How to think like an Astronaut
“No astronaut launches to space with their fingers crossed. That’s not how we deal with risk”- Chris Hadfield
“Competence means keeping your head in a crisis, sticking with a task even when it seems hopeless, and improvising good solutions to tough problems when every second counts. It encompasses ingenuity, determination and being prepared for anything.
Astronauts have these qualities not because we’re smarter than everyone else (though let’s face it, you do need a certain amount of intellectual horsepower to be able to fix a toilet). It’s because we are taught to view the world — and ourselves — differently. My shorthand for it is “thinking like an astronaut.” But you don’t have to go to space to learn to do that.
It’s mostly a matter of changing your perspective.
Success is feeling good about the work you do throughout the long, unheralded journey that may or may not wind up at the launch pad. You can’t view training solely as a stepping stone to something loftier. It’s got to be an end in itself.
The secret is to try to enjoy it. I never viewed training as some onerous duty I had to carry out while praying fervently for another space mission. For me, the appeal was similar to that of a New York Times crossword puzzle: training is hard and fun and stretches my mind, so I feel good when I persevere and finish — and I also feel ready to do it all over again.
Ultimately, I don’t determine whether I arrive at the desired professional destination. Too many variables are out of my control. There’s really just one thing I can control: my attitude during the journey, which is what keeps me feeling steady and stable, and what keeps me headed in the right direction. So I consciously monitor and correct, if necessary, because losing attitude would be far worse than not achieving my goal.
That’s how I approach just about everything. I spend my life getting ready to play “Rocket Man.” I picture the most demanding challenge; I visualize what I would need to know how to do to meet it; then I practice until I reach a level of competence where I’m comfortable that I’ll be able to perform. It’s what I’ve always done, ever since I decided I wanted to be an astronaut in 1969, and that conscious, methodical approach to preparation is the main reason I got to Houston. I never stopped getting ready. Just in case.
— Hadfield, Chris. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything
For Discussion: We highly recommend the recent Master Class with Chris Hadfield. Share your thoughts after completing the class, with regard to how astronaut’s manage information, manage risks and lessons for the rest of us. We recommend Chris’s book and the recently released Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson
“It is still staggeringly complex to send people to Mars. And with complexity comes risk.”
— Chris Hadfield
“It’s good that we’re impatient. It helps drive us to do things we’ve never done before.”
— Chris Hadfield
A large part of successfully being an astronaut is learning how to manage information.”
— Chris Hadfield