Notes from ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life’

This was first drafted just over a year ago – but I never hit the publish button. So it is one of a few posts that I am finally publishing.

Notes from ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life’

astronauts guide to life

This is a great autobiography that combines Chris Hadfield’s philosophy on life with his biography. When reading I have distilled some of the advice that Hadfield gives. This is well worth a read.

  • To solve problems Hadfield pictures the most demanding challenges; he visualises what he would need to know and how to do meet it; then he practices until I reach a level of competence where he will be comfortable that he will be able to perform.
  • Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive. Likewise, coming up with a plan of action isn’t a waste of time if it gives you peace of mind. While it’s true that you may wind up being ready for something that never happens, if the stakes are at al high, it’s worth it.
  • Hadfield said “My dad could be a stern taskmaster and on principle didn’t believe children should complain, but he also disapproved of whining because he understood that it is contagious and destructive. Comparing notes on how unfair or difficult or ridiculous something is does promote bonding – and some-times that’s why griping continues, because it’s reinforcing an us against the world feeling. Very quickly, though, the warmth of unity morphs to the sourness of resentment, which makes hardships seem even more intolerable and doesn’t help get the job done. Whining is the antithesis of expeditionary behaviour, which is all about rallying the troops around a common goal.”
  • Never ridicule a colleague, even with an offhand remark, no matter how tempting it is or how hilarious the laugh line. The more senior you are, the greater the impact your flippant comment with have. Don’t snap at the people who work with you. When you see red, count to 10.
  • Over the years I’ve learned that investing in other people’s success doesn’t just make them more likely to enjoy working with me. It also improves my own chances of survival and success. The more each astronaut knows how to do, and the better he or she can do it, the better off I am, too.
  • [When talking about spending time with his wife] I also make a point of actively looking for opportunities to spend time together. On Sunday mornings for instance, no matter what else is going on, Helene and I try to walk the dogs, then go get coffee and do the New York Times crossword puzzle together. Prioritising family time – making it mandatory, in the same way that a meeting at work is mandatory – helps show the people who are most important to me that they are, in fact important to me.
  • Over the years, I’ve realised that in any new situation, whether it involves an elevator or a rocket ship, you will almost certainly be viewed in one of three ways:
    • As a minus one: actively harmful, someone who creates problems.
    • As a zero: your impact is neutral and doesn’t tip the balance one way or the other.
    • As a plus one: someone who adds value. – Everyone wants to be a plus one, of course. But proclaiming your plus-one-ness at the outset almost guarantees you’ll be perceived as a minus one, regardless of the skills you bring to the table or how you actually perform. This might seem self-evident, but it can’t be, because so many people do it.