When I started Junior High School, this same exact process somehow got applied to social interactions. I would think about the endless ways a social interaction could go bad, leading to a great deal of social anxiety. The only way to calm myself down was to watch people and interact with them. If I thought someone was mad at me, I had to know why. How did I get that answer? Interactions and careful observation. I also had this belief for most of my life that people were going to randomly attack me. I don't know where it came from but no matter where I was, I thought someone would hit or mug me, etc. I calmed that down by paying careful attention to my surroundings.
Between the ages of about 12-25, I was hyper-focused on my situational and interpersonal awareness. Looking at me you would have absolutely no idea anything was wrong. I was good at hiding it, but I spent most of my youth in this persistent state of external analysis. Paying attention to people relaxed me. It made me feel safe and in control. If you watch people all of the time, you are going to get pretty damn good at reading people.
The problem is “people watching” is a flawed game. Although my confidence in my abilities was high, I couldn't know if my "reads" were correct. So, I came up with ways of finding out. If I saw someone looking at me with a slightly menacing and angry disposition, I would walk up to them and try to figure out if that was just their face, or if they were genuinely angry at me. In a graduate class on experimental psychology, I started to realize that there was a much more efficient way of doing this. Record people and ask them; and while it took several years, that is exactly what I ended up doing.
I was teaching Psychology at the City University of New York, but playing poker professionally for pretty much my entire income. In 2009, I took some of that money and set up my first "study" on Super Bowl Weekend. While most of America was watching football, I was conducting my first behavioral study known as THE BLIND DATE. I rented out a restaurant in NYC, and hosted a series of 10 blind dates recording the participants from multiple angles. I then spent the next several months breaking down the footage. It was in those months analyzing the video that was conceived.
With video and a systematic process for interpreting behavior, everything became so clear. You could see the exact moment where a participant was offended, attracted, bored, challenged, intrigued; and you could predict the success of the date based on an individual’s ability to read and actively respond to their date’s subtle or overt behavioral signals.
Three years later in 2012, I opened our first office in the West Side of New York City. Since then, I have led classes for thousands of people, worked with some of the largest corporations in the world, coached some truly amazing people, and have done a lot of very weird and cool projects including conducting the largest behavioral study on poker players. Note: This a general summary. In a lot of my content I will tell more aspects of this story.