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10 Inspiring Life Lessons from Astronaut Chris Hadfield

10 Inspiring Life Lessons from Astronaut Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield is an amazing human being. He commanded the International Space Station. He used YouTube to teach us about life in orbit. He used Twitter to give us a new perspective on our planet. He did that viral cover of Bowie’s Space Oddity.

Then he came home. He wrote a book called An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. I read that book. It was awesome. Here are some things I learned from it.

1. Have an attitude

In NASA terminology, your attitude is your orientation relative to two positions, for example your spaceship relative to the Earth and a satellite. Losing your attitude is bad, because you could end up drifting, lost and alone in outer space.

Chris Hadfield also thinks of life trajectory like attitude control – you need to stay on the right path to achieve your goals. It’s always not in your control whether you get there or not, but you can do everything in your power to make it happen. In life, losing your attitude – drifting from your path – is way worse than not reaching your destination.

2. Aim for zero

In any given situation, according to Hadfield, you’re either a ‘plus-one’, a ‘zero’ or a ‘minus-one’. If you’re a plus-one, you’re actively adding value. If you’re a zero, you’re generally competent and don’t get in the way. Being a minus-one sucks, because you’re a liability and actively cause problems.

However, if you’re a plus-one and you walk into a situation trying to prove how great you are, you can go from a plus one to a minus one – your ‘I got this’ mentality might easily irritate and prove detrimental to the dynamic.

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So the best thing to do in a new situation? Aim for zero. Listen. Observe. Offer advice. Don’t try to take control of everything. If you know what you’re doing, you won’t need to tell people you’re a plus one. They’ll know it.

3. Utilise the power of negative thinking

‘Negative thinking’ sounds pessimistic. Defeatist. But when you think about it, planning for the worst can actually be energising and confidence-boosting. How? Well, if you always prepare a contingency for every scenario you’ll never be caught off-guard.

Chris Hadfield’s approach is to ask: “What’s the next thing that could kill me?” It sounds exhausting and masochistic. But actually, it isn’t. By thinking about what could go wrong in any specific situation, you preempt problems with your own solutions.

And that means you can actually relax and enjoy life, knowing you’re ready to act if things go wrong.

Chris Hadfield being interviewed

    4. Sweat the small stuff

    “An astronaut who doesn’t sweat the small stuff is a dead astronaut,” says Hadfield. The lesson: averting disaster isn’t about making one-off life-or-death decisions – it’s about learning and understanding all the little things that develop into a bigger issue. An example of astronaut small stuff is knowing the ‘boldface’ – the tried-and-tested instructions that make up NASA’s Flight Rules manual.

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    Not sweating the small stuff runs counter to conventional wisdom, yet there’s truth in it. Yes, an astronaut’s work environment is radically more hostile and dangerous than most people’s. But the point is that paying attention to the granular details – like physical health symptoms or signs of car trouble – makes you incrementally safer.

    5. Do care what others think

    It’s hard to accept we’re not in control of our own destiny. But the fact is other people have more influence over the course of our careers and lives than we do. Chris Hadfield has been to space three times – in 1995 and 2001 on the Space Shuttle and 2013 on the ISS. Yet no matter how hard he worked, it was always someone else’s decision to put him on a mission.

    Which means it makes sense to care what people think about you and your performance. So get feedback. Learn from it. Improve. If the only opinion you’re worried about is your own, you’re probably going to limit your progress.

    6. When the stakes are high, preparation is everything

    We can’t always control what happens to us in life when big moments come around. But we can control how prepared we are. It might seem obvious to prepare if you’re planning to pilot a Soyuz rocket to the ISS, but many of us fail to prepare for normal stuff in life – even if we know there are big moments are coming up.

    So whether it’s a big exam, a job interview or sports final, when the high-stakes situations arise planning for success is key. In most scenarios, Hadfield argues that you’ve passed or failed before you even begin, depending on your level of preparation.

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    Chris Hadfield speaking about his experience

      7. Good leadership means leading the way, not bullying other people to do things your way

      Some people are very successful at intimidating people into going along with their plans. It’s the brute force approach to getting things done. But leading through coercion and bullying others means you’re building your leadership credentials on very weak foundations.

