During a 6 month stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS) Colonel Chris Hadfield used Twitter and other social media to share the wonder of life in space with millions stuck here on earth. While on the station he filmed himself doing things that would be ordinary here on Earth, but in zero gravity become difficult and can require great care to accomplish. He also shared many pictures of the Earth as seen from space. Though he may not have planned, or expected it, with the help of his son, Col. Hadfield became in internet sensation, and now he has written a book.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything tells the story of how Col. Hadfield became an astronaut, the intense training the job requires, and his three trips into space. While telling these stories he shares the habits and thought processes that helped him become an astronaut and succeed as an astronaut.
While I was a little nervous about this self-help aspect of the book, it worked for two reasons. First, his stories are compelling. He reminds us how few people become astronauts, how much hard work it took him to get there, and how easy it would have been for him to fail several times in his career. Col. Hadfield decided he wanted to be an astronaut at a very young age, and recognized how important his own actions would be in reaching his goal, but even through all the hard work he never lost his sense of wonder and he manages to share that feeling with us.
The second reason the self-help aspect of the book works is that Col. Hadfield doesn’t seem to be preaching, or pushing a set of ideas and behaviors onto the reader. He tells what he did, how his thought processes worked. He leads by example through his experiences making it easier to absorb that advice while enjoying the stories of a life I dreamed of living when I was growing up.
I don’t know what video, or picture from Col. Hadfield I saw first. As someone who is active on social media, I just remember seeing more and more people retweeting the photos he posted from the ISS, and realizing I should start following him so I would see all the images sooner. I read his Tweets about life aboard the space station, and later his return to earth. Combined with other recent achievements in space exploration such as the Curiosity rover, Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), and the Space X launches, I find myself interested in space and mankind’s exploration of space in a way that I haven’t been for a long time.
While I didn’t read this book hoping for some sort of life wisdom, there are several ideas I hope I can act on in my own life. I’m giving a copy to my son, I hope he can pick up some of the lessons and apply them as he’s growing up and deciding what he wants to do with his life.