Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth is an enlightening read on what it takes it to become an astronaut. The amount of preparation it takes for each space mission is astounding. Astronauts train for a years just for one spacewalk. Chris was single minded, admitted the sacrifices he had to make and the luck it took to become an astronaut. It takes a special kind of person to be cut out for space. A couple of chapters of interest:
3: The Power of Negative Thinking - The process of thinking about what could go wrong in a situation and then making a plan to deal with it. Remarkably similar to the Stoic technique to help with worrying.
- 9: Aim to Be a Zero - Basically, how to fit into a team.
Here’s a few of my favourite quotes:
In my experience, fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen. When you feel helpless, you’re far more afraid than you would be if you knew the facts.
Temperament alone could disqualify you for spaceflight. A certain personality type that was perfectly acceptable, even stereotypical, in the past - the real hard-ass, say - is not wanted on the voyage when it is going to be a long one.
It’s never either-or, never enjoyment verses advancement so long as you conceive of advancement in terms of learning rather than climbing to the next rung of the professional ladder.
"Working the problem" is NASA-speak for descending one decision tree after another, methodically looking for a solution until you run out of oxygen.
Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is the actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive.
Like most Astronauts, I’m pretty sure that I can deal with what life throws at me because I’ve thought about what to do if things go wrong, as well as right. That’s the power of negative thinking.
It’s not easy for hyper-competitive people to talk openly about screw-ups that make them look foolish or incompetent. Management has to create a climate where owning up to mistakes is permissible and colleagues have to agree, collectively, to cut each other some slack.
Given the obsession with preparation, it’s interesting how frequently we do run into trouble in space.
My dad disapproved of whining... because he understood that it is contagious and destructive. Comparing notes on how unfair or difficult or ridiculous something is does promote bonding... very quickly, though, the warmth of unity morphs to the sourness of resentment, which makes hardships seem even more intolerable and doesn’t help get the job done.
Never ridicule a colleague, even with an offhand remark, no matter how tempting it is or how hilarious the laughline.
You have a vested interest in your co-workers’ success. In a crisis, you want them to want to help you survive and succeed, too.
Sweat the small stuff.
The best way to contribute to a brand-new environment is not by trying to prove what a wonderful addition you are. It’s by trying to have a neutral impact, to observe and learn from those who are already there, and to pitch in with the grunt work wherever possible.
If seeing 16 sunrises a day and all of Earth’s variety steadily on display for five months had taught me anything, it was that there are always more challenges and opportunities out there than time to experience them.
Life is just a lot better if you feel you’re having 10 wins a day rather than a win every 10 years or so.
Savour the small stuff.