What is your elevator pitch?

First of all: What is an elevator pitch? Luckily the blog challenge team explains their questions always a bit more and they say that an elevator pitch is everything that you get excited about, the “fun stuff in your life” as they call it.

So far so good, so what is it now, my elevator pitch? When I think about the fun stuff in my life, one thing immediately pops up in my head (I guess that’s a good sign that I found my elevator pitch). I really like to think about statistics. Reading, Analyzing, Creating. Everything you can do with it.

As a kid I liked to play “Top Trumps” (Wikipedia) and soon wanted to find out which one is the best card, so I created a league system and let the cards play against each other by comparing every value with each other and thus the card with the most points wins. Later I used the data to draw some graphs to make the result more clear (the problem was that I drew very small and thus nobody could see a lot). These were my first experiences with statistics and drawing the results. By the way, I was very disappointed with my results, because it turned out that of all the different “Top Trumps”-games I had, there were only a few which didn’t have a card, that won all the games (pretty unfair, isn’t it?).

I got interested in analyzing and reading statistics after reading the book “Lügen mit Zahlen: Wie wir mit Statistiken manipuliert werden” by Bosbach and Korff (2011). The authors show how you can manipulate people by making statistics and changing them a little, so they don’t get wrong but also loose some of their unwanted truth. For example (I got it from the book) let’s look at two politicians fighting for your vote. The first one tells you that in the past, while he was governing, the number of teachers working in schools grew by let’s say 100. The second one tells, that during his reign the government hired 300 new teachers. Based on these information, whom would you give your vote?

Well would you change your mind, if I told you that during the reign of the second politician there were also 350 teachers loosing their jobs? As you can see by leaving out the bad numbers, one can create very beautiful numbers and thus creating a falsely positive image about something not that shiny, and one doesn’t even have to lie. There are a lot more tricks shown in the books and they made me aware of manipulative statistics in newspaper, voting campaigns, advertisement and such. I recognized the tricks of the book very often and thus believing the sources less.

Since statistics surround us everywhere in our daily life and not few of them have been made more beautiful and manipulated, I found it very helpful for me to filter out some of the wrong images and trying to get to the real information by just looking at the real numbers.

What’s one thing you’re proud of?

I’m proud of keeping up my new habits for almost three weeks now! Three weeks ago I decided to write this blog again and finally do the blog challenge. At the same time I also wanted to do sports 4 times a week, at least one time of them swimming, which I also managed to do. And I have to say that this feels good. I feel less tired and more confident because I see that I can do this. By receiving a lot of good feedback and encouragement by my girlfriend, family and friends it is easier to keep doing this. A big thanks to all of you for that! All of this motivates me more and more and I don’t feel like I ever want to stop.

It also helps me a lot to put appointments for the habits into my weekly plan. That way I always take the time to write and it feels harder not to do it, since I would have to move the appointment to somewhere else then. For sports I always plan 5 times so I can skip one time, if necessary or when I’m just too lazy. But since I still follow my habit that way I don’t feel broken down if I miss one of the 5 times and it’s easier to continue. The last times I tried to develop new habits the biggest problem was, that I felt like I had no time for them and thus stopped. By planning more time for it than needed, everything becomes suddenly more flexible and it feels like I have more time in the end. This little trick is also a huge help for me to keep on going.

What do people thank you for?

People usually thank me for every help I give them. I can’t remember any situation where I helped someone and didn’t get a quick “thank you” in return.

In some situations I really enjoy helping, especially when you get a big thanks afterwards, and in some less, like helping in the kitchen or so – which doesn’t mean I’m never doing it! But let’s focus on the nice stuff.

I really enjoy helping someone with problems of thought, like answering mathematical, logical or even philosophical questions. The great thing about these is that you really have to think yourself into the problem and try to get closer to the answer step by step by creating new ideas and trashing them again after proving them wrong. The good thing is that you can often keep some single thoughts of it and thus creating the solution out of multiple ideas. It’s somehow fascinating to see how (hopefully) all the ideas merge into one solution in the end, a big puzzle of all the small true pieces in every idea. If you can create this with someone else, it’s much nicer, because others get ideas from a complete different point of view (especially in philosophy!). That’s why I’m always very happy if someone asks me for some ideas on an interesting topic and I’m eager to help, aiming for a beautiful solution in the end. Getting a thanks afterwards fills me with a feeling of pride, that I was able to bring in some thoughts and help on the problem.

It’s somehow funny that sometimes you don’t have to create any ideas to already help. Often it’s already enough to just listen to someone, especially when it’s about something in the private life. Problems here are often very complex, so finding a solution is mostly not possible, but already listening to someone and showing him that he’s not alone on this, can already help a lot. From what I experienced you don’t really have to bring up ideas (I often found myself not being able to do so), just focusing on the story and listen to it attentively is enough to make someone feel much better. And who knows? Maybe the story also gives some inspiration for one’s own problems or view of life. So afterwards I always feel thoughtful about the talk, trying to find some ideas to solve the situation, but also having some nice feeling in my stomach which makes me comfortable with myself.

There is one thing though, which often bothers me about helping. When people start to think about help as some kind of currency, which you can only get when you give something in return. I don’t like the idea of helping someone knowing it creates an urge in him to return something in exchange. It leaves me somehow uncomfortable. Also I don’t like getting help when it’s just because someone is owing me something or expecting something from me. Personally I enjoy helping much more, when I just get a simple but honest thanks in return, without wasting a thought about any depths or so.

