January 15, 2011

Hang Son Doong - Vietnam's Infinite Cave

Let me give you a short review on my last blog entry. I really appreciate all the positive responses I have received this week. They show me that it was the right decision to go on the offensive. I hope that I've already succeeded in igniting the fire in some of you.

In my last blog entry, I used the power of words. In contrast, this time I simply want to rely on the power of pictures. I want to show you a photo which is truly mind-blowing. It shows Hang Son Doong ("Mountain River Cave") in Vietnam. It's considered to be the largest cave in the world. A skyscraper would fit in there. A freaking 800 ft scyscraper! But take a look for yourself:

click on the photo for full view
For those interested in more information about Hang Son Doong: National Geographic article + photo gallery

January 09, 2011

Declaration of Ambition 2011

Happy new year! It's 2011 and I hear the graduation clock ticking because the final calendar year of my studies at Freie University Berlin has begun and I've got big plans to realize. But before I'll come to my actual plans, I'd like to address something which has been on my mind for quite some time. There are some people out there who consider me to be a nerd without a life. In fact, such rumors don't bother me at all because I know better and, to be honest, I actually feel sorry for them, but I thought it's the right moment to make something crystal clear to those people by asking them some simple questions.
  • Do you think I have to work 24/7 to get such good results just because they are out of your reach?
  • Do you think I don't have a private life just because I prefer not to talk about it in public? 
  • Do you really think that you're cool if you arrive 30 minutes too late to every lecture, need years to pass even the easiest exams or preen yourself on how you get wasted even at weekdays?
People don't laugh with you. They laugh at you and how you fail in life! You really can't make me mad because of the way you think of me personally, but you certainly do make me furious with the way you judge exceptional performance shown by the people around you. Unfortunately, not everyone has the strength to give a damn on what you think. I mean, we are grownups. We are scientists. But you are a shame for those lecturers and fellow students who are motivated and who actually do want to achieve something in life. You don't show any passion for what you do and you don't respect the people around you, so never ever expect people to show some respect for you! Period.

Now, lets get to what is ahead on my way. As I always try to raise the bar and inspire other people, the following lines have been waiting to be written for a long time. Even though they might be grist to the mill of the people I addressed in the last paragraph, I no longer want to hold back. I know that many people admire me for my motivation, but I'm also aware of the fact that most of them struggle to cope with my commitment and my workload. Well, I understand that it might be somehow difficult to understand me the way I am right now, but if you think that I've been close to my limits, you are mistaken. You ain't seen nothing yet because there definitely is no limit to my ambition and with the beginning of the new year, I decided to launch the next rocket stage.

I'm contented with my achievements so far, but I'm definitely not satisfied because I'm not interested in modest success. I want to take geophysics to the next level by learning from the best and working with the best. I want to go as far as possible and beyond. And in the end, I want to become the best the petroleum industry and geophysics have ever seen. Well, this sounds huge? Sure it does and to many people this may sound cocky and arrogant, but don't get me wrong. I don't say that I am the best right now. It's a very long way of hard work and perseverance. This year, I'm just getting to the end of the first episode. Nevertheless, I believe in myself and I want it badly enough to make it happen. I'm ready to tear myself apart to go that way and make it happen.

I admit that this blog entry and the attitude behind it are controversial. But that is only because, in today's society, we really have a big problem with showing confidence and especially with speaking about goals and dreams. It took me almost four years to find the strength and confidence to declare my ambition and my goals. And yes, it takes guts to do this, but we only have this one life. So is there any reason why one shouldn't want to make the absolute best of it? I don't think so.

Some years ago, I came across a theory which I have internalized more and more in recent years. This theory states that there are only three main categories of people when it comes to success. It is quite simple and applicable to all dimensions of life: science, sports, economics, politics and even arts. To the first category belong those people who are blessed with talent. Such prodigies don't have to work hard and probably still become stars in their fields. To the second category belong those people who don't have much talent, but who show much love and commitment to their fields. If they stay focussed and work really hard, they also have a chance to become big names in what they do. People in the third category combine the strengths of the other two categories. They are gifted with immense talent and show exemplary commitment. And that is the stuff legends are made of. I truly admire those people in the third category. Even though they belong to the best in their fields, they still work hard to get better and better. All of them are driven by love for their fields and the ambition to create or achieve something special. This attitude creates a special aura which I appreciate to the highest extent. I just want to give you two examples of amazing individuals who have inspired me along my way.

When I was a little boy, I was amazed by the talent and commitment of Michael Jordan. He was not afraid to loose games, but he hated it. His passion for competition and success was so strong that he was able to totally focus all of his energy on getting better and achieving particular goals. That made him become the best basketball player of all time, probably even the best athlete of all time. I get goosebumps everytime I watch the video of him crying and hugging the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after winning his first NBA championship. Becoming NBA champion was his dream from childhood on, but when he finally won it, this was just the beginning of a career like never seen before.

The matchless confidence of John D. Rockefeller and his achievements as the founder of Standard Oil actually sparked my interest in the petroleum industry. He probably is the prime example of how to turn from rags to riches. However, my admiration for him doesn't come from his fortune, but from what it's based on: pure willpower to succeed and make that much money by any means. Out of nothing, Rockefeller created a dynasty of excellent businessmen and philanthropists.

Coming back to science, I've got huge respect for the achievements of remarkable geophysicists such as Richter, Yilmaz and Nur just to name three of them. However, I've never ever felt humbled when I think of those men. At no point I wasted any thought on the possibility that I wouldn't be able to achieve the same things, maybe even better. In my opinion, this is a very important attitude to represent if you want to become a scientist because you always need to question everyone and even yourself. It might be hard to train, but every single day I'm ready to sacrifice my previous knowledge in order to be open for new input. Yes, I am gifted with talent, bus I wouldn't give a damn for talent if I didn't have the willpower to get better and better. And that brings me back to the point of being contented, but not satisfied. You can only think that way if you really want to improve constantly.

That surely has been some heavy stuff in the last paragraphs, but now just take a closer look at the near future. When it comes to graduation, there always is the question of what to do next. I know my strengths and I'm also aware of my market value, but to be honest, I'm not 100 percent sure about what to do after graduation. I've narrowed it down to some really interesting and challenging options and I hopefully will be in the amazing position to choose, but I need time to choose wisely.

However, as a next step, I decided to become some kind of transparent student. From now on, I'm going to blog under my real name. I've also published my CV in the former About Me section. Many people consider this to be a no-go, but as a matter of fact, it's an excellent way to present myself to a worldwide community of potential employers, colleagues and fellow students.

To this point, I have gone most of this away on my own because only a few were able to keep my pace. However, whenever I come across other amazing individuals, it vitalizes me to the highest extent because then I know that I'm not alone. I embrace everybody out there who thinks alike and I'd appreciate to hear from you. Don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Some people are just afraid of your potential strength when you finally show your ambition and love for something.

So, now the pressure is on, but as far as I don't believe in negative pressure that is a great thing. I like competition and I like the feeling of tension in the air because it gives me additional strength. Life is all about taking chances and I really don't have to hide any skeleton in my closet. I want people to find me, I want people to know and I'm really looking forward to 2011 and the things that are about to come.