I just finished Chris Hadfield’s book, An Astronaut’s guide to life on Earth. It’s a good interesting book but don’t expect a space drama page turner. It’s not that kind of book. The content is part biography, part self-help and part amusing.
Chris hit stardom when he was the Commander of the International Space Station. The Space Station is the biggest project in space the humans have yet and we barely heard any noises about it. That’s until Chris became Commander and started teaching us about space in cool ways. I was always fascinated with space but the topic has lost its lust over time. Most space news ends up in the back pages of the newspaper. After landing on the moon, I guess we are all waiting for the next big thing.
Chris takes us on a ride on how he managed to accomplish his childhood dream. From a very early age he wanted to become as astronaut. I think every kid dreams at one point of becoming an astronaut but for most of us that dream is squashed at the sight of the first math book. The reality is that the odds of becoming an astronaut a close to zero. That zero is even bigger when you are a Canadian (Canada funds about 2% of the International Space Station, the more funding the more chance of sending guys to space). The key to Chris’ success what being committed to “thinking like an astronaut” from a very early age. He took massive action towards achieving that goal. He has a map and he followed it. Yes he knew the odds were non-existent but he never gave up.
The one element of the book that I differ with is his notion of “the power of negative thinking”. On the surface it sounds like Chris is preaching for bad things to happen to him. Of course that’s not what he wished for once you get through it you realized it’s more a mislabel. It shouldn’t be call the power of negative thinking. It should be call having insurance or having a plan. The idea behind his philosophy is to prepared and to be ready when problems shows up. Astronauts need to be prepared for any potential problems and a lot of them are life threatening. As Commander, you are responsible for a lot of life and billions of dollars in equipment funded by the tax payers. You don’t want a shuttle to return on Earth for some banal reason. You need to be ready. Basically, the proper label for his philosophy is “wish for the best, prepare for the worst”. This applies on Earth too. From mundane task such as making sure your car has a gas left in the gasoline to making important decisions. Think of it of making sure you have insurance, you don’t wish a meteorite hits your house but you are covered.
I think what resonated with me the most was his advice to enjoy the little things. The key to happiness is not to celebrate the big events such as accomplishing a multi-year goal, but to enjoy the process of getting there. The key is to enjoy the challenge, hit the problems with a smile, tried to get the most out of it. This applies to something as boring as doing dishes. Approach cleaning these dishes with the attitude that you are the best dish washer in the world. It’s makes the experience more enjoyable. Another part that resonates with me is that Chris is not a self-help guru but a guy that has life experience to share with you. You truly sense the feeling that he’s trying to help you.
Here of some of Chris’s best contributions that help us regained interest in space:
The first space video, 20 million views and counting: