IUB#1: ‘An Astronaut’s Guide for Life on Earth’

IUB – Insights from Unexpected Books. Lessons about change and entrepreneurship from unconventional places. This week: insights from OUTER space

Chris Hadfield went to space. 3 times. He felt in love with the idea of becoming an astronaut when, at age of nine, watched the human first step on the moon. More than four decades later, he retired from NASA just after returning to Earth as the first Canadian commander of a mission to the International Space.

Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield

It seems simple and linear enough, right? Not really (as indeed reality often is). Making sense of his journey and lessons, Chris’ first person tale brings unexpected insights into reaching your big dream. Here are the favourite 4 insights for entrepreneurs learnt from his journey:

  1. Expand your perspective

How do you become an astronaut? Well, among a trillion physical and intellectual tests, you have to demonstrate that can handle confined spaces. They throw you on a dark and small box and without knowing for how long you will have to be there. What would be your reaction? Chris’ reaction was “Awesome. Free time!”

Yes, it was a hassle and not the most comfortable, but was an essential part for achieving his astronaut dream. So why not enjoying the moment? Finding a new perspective to face challenges help to cope the inconvenient and hard tasks. And even may give you a new way of looking to you and what you can actually achieve.

2. Do you want to rock social media? It is all about the people behind it

On re-entrance module back on Earth, Chris was first of all greet with “Awesome video dude” by a Russian ground crew member. Yes, Chris is also a rock start – on YouTube. His cover of Space Oddity song has reached over 26 million views, receiving praises from David Bowie himself.

On the book, Chris tell that his son Evan (a social media strategist) had the idea and line up the entire plan, from selecting the vide editor, the date of release online to the rights licence. Chris may have got the fame, but his work was the easiest (and the funniest) to do. Recording small videos while flying around without gravity and playing guitar. The hard work was done back on Earth, by the team that had the view and resources to reach the ambition.

3. First impressions in a new team: are you a 0, +1 or -1?

On his life at NASA, Chris was transferred many times: between continents, between positions, between roles. One day, he was in charge of the NASA relationship management with Russia; few weeks later, he was chaperoning a colleague’s family while the fellow was getting ready to go to space. You train countless hours to learn how to flight a spacecraft, how to do small dentistry surgery, how to react automatically to life threaten situations and so on; so you can be assigned to keep an anxious family on schedule and well-fed while a loved member is quarantined before the space flight?

Being humble and knowing what your role is fundamental, Chris tell us. When you are assigned to a new activity and a new team, you have 3 options of behaviour.

(-1) You can be a pain and worsen the mood and the relationship with others. Sometimes, you are trying too hard and stepping on other’s toes in trying to show off everything each single time. You forget to listen first.

(0) You can be neutral. It means be positive and trustworthy, not invisible. It is about being proactive and effective, without crossing lines or personalities. A team only works when teammates have trust on each other. When people need you, they will call. Because they know that you are there, available and will solve the problem effectively. It is about finding the balance.

(+1) You are great, excellent, exceeding expectations, every single time. So why do you need a team? Reality is that you can’t do all by yourself. In a threaten situation, you will need speed and effectiveness, and the only way to achieve that is if everybody is trained and experienced well enough. Although, astronauts (and many other professionals) train to be excellent, you need to read the situation and learn when being a +1 is counterproductive, even if only at long term.

So, if you are getting into a new team (or starting your own), aim to be a 0. Develop trust and rapport, but without getting into the way with your pride and competitiveness. At long term, you all will find a balance. Then, you all can aim at being +1 and getting things done.

4. Finally, find the right people to be by your side

When Chris moved from Canada to USA to pursuit a flyer job (that would put him closer to his dream), his wife Helen left her high paying job and come along. When the family increased, and his job was not enough, it was Helen who made him focus on the bigger plan (instead of pursuing a better-paid job on civilian aviation). When he was in space for the third time, Helen changed her holiday plans (from hiking on Africa to Utah) just to facilitate the whole process in case some emergency happens with him. Not surprisingly, but people’s influences in our lives are often forgotten.

Science has even prove that at least your spouse’s personality influences your work life – for better or worse. So surrounding you with people that makes you thrive and keeps your perspective in check is the best approach. Specially nowadays that personal and professional are losing their boundaries; people on all your life’s instance will play a significant role in your dreams. So, surround yourself with great people, love partners, business partners, friends, teammates, collaborators, clients.

5. Bonus

What I learned from going blind in space (TED Talk)

What do you think? Check out the book for more anecdotes and a great perspective of persisting on an ‘impossible’ dream.  Sign up to our mailing list for news, insights and more

About the author: nprieto

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