      Chris Hadfield reckons the better way to lead is by proving the best course of action. Setting an example. It’s the consensus-building approach. By showing people the right path, you’re creating a stronger platform for teamwork and leadership. People will follow you because they want to, not because they have to.

      8. Put groupthink at the core of your teamwork

      For Hadfield, the key question to ask when you’re part of a team is: “How can I help get us to where we need to go?” It’s beautifully simple: put the team before yourself, and you’re more likely to win.

      Hadfield argues that you really don’t need to be a superhero to be a valuable member of a team – empathy and a sense of humour are often more important. He also suggests that searching for ways to lighten the mood is never a waste of time, because it encourages expeditionary spirit – everyone pulling together in extraordinary circumstances to collectively accomplish a shared goal.

      Conversely, while sharing common gripes can create a bond between team mates, excessive whining is corrosive and the antithesis of expeditionary behaviour.

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      Chris Hadfield (left) post-landing

        Credit: NASA

        9. Criticise the problem, never the person

        Chris Hadfield believes that if you need to make a strong criticism, it’s better to pinpoint the problem rather than attack the person. Yes, it can be frustrating when you suffer for someone’s mistake, but ridiculing or berating a colleague is counter-productive. ‘Work the problem’ is a core mantra of NASA culture. It’s not about ego.

        In fact, Hadfield advocates going out of your way to help colleagues improve in all areas. This seems strange coming from the hyper-competitive world of NASA, but Hadfield argues that promoting colleagues’ interests helps you stay competitive. Plus you have a vested interest in your colleagues’ success – the better they are, the more they can help you succeed.

        10. Be ready. Work. Hard. Enjoy it!

        Ultimately, Chris Hadfield’s life lessons boil down to being the best that you can be through hard work and preparation. This approach has taken him from being a fighter pilot and test pilot right through to a 20-year astronaut career. It’s not a ground-breaking philosophy, admittedly, but then how often do we truly earn the things we want by working for them? How often do we just wish or hope they’d happen?

        Featured photo credit: NASA via flickr.com

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        Last Updated on August 20, 2018

        35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

        35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

        Every mature relationship has had a less-than-memorable anniversary. Maybe one of you forgot, or both of you got busy with work, kids, family issues, or something else. Whatever happened, the day came and went without fanfare. And neither of you seemed to notice or much care.

        But for the health of any relationship, it’s important to make important days feel special. Anniversaries offer the wonderful opportunity to relive beautiful memories, practice gratefulness for your partner, and to show your love and strengthen your bond. Make this year’s anniversary with your significant other something special  — one that will bring you closer together.

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        The best way to create a memorable anniversary is to do something new and different together as a couple. Stretch yourselves a bit.

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        While boredom can silently kill a relationship, new experiences reinforce the shared bond you already have and create strong new memories. Just think back to the most significant memories you have right now with your spouse and imagine what new ones you can create!

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        While you enjoy your chosen anniversary activity, be sure to keep a positive attitude and make your partner happy too on that day. Leave all arguments and day to day detail behind. Just celebrate your relationship. Whether you’re going to spend the day together at home, getting away, or having a wild and crazy new experience together, you can have your best anniversary yet!

