What Revolution Will You Lead?

This is exciting, my last post to complete the Blog Challenge. The writing prompt is again a big question, so let’s think big and ahead of the tiny small steps I mentioned in my previous post. To put it bluntly, the revolution I want to see happening is that people use their brains more often and are conscious of their decisions (especially me).

In today’s world it is quite tempting to often avoid thinking. We have so many options to keep us occupied, let it be the TV, our smartphone or the radio. After a long workday there is of course nothing wrong with wanting to relax a little and let your mind be taken to another place. But we should be aware for example, that during our sessions of YouTube-Browsing or just watching whatever is currently on our TV-channel, advertisements tell us subconsciously which products to buy. Moreover, the TV-channel’s editor tell you what to watch in the first place. In general, there are probably many people who will gladly do all the thinking for us (i.e. deciding for us), but not always in our best interest. Be it advertisers who want us to buy unnecessary products or owners of gambling halls etc.

As I see it, the best way to fight back against manipulation, is to eliminate the pray. Like when we cut our plants and trees to get rid of bugs and pests. As long as the stupidest but manipulative advertising slogans increase sales, we will continuously get more of these. It seems that short slogans in huge letters increase sales a lot more than an ad that is actually informative. But that is only my perception, I did not have the time to check the numbers yet. Another problem is, that it is not so easy to escape from advertisement, since it is everywhere. In general, advertising our products is a necessity. We have to make our products known to the world in order to get any profit out of it or share the benefit of our products. What pains me is, that advertising becomes less and less informative but rather focuses on appealing to our primitive senses. So instead of contributing to our decision making, advertisement often makes it even harder to arrive at an objective decision or just makes us buy things we would never have thought of buying on our own.

The best protection I can come up with for now, is to be aware of what we consume on the radio, TV and the internet and eliminate as much advertisement as possible. There is a plugin called Adblock that you can install in your browser to eliminate most ads from your browsing experience. When I am driving in the car I started to listen to my music instead of the radio, since there is a 5 minute ad block every half hour or so. Speaking of revolution, I would like to see that our interactions in this world happen more honestly. Unfortunately I fear that it is going the other way at the moment, where the internet is used to strategically place misinformation and spread rumors. Which brings me to politics…

From my perception, we focus to much on individuals when it comes to politics. Moreover on what the individuals say rather than their actions and plans to solve our society’s problems. To be honest, I am far away from grasping the implications their decisions have (and I guess often enough, the people making the decisions feel the same way). The problem is, that our focus (the voter’s focus) also determines the focus of the politicians, since they want to stay in office of course. So as long as we do not understand the decisions they make and only focus on how they are doing in front of the camera, that is exactly what they also will focus on, too. Therefore I wish to give them a harder time by trying to understand how everything works and maybe spread the word about ideas and concepts that I learn. And now I will pad myself on the shoulder for finally completing this Blog Challenge and hopefully get back to you soon.

What difference do you want to make?

Okay, I lost it again. At the end of march I was able to complete two posts of the blog challenge on consecutive days. That was great! I felt pretty good about it. But somehow I lost track of the writing habit and did not get back on it and finish the challenge – until now (fingers crossed). Of course, it would have been much cooler, if I had finished this blog challenge in one week – the time-span it was designed for. But getting back at something that is important to you after having failed over and over to finish it also deserves some credit in my eyes. (As long as you don’t fail on purpose to give yourself some more credit, which I suspect I might be doing sometimes.)

Before writing the actual post and answer the writing prompt question, I asked myself what stopped me again from keeping this writing thing going? Since I write a short journal entry every day I was actually able to do that. How cool is that? A little journaling usually does not take too much time or effort but can have big payoffs like in my situation now. On the days in question I took some vacation days for about two weeks and just relaxed, enjoying some time with friends and family. No problem there, since we must take some time off now and then. But after the two weeks I did not get back to writing and the main reasons I identified were too much stress at work and lack of willpower, motivation and sleep. Ironically, as I am writing this, I think that all of these problems are more or less resolved for now. I did not stress out too much about open problems at work recently, got my motivation back by encouraging comments I received from friends and family who read my posts and I took good care that I got my necessary hours of sleep. As at least some willpower comes back automatically when you are well rested, I was able to sit myself down with my laptop and get to write.

So let’s get to the actual question: What difference do I want to make? Again, that is a tough one for me. When I was young and naive I dreamed about being a world changer, solving problems for humankind like hunger, war conflicts or the extreme capitalism. Now, I might be still young and naive, but at least a bit little wiser, I think that I should bake smaller buns first. (This site phrasen.com tells me the equivalent english saying is “to eat humble pie”.) What that means is, that I should focus on things I can influence and take tiny small steps to improve myself and maybe also my environment. Then my goal will be to share my experiences here.

