy. Why am I even doing that? I understand I’m making money, but my income, you know, I’m missing how my children are growing up, or I’m a stranger to my partner, or, you know, what I actually do read my diary. Yes, you know, you will be surprised how common this is, for so, so many people. And so I actually find it fascinating because I actually do think that the human mind is the most untapped natural resource. And so we need to dig into those deeper and start using a full brain. But then second of all, like, bring the heart into it, the things that people are willing to do, because the heart is aligned. It’s absolutely fascinating. You know, this is where resilience lives. This is where creativity lives. This is where innovation lives. And so, you know, and it’s not only inspiration, but it’s also things that frustrate us, I mean, the amount of amazing things that started in the world, because somebody said, you know, enough with that, we can do better than this, I understand this is how things used to be, but I just, I don’t want it anymore. And so, you know, positivity is fantastic. But actually being pissed off with the status quo is I applaud that, because I’ve seen people do amazing things just by saying, That’s it, you know, we I think we can do different, and we can do better. So reflect sorry to answer your question,

Eveline Oehrlich 23:35
Reflect, bring them in. So feel, so reflect what has happened, then bring my heart in and feel does this make me happy? Or am I pissed? And what do I want to change? Okay, so I’m there, I’m with you what’s next then.

Patrycja Slawuta 23:49
And then you do the smallest thing possible. There’s a really good book that I recommend to everybody, I’m sure you’ve read it, it’s called atomic habits. But it’s the smallest thing possible that you can do. Because what it does is creates this self auto loop and cognitive dissonance in which you know, you start doing and then doing and doing and then eventually the little habits become little runs that I used to do because I am a runner and becomes identity and you want to go to the identity ever because it’s the bottom of the stack you start at the top of the stack, which is a small action I can do send a newsletter, do something speak up whatever it is put up the website honestly, you know the amount of websites that in amount of people say you know, the poorer the website, they try to make it perfect. Dan is always better than perfect by far. So the smallest thing possible literally go for run around the block. Five minutes, you know, I had the same thing with meditation. I mean, I am diagnosed with ADHD. So meditation is absolutely excruciating to me, but I keep hearing how good meditation is for you. And so I started with three minute meditation because that’s all like my brain could handle And I remember even during even during those three minutes, I will be had a pen and paper next to him because I would get all those ideas. And then I’ll open my eyes and write things down, which was fine. And fast forward, I don’t know, maybe two, three years I’ve been sitting in, you know, 10 day silent the task is not to say that this is, you know, amazing, and I loved it. But those things stack up. And I think Warren Buffett said that the most on appreciate a lot in investing and I would say in psychology is compound interest. Those little tiny things are compounding. And, and that’s, that’s what we actually put our brain is very hard to notice that right? Like, we want big change. Morrow, and that big change, the more just doesn’t happen. Yeah.

Eveline Oehrlich 25:42
To be fit tomorrow, I want to be immediately running 10 kilometers. Yes, absolutely. I want to be a DevOps engineer tomorrow. So awesome.

Patrycja Slawuta 25:51
And the final piece is the network. And I think finding people that will cheer on us or people that we can learn from, it’s absolutely fascinating to see how willing people are to help very often we’re afraid to ask for help. And not only that, they cheer on us. And what I always very often do at the beginning of the year, because I know we’re moving into beginning of the year, or it is already beginning of the year, and when you’re listening to this, you know, share the vision of where you want to go with the people that you respect and you care about and ask them to hold that vision for you. So that they interact with you from that perspective, you’re already there. In other words, they don’t get you off the hook. But they treat you already as a person who’s a runner, who’s a ops developer, who’s this, you know, who has written a book, or whatever it is, they create almost this future self that you can step into, and they act with you from that perspective. And that that is such a strong pull forward. Because we do things because we kind of don’t want to disappoint others, you know, we like to the social approval. And so this is kind of hacking the social approval from so that it works in our favor.

Eveline Oehrlich 27:05
You are wicked good. Oh my god, I could listen and talk to you another many, many, many minutes. But I want to leave it right there. Because I think you gave us fantastic advice for the next year. This has been fantastic. Pretty sure I really, really love it. What else do you do besides behavioral scientists when you go for besides running a marathon? What do you do for fun on the weekend?

Patrycja Slawuta 27:28
Me? Well, I just moved to Australia after 13 years in New York City. So I’m trying to learn how to swim properly. And so been exploring swimming, which is a very different modality. For me, I’m a very grounded person I like to be on the earth and running is my connection running is my meditation, I always say running is my prayer as well. This is how I pray. You know, this is how I give my thanks in a way. And swimming is a completely different modality. And I you know, it’s completely out of my comfort zone. It’s hard. I’m a bad swimmer. Because I grew up in Poland, we own the Great Plains, there was no water. And if you go into the Baltic Sea gets even worse, you don’t want to swim in this thing. And so, you know, I’m eating humble pie, and I swim and all those kids next to him because they grew up by the water. They’re all swim like fish. And I’m like, splashing. So but it’s a changing modality is very interesting. So I’m seeing myself learn again.

Eveline Oehrlich 28:29
Wow, what a challenge. Fantastic. Thank you very, very much. We’ve been talking to Patrycja Slawuta. I hope I said your name correctly. Founder of UnLab and self hackathon entrepreneur mind hacker, producer, thank you so much for your time. I wish you the best wonderful, wonderful holidays, enjoy, relax, travel safely, wherever you go. I know you love to travel as well. I do as well. I’m traveling, you’re traveling, but we’ll go different directions. So we won’t cross our paths. But let’s stay in touch. And for our listeners, this will be really, really exciting to have more I’ll share with you when the new TED Talk comes out. Again, thanks Patrycja. Humans of DevOps Podcast is produced by the DevOps Institute. Our audio production team includes Julia Papp and Brendan Lay. I am the Humans of DevOps Podcast executive producer Eveline Oehrlich. If you’d like to join us on the podcast, please contact us Humans of DevOps Podcast at I’m Eveline. Thank you.

Narrator 29:41
Thanks for listening to this episode of the Humans of DevOps Podcast. Don’t forget to join our global community to get access to even more great resources like this. Until next time, remember, you are part of something bigger than yourself. You belong


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