        If You’re Staying In

        1. Spend an evening with no technology, just the two of you and maybe a board game. It’s hard to keep ourselves away from our computers and smartphones long enough to have a meaningful conversation. Make a rule not to use your tech and you’ll rekindle your relationship!
        2. Make wine or beer together. If you enjoy drinking together, this is a fun activity to try together. Just remember to buy the necessary equipment ahead of time.
        3. Learn something new about each other. With an open mind, try asking some of the New York Times’ 36 questions that lead to love. They’ll help spark intimacy and will lead to some really honest moments.
        4. Have a lazy day. Breakfasts in bed, spend all day in bed talking and napping. Follow breakfast with champagne and dessert! If you feel like getting more active, cook together or play some games. Here’re some simple breakfast ideas for you.
          • Learn to dance at home. This is best for those active couples who work out together and also enjoy learning something new together. Just go on Youtube to find any music with dance tutorials and learn together.
          • Visit model homes or open houses and plan your dream home.
          • Have a special dessert – champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Having an unusual treat makes a day feel extra special. If you want to make the dessert really special, try these tasty dessert recipes.
          • Create a playlist of your favorite songs as a couple. Choose songs that tell your story, and songs that you bonded over throughout your relationships. Here’re some love songs ideas for your inspirations.
            • Write your love story. Write it together or ave each of you write your own and then bring them together in an interesting, both sides of the story format.
            • Get a fondue pot. Fondue is a fun way to enjoy melted cheeses (for savory items) and melted chocolate (for sweeter treats).
            • Decorate! Turn your home into a dressed-up french cottage, a sophisticated restaurant, or simply with flowers. The different ambience will immediately change the feel of your home and make it feel like a staycation.
              • Talk about the future together. It might sound simple and everyday, but imagining how you want to spend your retirement together, or planning future trips can be exciting and romantic.

              If You Want to Get Away

              1. Take a day trip together to your favorite spot. If you live in a city, it can be incredibly refreshing to get away for an afternoon and drink in the outdoors.
              2. Go on a scenic drive and stop at a wine and cheese bar. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have lots of options where you live, try a brewpub. There are tons of small craft breweries with fantastic food options too.
              3. Go camping. Relatively affordable and, if the weather’s right, beautiful and romantic.
                • Take an overnight backpacking trip. For the more adventurous couples, backpacking is an even more intense way to challenge yourself physically while becoming one with nature.
                • Take a wine tasting tour. If you live on the West Coast or in the Northeast, take a drive to the nearest winery. Many offer relatively inexpensive tastings and deals if you purchase a certain amount.
                • Take a scenic train trip. Taking the train means less stress traveling: nobody has to drive, you don’t have to stop for breaks every few hours, and you can sleep if you need to!
                • Save up for a destination vacation. What better time than your anniversary to enjoy the beach at a beautiful resort?
                • Explore a new city. Whether you’re on a budget or have a lot saved up, you can have a great time just exploring an unfamiliar town.
                • Rent a cabin for a weekend away, in the woods or next to a lake or ocean. If you like the outdoors but can only take so much nature, try glamping.
                  • Go on a retreat. Yoga retreats, meditation retreats, beautiful natural surroundings … they’re all the rage. Search for centeredness and calm with your partner.
                  • Spend a day at a food festival. Many cities have fun and affordable food festivals, occasionally based on a theme. Check out your town’s (or a nearby city) calendar for inspiration!

                  New & Exciting Experiences

                  1. Go spelunking. Dark, damp, and utterly exciting!
                  2. Go on a hot air balloon ride. Because the basket is relatively small, this can be a romantic and deeply personal – and yet thrilling –
                    experience.
                    • Try sky diving. If you and you S.O. are real thrill-seekers, sky diving can really push you to the edge!
                    • Explore the underwater world by snorkeling or scuba diving. This may take you far away from where you normally live and work, which is an added bonus.
                    • Experience white water rafting.
                    • Drive or hike to the highest spot nearby for a new view of the world. America has tons of beautiful mountains where challenging hikes (or drives) can deliver breathtaking views.
                    • Take a craft or cooking class. Up your craft skills or food  making skills, and enjoy something new!
                      • Take a wine and painting class today. These classes are easily found these days and even a beginning painter can create a nice painting. Challenging but relaxing, fun, and you get to go home with some artwork!
                      • Learn to salsa dance. Dancing is a fantastic way to actively get closer and coordinate physically with one another.
                        • Visit a nearby festival you’ve always wanted to go to. Have fun and let go with fellow audience-members!
                        • Spend the day at an amusement park together. Laugh and carry on like teenagers.
                        • Meet new people! At a restaurant, concert, or class, make it a point to meet new friends. Striking up conversation with someone you don’t know – but with whom you have shared interests – can be an adventurous and rewarding experience.

                        Whether your budget is big or small, and whether you have a little or a ton of time together, focus on each other. There are tons of options, in terms of location, level of physical activity, and cost. You can make the day special in a way that’s right for you!

                        Featured photo credit: Photo by Taylor L. Spurgeon on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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