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50 Unbelievable Facts & Anecdotes About Me (And One Untruth)

Here’s a collection of random, witty, dark and generally unbelievable facts and anecdotes about me (with the occasional humblebrag). I snuck in one untruth. If you find it, I’ll upgrade your subscription to The Mind Collection Newsletter for free.

  1. As a kid, I visited a tiny West African country with my family. We explored the capital city and got to a government building. As we stood there and watched, a guard came up and asked us in all seriousness if we wanted to meet the foreign secretary. Years later it still irked my dad that he didn’t say Yes to find out what would happen.
  2. I had five different practical driving tests in my life and passed four of them.
  3. Stupid stuff I did #1: I once had myself shipped to a lonely tropical island to camp there for a few days. I was mildly prepared. The first morning I realised I brought milk and had no way of cooling it. So I ate my cereal with orange juice. Good times.
  4. People are eternally surprised at how young I look. But when I tell them I’m ten years older than they think I am they guess my real age with astonishing accuracy.
  5. In fact, I used to look so young that, as a teacher, I once got reprimanded by a new colleague who took me for a student skipping class.
  6. Sometimes, the 3 Ideas in 2 Minutes Newsletter takes longer than two minutes to read and I just don’t care.
  7. I’ve visited all Communist leaders lying in state except one. The day I wanted to visit the last one, the rehearsal for the annual military parade was in full swing and the mausoleum was closed.
  8. I’ve eaten chicken feet, kangaroo, crocodile, pig trotters, emu, dog meat and pineapple pizza.
  9. Stupid stuff I did #2: When I was a kid, my friends and I broke into a car in our neighbourhood. We played racing cars and listened to the radio until the battery ran out. For some reason, we thought the car was dumped and abandoned. That changed when the police came by our houses to have a chat.
  10. The first car I ever (co-)owned was a 1987 Toyota Landcruiser HJ 60 4WD with a long-range fuel tank, dual-battery system, two CB radios, a rooftop tent and the most nonsensical sports steering wheel ever put in a car.
  11. As a kid, I ran my own social experiments. While my parents were clothes shopping I would get bored and place a penny in the aisle of the store. I’d observe from afar how many people would notice it and how they’d react when they saw it. Walk past? Pick it up? Be thrilled? Years later I found out that sadly my sample size was too small and none of my results were statistically significant.
  12. I’ve travelled to over sixty countries. One of the most enjoyable places I’ve visited was Iran because of the unmatched genuine hospitality of random strangers.
  13. You can hear me scream on a live concert recording of the German ska band The BUSTERS.
  14. Weeks after Germany won the 2014 Soccer World Cup, humiliating Brazil and beating Argentina in the final, my wife and I travelled to Buenos Aires. We got mugged on the first day. All our belongings including credit cards, cameras and passports were stolen. But the thieves were quickly chased down by a couple of Brazilians who were alerted by a local observing the scene from his balcony. Thanks to them, we got everything back.
  15. I used to work in a fancy office tower at a desk overlooking the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. I hated it.
  16. My next job was in a building that probably hadn’t been renovated since it was built in 1908. I loved it.
  17. I can wiggle both my ears (individually).
  18. Stupid stuff I did #3: I spent the Christmas of 2007 in Fiji with my lovely partner, spontaneously going out on a dinghy with some locals. We swam with a school of reef sharks, chasing and petting them on the back. The more I think about that day, the more I’ve come to realise that it was one of the most moronic ideas I don’t regret.
  19. While I was still in high school, I worked at a Mercedes-Benz dealership relocating fancy cars.
  20. I can fall asleep listening to Metallica’s S&M album.
  21. During my final senior year in high school, I came up with the idea for our graduation countdown. (That is I stole it from the baseball movie Major League.) We put up a mannequin with our principal’s face, stripping him of one piece of clothing each day until graduation. Some teachers found that inappropriate. One year later, the same principal was removed from his post for strip-dancing down to his underwear on stage at an informal graduation ceremony.
  22. I have been to North Korea twice and once tried to organise a school trip there.
  23. Living in Europe, I once drove to France by accident.
  24. I’ve done ghostwriting for professors, CEOs and government ministers. My masterpiece was a congratulatory letter from a food company CEO to the new health minister, gifting him a packet of instant pasta the politician purportedly liked.
  25. I have been obsessed with critical thinking, logic and reasoning since I was in primary school. That doesn’t mean I’m good at it.
  26. In 2016, on our way to Spain and Morroco, my wife and I got caught up in the Brussels Airport terror attacks. We arrived moments after the bomb explosions happened, got evacuated from the airport and had to make our way back to Berlin.
