To unleash our passionate love for the fine art of statistics, all it took was a flatmate who had one last shot to pass his statistics exam, and a simple six-stepprogram. In the beginning, I was just trying to cheer him up a little, but you know how things go when you are young, passionate, and you just started to study politics: People hang to your every word, they listen, they seek guidance. Before you know it, you start something that is bigger than you…Something that is bigger than all of us. Something that is bigger than understanding the meaning of life: gaining substantial insights in statistical analysis. Life is the continuous collection of survey data; statistics is its implicit and explicit evaluation.
My flatmate’s problem was that he did not love statistics, so the next day we started our training. Think of your love for statistics as an arranged marriage. You must learn to love her! Step one was motivational quotes. We covered the house in posters that said things like, “make statistics practical and fun, and it will be so much easier for you to truly appreciate it”. This, we started to internalise immediately. The general idea was to create situations, in which studying statistics would always be the better option. Clearly, this meant for us, that we would either train our arm muscles or we would train statistics. Either way, we would become more sophisticated individuals, attracting the opposite sex based on our elaborate arm muscles, or based on our impressive statistical knowledge (needless to say that the only arm muscles we actually trained were the ones needed when typing numbers in a calculator).
Step two was practice. The first days, we were performing very low, yet we were highly motivated. Admittedly, our motivation was not contagious for everyone: a flatmate got upset about a poster next to the entrance door saying “practice, practice, practice, repeat”. He said that he does not want to live in a place that insistently demands him to practice. We were, of course, disappointed by his unwillingness to dedicate his life to statistics as we were so happily doing.
Step three was dedication. In hindsight, our flatmate’s inability to dedicate himself to something in the long run, irrespective the setbacks, constantly conquering and re-conquering, listening closely, caring, growing together, is most likely the reason why now he lives in his car instead of being a crazy successful statistician. While the lady next door provided us with valuable liquid diet she found in her basement, and which had only been expired shortly (once you start being a statistician you will know how disruptive meals can be for your work-flow, and you will truly appreciate the time you can safe when not having to chew all the time), it seemed as if none of our roommates really shared our newly found passion. We invited them many times to our fun nights of statistics, we encouraged them to re-write with us the world’s biggest hits into catchy statistics songs, to have statistics barbecue with us under the motto “fresh meat meets fresh exercises”, to practice heavy statistics when solving statistical problems while listening to metal tunes, and we even incorporated presentations of the ground-breaking results of the many surveys we conducted amongst our flatmates in weekly meetings (which we soon had to cancel, due to a lack of attendees). Instead, building on our findings, we started offering seminars (e.g. self-worth & self-love: staying in touch with the self. Workshop based on the alarming results of our LIFESTYLE survey) and we founded the Statz4life sect due to the statistically significant finding, that our flatmates wished for increased group belonging. I tell you this because I need you to comprehend that even if it may seem like you are, you are not alone with your passion for statistics, you belong with the cool kids!
Step four is interpersonal exchange. We found a great support system in our team of tutors. Ultimately, this is the kind of email exchange you will want to have with your tutors:
“I just met M. in the hallway. Now I'm wondering how to transform X ^ 2 to t or F or z to t. Especially z in t. It really is difficult to find topics to talk about other than statz after 4 months. Is t = z / df? Is F = X ^ 2 / df? Is t = z / X ^ 2? Yesterday, M. was on the verge of a nervous breakdown because he still feels unable to perform hypothesis tests. I had to intervene: M. took a footbath while sitting at the kitchen table, listening to soothing music in the right vibrations, hanging his head over a bowl to steam his mind. During the subsequent dream journey to his deepest inner palace, M. was able to let go of his fear of hypothesis tests”.
Step five is managing setbacks. M. really struggled with hypothesis tests for a long time. Failing all his previous statistics exams, he had developed a blockage that had to be resolved. We tried many things ranging from explanation to meditation, from hypnosis to waterboarding. I am not particularly proud of the waterboarding. The goal was that in the exam, by means of musclememory, M. would feel like drowning when confusing H0 and H1. Thereupon, M. sat in the Lake Constance, duteous holding his calculator above water, while loudly demanding to be drowned midst mothers with their playing children.
Sometimes, when you love, you won’t be loved back. Then, demanding to be waterboarded is not the solution. In these moments, our passion for statistics might have turned into zeal, but here can be important lessons learned as well!
Step six is managing zeal / accepting those who do not know. I remember how statistics took over my relationship: I just couldn’t comprehend my partner’s lack of appreciation for the normal distribution and I got increasingly desperate when explaining the idea behind its approximation by increasing n. Always remember, statistics is a language not everybody speaks. In full disclosure, occasionally, even our tutor team struggled to keep up with our standards. Yet, they could always count on our feedback:
“Here at Statz4life we are extremely disappointed with this week's worksheet. For us, a worksheet which barely requires one hour to finish is not up to our expectations. Therefore, we kindly ask you to please present us with a new, more complex worksheet to meet our standards. Please let us remind you that here, at Statz4life, we take statistics very seriously and we do not work amateurishly for only a few hours a day: Statz4life employees dedicate their lives, that is, most of their waking hours, to statistical calculations. I hope you understand our point of view, and that there will be no need for further injunctions on our behalf”.
Finally, I will not lie, when you go down the path of becoming a statistician there will be rough times. You see, young people tend to think that love means to conquer just once. They believe it is sufficient to spend some days haunting statistics which will ensure them her heart and benevolence. Though, the opposite is true. Statz is not easy. She is a complex being, and she needs your long-term dedication. She wants to be the first thing on your mind in the morning, and she surely is the last thing on your mind before you fall asleep. She drains you, but once you start to listen to her and try to speak her language, I promise you, that out of a sudden statistics, as well as every Loretta Goggi song, will finally start to make sense to you.