Quotes from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

Chris Hadfield ·  295 pages

Rating: (33.1K votes)


“In any new situation, whether it involves an elevator or a rocket ship, you will almost certainly be viewed in one of three ways. As a minus one: actively harmful, someone who creates problems. Or as a zero: your impact is neutral and doesn't tip the balance one way or the other. Or you'll be seen as a plus one: someone who actively adds value. Everyone wants to be a plus one, of course. But 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.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“I wasn't lonely. Loneliness, I think, has very little to do with location. It's a state of mind. In the centre of every city are some of the loneliest people in the world. If anything, because our whole planet was just outside the window, I felt even more aware of and connected to the seven billion other people who call it home.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“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.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“Early success is a terrible teacher. You're essentially being rewarded for a lack of preparation, so when you find yourself in a situation where you must prepare, you can't do it. You don't know how.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“To me, it’s simple: if you’ve got the time, use it to get ready. What else could you possibly have to do that’s more important? Yes, maybe you’ll learn how to do a few things you’ll never wind up actually needing to do, but that’s a much better problem to have than needing to do something and having no clue where to start.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth



“Sweat the small stuff. Without letting anyone see you sweat.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“In my experience, fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen. When you feel helpless, you’re far more afraid than you would be if you knew the facts.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“I wasn’t destined to be an astronaut. I had to turn myself into one.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“In space flight, “attitude” refers to orientation: which direction your vehicle is pointing relative to the Sun, Earth and other spacecraft. If you lose control of your attitude, two things happen: the vehicle starts to tumble and spin, disorienting everyone on board, and it also strays from its course, which, if you’re short on time or fuel, could mean the difference between life and death. In the Soyuz, for example, we use every cue from every available source—periscope, multiple sensors, the horizon—to monitor our attitude constantly and adjust if necessary. We never want to lose attitude, since maintaining attitude is fundamental to success.

In my experience, something similar is true on Earth. Ultimately, I don’t determine whether I arrive at the desired professional destination. Too many variables are out of my control. There’s really just one thing I can control: my attitude during the journey, which is what keeps me feeling steady and stable, and what keeps me headed in the right direction. So I consciously monitor and correct, if necessary, because losing attitude would be far worse than not achieving my goal.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth



“As I have discovered again and again, things are never as bad (or as good) as they seem at the time.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“Competence means keeping your head in a crisis, sticking with a task even when it seems hopeless, and improvising good solutions to tough problems when every second counts. It encompasses ingenuity, determination and being prepared for anything.

Astronauts have these qualities not because we’re smarter than everyone else (though let’s face it, you do need a certain amount of intellectual horsepower to be able to fix a toilet). It’s because we are taught to view the world—and ourselves—differently. My shorthand for it is “thinking like an astronaut.” But you don’t have to go to space to learn to do that.

It’s mostly a matter of changing your perspective.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“My optimism and confidence come not from feeling I'm luckier than other mortals, and they sure don't come from visualizing victory. They're the result of a lifetime spent visualizing defeat and figuring out how to prevent it.

Like most astronauts, I'm pretty sure that I can deal with what life throws at me because I've thought about what to do if things go wrong, as well as right. That's the power of negative thinking.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“It’s not enough to shelve your own competitive streak. You have to try, consciously, to help others succeed.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“Life off Earth is in two important respects not at all unworldly: you can choose to focus on the surprises and pleasures, or the frustrations. And you can choose to appreciate the smallest scraps of experience, the everyday moments, or to value only the grandest, most stirring ones.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth



“we broke into Mir using a Swiss Army knife. Never leave the planet without one.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“In any field, it’s a plus if you view criticism as potentially helpful advice rather than as a personal attack.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“good leadership means leading the way, not hectoring other people to do things your way.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“focus on the journey, not on arriving at a certain destination.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“Many people object to “wasting money in space” yet have no idea how much is actually spent on space exploration. The CSA’s budget, for instance, is less than the amount Canadians spend on Halloween candy every year, and most of it goes toward things like developing telecommunications satellites and radar systems to provide data for weather and air quality forecasts, environmental monitoring and climate change studies. Similarly, NASA’s budget is not spent in space but right here on Earth, where it’s invested in American businesses and universities, and where it also pays dividends, creating new jobs, new technologies and even whole new industries.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth



“The best way to contribute to a brand-new environment is not by trying to prove what a wonderful addition you are. It’s by trying to have a neutral impact, to observe and learn from those who are already there, and to pitch in with the grunt work wherever possible.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“When you have some skills but don't fully understand your environment, there is no way you can be plus one. At best, you can be a zero. But a zero isn't a bad thing to be. You're competent enough not to create problems or make more work for everyone else. And you have to be competent, and prove to others that you are, before you can be extraordinary. There are no short-cuts, unfortunately.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“That’s how I approach just about everything. I spend my life getting ready to play “Rocket Man.” I picture the most demanding challenge; I visualize what I would need to know how to do to meet it; then I practice until I reach a level of competence where I’m comfortable that I’ll be able to perform. It’s what I’ve always done, ever since I decided I wanted to be an astronaut in 1969, and that conscious, methodical approach to preparation is the main reason I got to Houston. I never stopped getting ready. Just in case.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“If you’re an adrenaline junkie, I understand why you’d find that exciting. But I’m not, and I don’t.

To me, the only good reason to take a risk is that there’s a decent possibility of a reward that outweighs the hazard. Exploring the edge of the universe and pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and capability strike me as pretty significant rewards, so I accept the risks of being an astronaut, but with an abundance of caution: I want to understand them, manage them and reduce them as much as possible.

It’s almost comical that astronauts are stereotyped as daredevils and cowboys. As a rule, we’re highly methodical and detail-oriented. Our passion isn’t for thrills but for the grindstone, and pressing our noses to it. We have to: we’re responsible for equipment that has cost taxpayers many millions of dollars, and the best insurance policy we have on our lives is our own dedication to training. Studying, simulating, practicing until responses become automatic—astronauts don’t do all this only to fulfill NASA’s requirements. Training is something we do to reduce the odds that we’ll die.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“While play-acting grim scenarios day in and day out may sound like a good recipe for clinical depression, it’s actually weirdly uplifting. Rehearsing for catastrophe has made me positive that I have the problem-solving skills to deal with tough situations and come out the other side smiling. For me, this has greatly reduced the mental and emotional clutter that unchecked worrying produces, those random thoughts that hijack your brain at three o’clock in the morning.

While I very much hoped not to die in space, I didn’t live in fear of it, largely because I’d been made to think through the practicalities: how I’d want my family to get the news, for instance, and which astronaut I should recruit to help my wife cut through the red tape at NASA and the CSA. Before my last space flight (as with each of the earlier ones) I reviewed my will, made sure my financial affairs and taxes were in order, and did all the other things you’d do if you knew you were going to die. But that didn’t make me feel like I had one foot in the grave. It actually put my mind at ease and reduced my anxiety about what my family’s future would look like if something happened to me. Which meant that when the engines lit up at launch, I was able to focus entirely on the task at hand: arriving alive.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth



“Square astronaut, round hole. But somehow, I’d managed to push myself through it, and here was the truly amazing part: along the way, I’d become a good fit. It had only taken 21 years.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“Competence means keeping your head in a crisis, sticking with a task even when it seems hopeless, and improvising good solutions to tough problems when every second counts. It encompasses ingenuity, determination and being prepared for anything.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“Still, I also know that most people, including me, tend to applaud the wrong things: the showy, dramatic record-setting sprint rather than the years of dogged preparation or the unwavering grace displayed during a string of losses. Applause, then, never bore much relation to the reality of my life as an astronaut, which was not all about, or even mostly about, flying around in space.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“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.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


“Being forced to confront the prospect of failure head-on—to study it, dissect it, tease apart all its components and consequences—really works. After a few years of doing that pretty much daily, you’ve forged the strongest possible armor to defend against fear: hard-won competence.

Our training pushes us to develop a new set of instincts: instead of reacting to danger with a fight-or-flight adrenaline rush, we’re trained to respond unemotionally by immediately prioritizing threats and methodically seeking to defuse them. We go from wanting to bolt for the exit to wanting to engage and understand what’s going wrong, then fix it.”
― Chris Hadfield, quote from An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth



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About the author

Chris Hadfield
Born place: in Sarnia, Canada
Born date August 29, 1959
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