  27. In high school, I was the first in my class to get internet. The first page I visited was the official website for the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.
  28. Throughout my life, I’ve had more than a dozen jobs. For example, I worked as a dishwasher, an usher, a sandwich hand and a waiter. At uni, I drove 40t trucks while looking as if I was 12. Later I organised conferences and events. I’ve also been a soldier, a writer, a project manager, an analyst, a teacher and, to my dismay, a bureaucrat.
  29. I once flew a plane without any training and you can, too. Well, kinda.
  30. The Mind Collection is my third website. I built my first one when I was a teenager. And my second one shortly before I settled on this one in my late 30s. It was a site with personal satirical short stories.
  31. What kept me from starting The Mind Collection earlier was the erroneous belief that it was pointless to write about things that were already out there. What made me do it anyway was the realisation that I was writing this to educate and entertain myself. And if I enjoyed writing about it, maybe someone else enjoyed reading it.
  32. I used to play the Clarinet, the Saxophone and the Didjeridoo.
  33. I’ve been fascinated with martial arts since I was a kid. But it took me 35 years to take my first class.
  34. Today, it can be said that I’m trained in Krav Maga, Kickboxing, BJJ, knife fighting, baton fighting and the use of all sorts of firearms from pistols to machine guns. Note the weasel words “it can be said that I’m trained in”, which doesn’t automatically mean I’m good at it. I might be, though.
  35. In my 20s, I worked on a human rights project to free a political prisoner. The campaign succeeded several years later when I had already left the company so I never met the man. But I did meet his mum.
  36. In 2018 I fulfilled my dream of minimalist long-haul travel: Three weeks, four European countries and only one piece of hand luggage. It’s astonishing how little stuff you need. In case you wonder: The secret to not smelling while doing it is Merino wool.
  37. I used to compete in Pétanque team tournaments in Southern France when I was a kid. (The sport where you throw heavy metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden target ball.) The French gentlemen I got randomly paired up with were regularly surprised (or perhaps relieved) by how good I was. So was I.
  38. I also used to compete in French chess tournaments as a kid and I kinda hated it.
  39. Everyone needs a great “caught a big fish” story with their dad. Mine almost happened when I went fishing for sea eels that like to hide in between rocks near the coast. While my dad was snorkelling to spot them, I had the fishing rod ready to hold in the rock crevice. We soon got one. Only, the creature I had on my hook wasn’t a sea eel. It was a small shark that took off with the entire fishing rod and my dad in tow as he grabbed it.
  40. I firmly believe a beer needs a head and I would rather poor it myself than allow you to fill it up to the bezel and scrape off the rest of that precious foam.
  41. One of my greatest achievements as a kid was to win a tennis match in a tournament after trailing 5-0 in the second set.
  42. I proposed to my partner in the middle of a herd of zebras and wildebeests in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park. She said yes.
  43. On 11 September 2001, I was in Army Boot Camp and about to go off duty. We were put on alert and our sergeant explained to us what happened in the US. Nobody took it seriously, though, because we thought it was some outlandish scenario for an alarm drill. Until I called my dad and we got hold of a TV.
  44. Stupid stuff I did #4: In 2007, my partner and I semi-naively crossed a sand desert with 1,100 dunes in our ancient 4WD. It’s one of those things you don’t do unprepared when you’re older because of something called risk awareness.
  45. I once failed an important professional exam despite being one of the best students in class. It was the manifestation of the Backwards Law that stuck with me. This law of reversed effort says that the more you try to succeed, the more you fail.
  46. Speaking of failure. According to my former students, they loved it when I tried to be funny and failed.
  47. I once fell victim to a taxi mafia in a hot, remote South East Asian country. My partner, myself, a Canadian backpacker and a graduate student from Yale got stuck in a town where the police were in cahoots with a bunch of taxi drivers who would only allow us to leave town in one of their cars. Our defiance lasted four hours until we gave up and spent $50 on a trip that should’ve cost $10.
  48. Stupid stuff I did #5: The last unbelievably reckless thing I did (as far as I remember) was hopping on a motorbike taxi in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Together with my partner but without helmets while being driven through oncoming traffic to the Vietnamese embassy.
  49. I have toured a steelworks factory, a cement plant, a uranium mine and half a dozen prisons as a foreign tourist. I love travelling.
  50. Living in Berlin, my wife and I once got invited to friends for dinner. They asked if we minded if some other guy they randomly met through church joined us. We didn’t and had a good time. But our jaws dropped when we found out that not only was he from Australia. He turned out to be the German teacher of a good friend of ours living in Sydney.

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