Why do we always have to weigh the “helps” against each other instead of simply accepting it? In my opinion you can’t really value help and thus thinking about depths doesn’t help anyone. If someone helps me I like him more and help him more, but not simply because I owe him something but because I think of him as a person who is worth it and I don’t care if I put more effort in it or whatever value you want to use to assign “help” some kind of “fair” value. It would be more helpful for everyone, if we would stop thinking about it as a currency and instead just help more.

What really makes you angry about this world?

Since I am usually a very calm guy, I seldom get angry at something, so I had to think about this question for quite some time. At first nothing really popped up in my head, only things which are bothering me but not creating real anger.

To find an answer I had to think back to the moments where I felt a little anger against someone or something. So I found one thing that is making me angry: Selfishness!

People who don’t watch out for others or show no respect to them can make me really angry. The most common situation I find myself in is, where I stand at the bus stop or train station and a smoker arrives, lighting a cigarette and placing himself right next to me or other nonsmokers. Of course there are also respectful smokers who take care that the smoke stays away from everybody and stay inside the smoking areas, but smoking right next to nonsmokers without asking if it’s okay is just selfish in my eyes.

The sad thing is that I have the feeling, that people in this world are getting more and more selfish and loosing their respect of each other. In my opinion being selfish hasn’t been thought through completely.

When we look at the climate change for example we can see that it is impossible to fight against it without working together. American’s president Trump’s withdraw of the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement shows how selfishness can hurt the whole society. He did it because the agreement put the United States in “a very, very big economic disadvantage“, so a selfish reason. The problem is that the negative effects which will resolve out of this decision will have an effect on every human on earth, while at first it seems to be profitable for America itself to be able to spend the saved money on something else. The problem is that if everyone wants to have these advantages, the whole system would collapse (in this case the earth) and everybody looses. So to be successful in the long run it would be better for everyone to work together without thinking about his own.

But every society can bear some amount of selfishness before collapsing. If for example all the countries of the world would save some more emissions, they could make up for all the extra emissions from America and the system could still hold while America takes his advantages from the society. (I know this is very simplified, but it roughly works this way).

One could also see it as some kind of crowd funding, if everyone gives a little then a lot can be achieved. This system could be applied in many situations in daily life, for example keeping your lane in traffic jams (although the other one seems to go faster) or to use plastic bags multiple times to save some small emissions. Every little helps.

In the end everyone has to decide on ones own about how much one can or wants to give into a society and how much one takes out of it. Although one must consider that if everyone tries to maximize his gain, nobody would get anything.

Trying to develop new habits

Hi everyone,

it has been a very long time since I announced my will to do the blog challenge and nothing followed.

That has multiple reasons. I guess the main reason was that I had to write a paper for my university and got stressed a lot because I started too late with it (lesson learned – I hope). After that I had a wonderful vacation in Indonesia and met my lovely girlfriend for the first time, which was amazing! (I will tell you more about the vacation maybe in future posts…) So in the following months after I came back to Germany, I didn’t really think about this blog anymore and somehow let it out of my sight.

After I finished my exams for the semesters I had a lot of free time and found myself pretty unmotivated for doing anything, wasting time by looking at my phone and switching between the same 4 apps over and over again. This made me fed up and weary, which was leading to even less motivation. I felt like moving in a spiral downwards. Every evening I went to sleep with the thoughts of getting up early on the next day and going running or so, but in the end I found my phone being more interesting.

In the end this showed me two things:

  1.  If you break with a habit, which you want to establish new to your life, it’s really really hard to get it back on track.
  2. If you break with one habit, you get unhappy with yourself and start to break the others as well.

Luckily for me I got my motivation back through my girlfriend. She started to do workout every day and go swimming weekly and suggested that I should do the same – big thanks to her! It’s much more effective when such a nudge (or big push in this case) comes from someone other than you. Because the other person will keep asking you (more often than you would ask yourself) if you already went swimming or whatever habit you want to establish. Also it’s a lot harder to deny these questions because you don’t want the other one to be disappointed and thus have to come up with an apology. Picturing that situation in my mind, I think it’s a lot easier to just go swimming than trying to squirm myself out of that question. So probably she saved me a lot of bad and unhappy weeks or maybe even months by making me actually do the things, which I always want myself to do.

With the goal of going swimming once a week, I started slowly again. Being able to do that I got more and more motivated and added other habits one by one. Going running, doing some workout every day – even when it’s only some push-ups, the main part is that I did something at least – and now back to write this blog once again.

My plan is to write one post every Tuesday evening. I made the experience that I follow a schedule more than when I just have the goal without a specific time to do it. Before that I wanna reflect my week and write down some notes about what I’m proud of, the things I accomplished the week before and the things which I regret having done.

I see this as a little experiment to make me pleased with myself and I’m looking forward to realize this idea. Hopefully I will be able to finally begin and finish the blog challenge. I would be thankful for every reminder and uncomfortable question when I try to break with this new habit. But hopefully that will never happen!

I’m so thankful that I could write all of this to you, it is relieving some bad feelings in me and making me even more motivated and comfortable with myself.