For now I want to get back to experiment with new ideas I read about and most importantly analyze the way these ideas seem to work and state my case about that matter on this blog. This is the main reason I started it in the first place. In essence, the difference I want to make (refraining from using my usual diplomatic “I would like to make” here) is to get people to think more about their actions and about all kinds of things that they deem worth thinking about. The things I deem worth thinking about and the ideas I consider “worth spreading” I want to post here. (You might also get a few TED Talk links.). I hope you will also share your ideas somewhere, if just when talking with other people, and not hold them to yourself, since diversity can sometimes make all the difference.

What’s your elevator pitch?

When I read this writing prompt I had to ask myself “What actually is an elevator pitch?”. Never heard that one before, but the subtext of the Blog Challenge already told that I was supposed to write about what excites me. Luckily there is also Wikipedia, which has a site entry for the so called “Elevator Pitch“. It seems to be basically about the idea of meeting one of the big fishes by chance on the elevator and having the time of one elevator ride to convince them of your ideas or at least get them interested enough to continue the conversation after existing the elevator or even later on. Okay enough putting the actual question off. So what do I get excited about?

One thing that never failed to get me excited is finally understanding something that before seemed completely incomprehensible and complex. As a math student, something being incomprehensible and complex happened a lot to me. There were lectures I never really got into, because I failed to put enough effort in from the start and already was lost after the first few sessions. The complexity of the courses seemed just insurmountable. The weekly due exercises were copied from some genius classmates or someone who found the solution on the internet. More often than not, finding the solution was in fact the task of actually finding it – handed to you for copying. But there were also the lectures where I did not get left behind in the beginning and was actually able to solve many of the problems with my study group. There we sometimes ended up being the genius students that everybody would copy from. That felt great! In these lectures, no problem could stop us. Why? First, because it was fun solving things and therefore we took the time discussing the problems and actually tried solving them BEFORE looking for a solution elsewhere. In the end in most semesters it was about one or two lectures of the first kind I described and one or two of the later.

The lesson which I see in hindsight for myself is that you don’t have to be a genius in order to be perceived as a genius from others. Overcoming complexities and complicated things sometimes only depends on learning about it in little digestible chunks for the brain. Sometimes bottom up from the elementary. Of course this can take a huge amount of time and can often depend on getting the right material, but in the long run I believe we can overcome any mental barriers we thought impossible to breach. Doing so does feel awesome and I wish to continue getting high on that feeling here at this blog. This feeling of finally seeing some clarity, when things start to make sense. And I think there is a ton of problems in all areas out there to get syked up about.

Okay, if I told you all this in an elevator ride, it probably had to be a long one, possibly at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai with well more than a hundred floors. But I still hope you got a sense of what I am getting at here. I want to chase this excitement about understanding how something works once more. I hope this blog gives me the motivation and energy to pull it off, because standing in front of an unbreachable barrier can be quite a turn off. And in the recent past, I got intimidated way to much by the mountains of things I don’t know. Of course we will never be able to climb on top of all mountains in the world, but we can definitely climb one – step by step.

What’s one thing you are proud of?

After having caught the flu and fallen into a rut for a week, it is time for me to get this writing thing going again with today’s writing prompt of the Blog Challenge. So, one thing I am proud of? Starting this blog! No matter where it takes me or even when I later look back and shake my head about my silly ideas and articles I wrote, I am proud of one thing. Having done it! Hell, if people ask me “So, what do you do?” I can now answer that I am a writer (maybe with my best Nick Miller imitation). How cool is that? But that is not the thing that matters actually.

The thing that matters was that I overcame all my fears of doing it. The fears of putting something of myself out there, for literally anyone to read and anyone to judge (if by chance they found their way to my blog). Especially the latter, the fear of judgement, still drives me insane sometimes. But on the other hand this lets me to be proud of every single post I put up here, since I still have to overcome this fears and second guessing. No matter how silly it sounds, just writing these few words make me smile again in astonishment that I am really doing this. Me, who usually keeps his thoughts to himself.

Another beautiful thing about this will hopefully be that it is a long process to be proud of. In fact I think I too often neglect the process behind the things I do. Like when we collect some skills over the years and in hindsight everything does not look so hard anymore and not worth mentioning. For me, I had big troubles being proud of my bachelor and master’s thesis. I kept thinking, “Boy, have you been blind? Why didn’t you get this done sooner?” etc. At the end of a process of becoming familiar with a particular topic anyone could easily say that to himself and thereby neglecting the process one went through. Here, my posts will always show my process and I am determined to be proud of every single one. Not because they are any good, but because I published them without being perfect and try to grow in the process.

As for the Sherlock Holmes reference, I think he is most proud about being the self-claimed (at least in some Holmes’ stories, don’t know about the originals) world’s best detective. But he also seems to be aware of the process that made him as skillful as he is, since he keeps this process ongoing by setting up various exercises for himself in his free time to sharpen his skills.

