An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Biography, memoir, non-fiction, science
Published: Oct 2013 by Macmillan (US) and Little, Brown and Company (UK)
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth was definitely one of the more interesting and compelling memoir of sorts that I’ve read which proffered valuable life lessons. Lessons which in fact seemed to go against conventional thinking and life coaching such as visualising success, not sweating the small stuff and not caring about what others think. Chris Hadfield’s experience as an astronaut – or more importantly, on becoming an astronaut – proved otherwise.
Early success is a terrible teacher. You’re essentially being rewarded for a lack of preparation, so when you find yourself in a situation where you must prepare, you can’t do it. You don’t know how.
It is so refreshing to read about Hadfield’s lifelong dedication and commitment to achieve his boyhood aspirations. It is all too common nowadays in my working experience in dealing with the younger generation where self-entitlement is so prevalent that these two attributes are becoming increasingly rare. Instant gratification and shortcuts are preferred over having the experience of undertaking the journey and the satisfaction of having reached the destination through one’s diligence and dedication. Hadfield himself wrote a line which encapsulated the meaning of journey before destination.
Focus on the journey, not on arriving at a certain destination.
The book also contained fascinating insights into what it means to be an astronaut. From the hours and hours of training about literally everything possible from making minor repairs on a spacecraft in zero gravity to managing serious emergencies and even a simulation with loved ones on what to do, step by step, when one dies on a space mission. Even the quarantine period prior to a launch was more involved than one would have thought. I especially enjoyed the tidbits about life on a space station in zero gravity. Even the simplest quotidian activities like eating and drinking, going to the toilet, brushing your teeth, exercising and sleeping needed to be considered carefully. With burning curiosity, I had to check out the YouTube videos of his life on the International Space Station, and they’re fascinating. I alternated between reading the book, and listening to the audiobook which was self-narrated by Hadfield himself. He came across as being so down-to-earth and approachable with his avuncular tone that I enjoyed listening to his narration and watching his videos.
Life off Earth is in two important respects not at all unworldly: you can choose to focus on the surprises and pleasures, or the frustrations. And you can choose to appreciate the smallest scraps of experience, the everyday moments, or to value only the grandest, most stirring ones.
Being an astronaut had been one of my childhood dreams, with ‘dream’ being the operative word here. As such, I welcomed this book with open arms. Much to my delight, it was also an enlightening and enjoyable read/listen that I will recommend to anyone who loves real-life stories of dedication and commitment, which has its just rewards.
Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.
P/A: I’m looking forward to read Hadfield’s debut mystery thriller, The Apollo Murders. Watch this space.