An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth
Col. Chris Hadfield 2013
Chris Hadfield, the astronaut musician who performed David Bowie's "Space Oddity" on the International Space Station, tells us how a Canadian 9 year old transformed himself into the 53 year old commander of Expedition 35 to the ISS. Luck played a huge part - hundreds could have made the journey instead of him - but luck would not have had a chance if he had not spent many decades relentlessly working for maximum performance with minimum ego. His biggest luck, a current running throughout the book, is his wife Helene and three children who provided as much energy and effort to his success as he did.
Three takehome lessons from the book:
1) Prepare in detail, in advance, for potential problems. Astronaut training is about being ready to recognize a problem quickly and perform the correct practiced response. The better the understanding of the systems involved, the more likely that a problem is accurately identified. The bigger the behavioral toolkit, the more likely a well-practiced procedure will apply to an unexpected problem. 99% of the mission occurs on the ground, in advance; the time in space is the performance that follows the practice.
2) Minus/Zero/Plus personalities. A minus one creates problems. A zero has neutral impact, and a plus one actively adds value. We all exhibit all three personalities at various times, but Hadfield added value wherever he could, even if it was exposing his own mistakes, while acting as if it was neutral behavior, nothing deserving special treatment. Astronautics is a team sport, and a plus one team is built out of collaborative and mutually supportive personalities.
3) maximum effort produces success, though rarely the extravagant success Hadfield had. There were many moments in his life where, if things had gone slightly differently, he would have remained a jet jockey, or a never-flown astronaut candidate, or ... If Hadfield ever finds the time, it would be worthwhile to engage the help of a small stable of researchers to track down the hundreds of others who worked hard like him but did not become astronauts. I'm sure many applied the same diligence to diverging paths and achieved other great successes that we may never hear about. Yes, being a great astronaut requires hard work and luck, but hard work can lead to many other great roles, and an educator/astronaut like Hadfield can show them to us.
Hadfield is a Canadian, and proud of it in a very non-US way. He tells a Canadian joke: "How do you get 50 drunk Canadians out of a swimming pool? Ask them to get out of the swimming pool". I probably misphrased that. Hadfield is Canadian, and does not put jokes in book indexes.