What do people thank you for?

Today’s writing prompt “What do people thank you for?” is not an easy one for me. I might have problems to accept people’s gratitude at times, which goes along with replies like “No worries”, “Oh it was nothing” etc. Instead of saying that I was happy to help and actually did put some effort into it. Maybe it has something to do with my own problems to accept extraordinary help of others. There is this compulsion to always keep a clean slate with other people. When you received help, give at least the same amount back.

While in general this rule is honorable, a strict appliance could possibly lead to social problems. Think about it, not everyone can give more than they are receiving. If there are people who actually give more, there have to be also people who receive more help than they can give at the given time. Should they feel bad about themselves that they have to rely on their friends help for some time? Should they turn down any help in the first place in order to not defy the rule of giving more than we take. I believe the answer to both question should be a definite NO. But too often I find myself turning down help in order to not feel uncomfortable about the imbalance on the help-sheet with a friend or colleague. Lately, I am trying to monitor these situation and except help more willingly and maybe make the other person feel good about being able to help. The easiest measure is probably given when lending people money. I often forget about lending money to people, but if I owe someone, it comes to mind all the time. Sounds familiar? We want to keep a positive balance! Of course, for example always accepting free drinks but never throw a round yourself is not very nice. But I believe that sometimes we would not be worse of, if we stopped worrying about balances and started helping each others out without social pressures.

So what do people actually thank me for? As with the money I lend to people, I also tend to see my own giving as less important than my taking. But I think people most often thank me for simple deeds, holding up the elevator, stuff like that. I guess these situations happen most often and is also very easy to accept this help. Apart from that, I like explaining things and think that people appreciate me taking the time to listen to their problems and trying to solve them by making them my own. I hate to be forced to say things like “Oh sorry, I do not know anything about that”. Thinking about the problem and offering advice is way more fun. But at least sometimes people would be better off seeking someone who can be really helpful than wasting time listening to what I work out in my head. A good solution could be to tell people upfront that you have no idea but would be happy to figure it out together. More often than not we don’t have to be experts to be of actual help, like Watson becomes essential for Sherlock Holmes for solving the crimes without him being an expert about the detective work.

What makes me angry about this world?

Okay, time to deliver! I guess there are  many things these days that could get your blood boiled, but lately what bothered me most lately was laziness, mostly my own. I am bringing this up here, because I think that a lot of times the environments we live in, support laziness over action. We align the furniture in our living room with respect to the TV, so we end up on the couch quite often. And what is on air these days, is sometimes far beyond educational. Shows like ‘I am a celebrity … get me out of here’, which is still in production here in Germany after many years, and other random game shows are also an the rise on the traditional channel, which usually are considered to be more educational. Of course, after a long working day it is nice to let your mind relax for some time and just be taking elsewhere, wherever the screen takes you. But does it have to be a jungle where people eat disgusting food and do more disgusting things in order to get some extra food? If that is still the concept. And yes I have to admit that I also have seen an episode or so in the first year. There might be the many reasons to watch these kind of shows, but I cannot make out any good ones. Sometimes picking up a book is a better choice, but more often than not, turning on the TV with the remote is easier done than getting up and fetching your book.

But it is not only our living room, the are escalators everywhere, even at the stairs that lead to the fitness center. If there is a choice between escalator and stairs what do you pick? For most people the escalator is the default choice to take. Of course, there should always be an elevator for people who otherwise could not reach the platform at the train station etc, but many most of the time the escalators take up unnecessary energy and rob many people of a little workout, that they later have to pay for in the fitness center. I know it might be a small thing, but this kind of unnecessary waste of resources just bugs me.

Our kitchens are sometimes also filled with things we not really need, like an egg boiler. A simple pot with water and a timer does the job just fine in almost the same time. If we have to search first for the egg boiler through all the other kitchenware we might as well be even faster with the good old method. And both the pot and the timer can actually be reused for many other purposes. Being against capitalism probably is not very sexy, but we overproduce so much and so many unnecessary things, while at the some time failing to distribute our resources around the whole world. But who does not know that already? … And we are still always looking for the cheapest price, that does not necessarily comes from appropriate wages for the people who produced it. Writing about topics like poverty and the unbalances of the world is probably not easy and a bit worn out maybe, but I still want to give this some thought in the feature and remind myself that there is always a choice between products. Sherlock Holmes says in A Case of Identity: 

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

I believe the same holds true for our daily choices. How do we design our environment? Do we rob ourselves of even the littlest exercises during the day by avoiding the stairs? And do we actually care where our products come from? I think these choices make out a big share of who we are and when I think a bit back I am not always proud of my little choices. But everyday I take the stairs with a little smile on my face, knowing that we still have choices. And we have to start somewhere right? No matter how small, it’s the little things that are most important.