Astronaut’s memoir offers advice for life on Earth

PREVIEW Columnist and library staff

Colonel Chris Hadfield is a retired Canadian astronaut who flew space shuttle missions for NASA and served as the commander of the International Space Station. He achieved international acclaim by chronicling life aboard the ISS on Twitter, Facebook and other social media via an amazing series of videos for a huge following of people around the world.

He was famous for explaining scientific experiments and other experiences in interesting, informative ways and for playing his guitar and singing on board the spacecraft.

Hadfield retired shortly after his ISS mission ended in 2013, capping a 35-year career as a military pilot and an astronaut. Now he has written his memoir, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth,” that is available at the Sisson Library. It chronicles what he learned during his space training and flights — and how those lessons also apply to life on earth. Here is a sampling of the wisdom he passes on:

• Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive. Likewise, coming up with a plan of action isn’t a waste of time if it gives you peace of mind.

• In any new situation … you will almost certainly be viewed in one of three ways. As a minus one: someone who creates problems. As a zero: your impact is neutral and doesn’t tip the balance one way or the other. Or as a plus one: someone who actively adds value. Proclaiming your plus-oneness at the outset almost guarantees you’ll be perceived as a minus one, regardless of the skills you bring to the table or how you actually perform.

• When we got back to Earth, a lot of people asked whether everything had gone the way we’d planned. The truth is that nothing went as we’d planned, but everything was within the scope of what we had prepared for.

• If you start thinking that only your biggest and shiniest moments count, you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure most of the time. Personally, I’d rather feel good most of the time, so, to me, everything counts: the small moments, the medium ones, the successes that make the papers and also the ones no one knows about but me.

• At NASA it’s just a given that today’s star will be tomorrow’s stagehand, toiling behind the scenes in relative obscurity…. If you’re part of the support team, you know full well that the meaning and significance of your work isn’t determined by how visible it is to outsiders.


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Large print

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“A Story Lately Told” is a memoir by Anjelica Huston that shares her childhood in Ireland, teen years in London and as a model and actress in New York. “Si-cology 101” by Si Robertson collects the tales and wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s favorite uncle.

Thanks to our donors

For books and materials this week, we thank Nancy Greene and several anonymous donors.

Quotable quote

“Knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can do.” — Lucille Ball (1911-1989), comedian, model, film and TV actress and studio executive.


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This story was posted on January 23, 2014.