Picture of Swedish statistician Hans Rosling

Remembering the Number Magician Hans Rosling

A few days back, the news broke that statistician, and epidemiologist Hans Rosling had passed away, far too soon, aged only 68.  While Rosling gained a fair bit of fame in his later years, after, among other things, appearing on the BBC show “The Joy of Stats,” there are still far too many people out there who are not familiar with his charismatic style of communication and ideas.

Rosling was a pioneer when it came to illustrating and communicating with data in a way that is concise, accurate and to the point, while at the same time entirely understandable for absolutely everyone. As someone who works with data, and attempts to incorporate it into presentations both professionally and otherwise, I consider him to be the one who set the bar. Just take a look at this video, a 2009 clip from the above mentioned BBC show “The Joy of Stats” in which Rosling explores the relationship between wealth and life expectancy, and how it developed over the past 200 years:

If you are currently thinking that anyone can present numbers representing five different dimensions in a clear and intuitive fashion, as long as they have the technological know-how of the BBC to help them out, I want you to take a look at this next video. As a true master of his trade, he gets his point across in the same understandable fashion using the high-tech aid of… boxes:

Understanding numbers and how to use them to support your arguments is certainly relevant for those of us looking to build wealth and freedom, that is not the primary reason I want to share with you the legacy of the Swede. Rosling was, in my mind, first and foremost a proponent of independent thinking. He frequently argued against letting media headlines dictate your worldview, and he used numbers as an aid to understanding the world.

As we look to manage our personal finances in a way to lets us build wealth and give ourselves more freedom of choice to live our lives the way we want, we must continually question the established. We must go against the prevailing narrative in a number of ways when it comes to what you need to live a full life, and what defines to be successful. Very few experiences have given me more confidence regarding challenging the general perception as perpetuated by the media, as seeing Rosling disprove one myth after the other. That is why he was a role model, and one of my heroes.

I leave you with a final video clip, from Danish TV, in which Rosling is explaining over the course of two minutes why you should not use media to understand the world. He is speaking Danish, but there are subtitles, and I hope that you take the time to watch it. If you want to see more from Hans Rosling, I recommend starting with the TED talk he held with his son in 2014 aptly titled “How not to be ignorant about the world.

One thought to “Remembering the Number Magician Hans Rosling”

  1. Hey Lars-Christian,

    My subscription must not have been working! Had to catch up on my reading!

    Anyway, I’m trying to “question the default” more often in my life. In the past few years, I’ve adjusted my sleep schedule, my diet, what content I read/listen to; this is all in an effort to try to bring optimal enjoyment to my life and my inner circle.

    They talk about this in the book “Originals”, I read it in early January. Something as simple as asking the question to peel a banana from the other side (I guess that’s how you are supposed to do it); these are the kinds of thoughts we ought to be having 🙂

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