Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first told my four kids that I was reading this book (they like to keep abreast of my literary ventures), their responses surprised me.

K1: Oh, yeah, he’s so impressive.
K2: Cool, Hadfield, I know that guy.
K3: Chris Hadfield? I follow him on Twitter.
K4: Who? What astronaut?

Me: Thank you, James (K4). I’m glad I’m not the only one who did not know of this guy.

K4: Oh, never mind, Hadfield that Canadian, yeah, I know him, too. How could you not know of him, mom?

Me: Ok, perhaps I’m a little behind on my knowledge of accomplished Canadian astronauts. Sue me - the book had a zippy title and came recommended. Little did I know that Col. Hadfield, master of the universe it seems, would end up shining a light on my Philistine-like familiarity of the previous two decades of space exploration. Sheesh. Mea culpa….

I confess that the nuts and bolts of astronauting do not interest me in the least. Life on earth does interest me, though. If nothing else, the writings of a man who spent a considerable amount of time off the planet Earth would have to have a fresh perspective to offer. He did.

The author’s modesty is the first noteworthy thing. He’s a regular guy who wanted to be an astronaut and he simply kept at it. A little bit of luck in timing and a whole dang lot of hard, hard work, and he achieved great things. Conspicuously absent from his vocabulary are all vapid platitudes like “Reach for the Clouds! Dream Big!”. Oh, bless you for that gift, Col. Hadfield.

Instead, he continually talked about the endless preparation, the endless repetition of tasks until these tasks could be done half-asleep with eyes closed, and how success would only arrive by sweating all of the small stuff. All of it. Always. Wow.

I have always found discipline to be a great source of happiness and liberty; oh, joy of joys, here’s a guy who preaches it. He doesn’t want you to visualize success; he wants you to practice it every single day (IRL, guys, IRL!). His results, year by year, demonstrate how a regimented existence is the key to so much freedom and pleasure and he spoke frequently about how the most productive crews were the happiest ones.

All of the advice in this book comes from a guy who will admit that he had to study harder and practice more than some. He grew his talent. He decided to enjoy the work. He decided to enjoy the repetition. He chose to sweat the small stuff all day, every day, and to enjoy that choice. Brilliant.

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