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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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Lessons from Colonel Chris Hadfield, astronaut extraordinaire


Commander Chris Hadfield is the former commander of the International Space Station whose awareness-raising activities – both on the ground and traveling at 7km/s around the Earth – have in many ways re-ignited public interest in space travel.

On the social networking site reddit, which features 'ask me anything' interviews, Commander Hadfield has many times taken part in answering questions from the reddit community. Here are a few of his candid responses, reflecting his attitude on life – there's some nice advice in there.

Before you read on: take a look at this series of images and this video. Amazing.

On choosing a career and success…

Choose a career that surrounds you with people who have skills you do not. You'll get better just by being there, learning by osmosis.

Study what you love, and learn it as well as you possibly can – pursue your passions.

Worthwhile things often involve risk. The secret is to balance risk vs reward. I am NOT a thrill-seeker. I take calculated risks to do things that I deem worthwhile.

What advice would you give to young people?

Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you'd be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don't let life randomly kick you into the adult you don't want to become.

Once you have been to space… what else can you do in life that can even come close to such an achievement or be so fulfilling?

Interesting question, one of perspective. I find every day fulfilling. I work hard at what I'm doing, I do it as well as I can, and I find satisfaction in every small thing.

On what makes a difference in life…

The small daily decisions of life are the ones that will actually turn you into who you become celebrate all the victories and joys along the way.

On the importance of being in the moment…

Don't measure your success nor self-worth on a distant outcome.

Are you scared?

Fear comes from being unprepared when facing the unknown. Being thrust into an unexpected situation and not knowing what to do makes everyone uncomfortable, and thus we fear it, especially if it can embarrass or kill us. As astronauts, we avoid this by working for years to understand the unknown, and decide in advance what we will do. That's why we study so much, and why we live and work in simulators. Often the 1st time you try something hard you are nervous, but the 50th time it feels normal. We try and make everything that might happen during a spaceflight feel just like that. So it's not that we're extra-brave – we're just extra-prepared.

And here's some answers that aren't really relevant to self-development and HR, but they are kind of cool…

What’s the launch like?

Launch is like being shaken in a huge dog's jaws, while pushed from the Earth by an unstoppable unseen giant force.

What’s sleeping in space like?

I love sleeping weightless. No mattress, no pillow, no sore shoulder, no hot spots. Just relax every muscle in your body and drift off to sleep.

Do you ever get the urge to point and shout out "Look! I can see my house from here!"?

At first, yes, but after a few days, you start to see the whole world as one place. An awesome perspective to be given.

Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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