Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) is an engineer, former Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot, retired astronaut, the first Canadian to walk in space, and author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and The Darkest Dark.
“The big decisions are the easy ones.” -Commander Chris Hadfield
The Cheat Sheet:
- The difference between “I want to be” and “I want to turn myself into.”
- Enjoying small victories along a path of preparation and personal growth vs. grand “make it or break it” expectations.
- How intense is imposter syndrome for a newly selected astronaut?
- What’s the astronaut’s (as well as earthling’s) best antidote for fear?
- What really happens when you sneeze in space?
- And so much more…
Compare the number of nine-year-olds who want to be astronauts (pretty much all of them) to the number who grow up to actually become astronauts (a significantly lesser number).
Commander Chris Hadfield is the rare nine-year-old who managed to stay focused on the dream into adulthood, becoming the first Canadian to walk in space and, as The Telegraph called him upon weightlessly covering David Bowie’s Space Oddity from the ISS, “space’s first rock star.” He’s the author of several books, including An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything and The Darkest Dark. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
More About This Show
Chances are pretty good you’ve thought about the things you would try if you ever got lucky enough to experience the weightlessness of life in space. All of us have. You know who else makes these kinds of lists? Actual astronauts, confesses Commander Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space and author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything and The Darkest Dark.
During the six months he spent on the International Space Station, Chris made a series of YouTube videos to help those of us confined to Earth’s gravity better understand things like: what happens to tears when you cry in space, how astronauts wash their hands, if it’s possible to build a burrito in zero gravity, and how astronauts shave.
But his most viewed video has been a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, a song first released the same month in 1969 as a mesmerized nine-year-old Chris Hadfield watched Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin leave their footprints on the moon.
“Some of the really successful folks that I’ve talked to had…something that really inspired them when they were nine or ten years old and it changed their behaviors,” says Chris, “and that’s definitely what happened to me. I watched the first two people walk on the moon and I thought, ‘Wow. I’m going to grow up to be something. Why don’t I grow up to be that? That’s the coolest thing ever! If that’s on the list; if that’s a possibility; if that’s on the menu of life choices, then shoot — I choose that! How did they become that, and how can I maybe change myself so I can become that?'”
From that point on, Chris’ life became a series of small decisions that supported this one goal. A stickler might say Chris never achieved his real goal — which was to walk on the moon — but flying three different rocketships, living half a year in space on three different spaceflights, commanding a spaceship, and walking in space aren’t a bad series of runner-up prizes by anyone’s measure.
And who’s to say a future — perhaps private — space program wouldn’t be able to lure Chris out of retirement if manned missions to the lunar surface ever resume? He’s about as qualified as they come — and that’s always been by design.
“I never counted on flying in space in order to feel good about myself or to feel like I’d succeeded,” says Chris.
As a teenager, he learned to fly airplanes and teach others to downhill ski. He attended various universities and earned degrees in engineering. He joined the Air Force and qualified to become a fighter pilot intercepting Soviet bombers for NORAD. Chris pursued a stack of skills he hoped would intersect favorably with becoming an astronaut should the opportunity arise, but understood the chances of making it to space were slim.
The preparation and small wins along the way made for a fascinating and fulfilling journey, though expectations toward the desired end result were kept low.
“Even when you get selected as an astronaut, you’re an astronaut candidate for years. And you’re never really sure that you’re going to fly in space because you’re one small accident or one tiny medical disqualification away from never flying in space, always. And you never can count on it. So I always kept it as a long-term goal, but I tried to succeed as often as I could.”
Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm to learn more about the difference between wanting to be something and deliberately turning yourself into something, how cultivating curiosity in children goes much further than trying to convince them of the benefits of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), why Chris never counted on flying in space in order to feel good about himself while simultaneously building the life experiences that would prepare him if the opportunity arose, the value of dropping one’s personal threshold for victory and rejoicing in life’s small victories, how a small-town newspaper accidentally checked Chris’ ego when he became the top US Air Force test pilot graduate, what imposter syndrome is like for a newly selected astronaut, what Chris considers the biggest antidote to fear, what “aiming to be a zero” means, how a Canadian astronaut in orbit secures regular supplies of maple cookies, and lots more.
Make sure to check out Chris and his son Evan’s latest project: Chris Hadfield’s Rare Earth series!
THANKS, CHRIS HADFIELD!
If you enjoyed this session with Chris Hadfield, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Resources from This Episode:
- Transcript for Chris Hadfield | Rare Earthling (Episode 625)
- Chris Hadfield’s Rare Earth series
- Chris Hadfield’s website
- Chris Hadfield at Facebook
- Chris Hadfield at Instagram
- Chris Hadfield at Twitter
- Mike Massimino | Spaceman (Episode 569)
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- The Art of Charm Challenge (click here or text 38470 in the US)
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- Best of The Art of Charm Podcast
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