The Colonel says..Lessons from Chris Hadfield

The book- An Astronaut’s guide to life on Earth has many life lessons to discuss and imbibe.

On July 20, the 46th anniversary of man’s first landing on moon, we saw the Apollo program preparations, the vision, leadership, dream of President JFK of announcing that by the end of the decade they will send a man on the moon, and bring him back safely.

The sixties was a tumultuous decade-with Civil Rights, Women’s rights, Anti-War movement, Vietnam. As one astronaut of the Apollo program put it- “If there was a script writer who was going to write a crowning moment of the decade, there couldn’t be anything better than landing on the moon.”

Here are some lessons


Hadfield’s children joked about creating “Colonel says” app that would spit out sayings appropriate for any situation. It’s a great idea, though I think you’d only need one: “Be ready. Work Hard. Enjoy it.” It fits every situation.


Hadfield talked about astronaut’s who try to be a Big Plus, and end up looking like snobs.

He says his smartest strategy was simply to try not to mess anything up or make things worse. I was sure that once in a while , I’d be able to do something good and make an authoritative decision, (on becoming ISS Commander) but it didn’t need to happen in the first hour or even the first week. If I barged in, intent on making my mark, I probably would- just not in the way I wanted.

Two decades into my career as an astronaut, I felt as close to being a plus one as I ever had. And I knew that my best bet of getting the crew to see me that way was to keep on doing what has always worked for me: aiming to be a zero.


Test pilots have to keep thinking- what is the next thing that can kill me?

In NASA there is educational culture of public confessionals, in which pilots share their mistakes so that they can learn from their collective experience. Hadfield says one has to have a plan, prepare, and be always on the lookout for any mistake-trouble as margin of error is very low, and you could lose life.


When his team had to do an emergency Space Walk to fix a leak, the ground station instructed two other astronauts to do so. Hadfield , the commander , had wanted to go himself, but he hid his disappointment, and helped in processing this decision.

He writes

“Ultimately leadership is not about glorious crowning acts.

It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.

It was time for me to do that. It was time to be a commander.”


A revised version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.


Steal time to reflect and internalize what particular experiences mean, how they shape perspective.

In the final hours of his last space mission, he felt a need to steal time, to find a way to be alone in this incredible place, physically and mentally. When Hadfield was 7 years old and my family moved from Samia to our farm in Milton, he’d had the same impulse. He distinctly remembers walking around Flamingo Drive neighborhood for a last look, fully realizing that his time in that place, which had been a big part of his life and helped form him, was not at an end.

On the ISS he did the same thing. He deliberately went to the Cupola and spent some time trying to soak up the feeling of being there, to internalize what it felt like and what the world looked like from that vantage point. He felt not sad but respectful. He wanted to acknowledge the significance of the time I’d spent on the ISS, and everything it had meant for me.


We thought of Teaching moments in past week- where we had been minus-zero-plus and reflected on some important phases of life. These shaped our discussions, and going through Hadfield’s book helped gain multifaceted perspective.


One thought on “The Colonel says..Lessons from Chris Hadfield”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s