A detailed review of the book "An astronaut's guide to life on earth" by the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. The book describes his life, his single-minded focus, and his tips for leadership and happiness.
Book review: An astronaut's guide to life on earth - Chris Hadfield
"An astronaut's guide to life on earth" by Chris Hadfield
(Or, gravity, as explained by a man who has been there and done that)
Chris Hadfield, as you probably know, is a Canadian astronaut who came into prominence recently for
the brilliant photos and videos he shot while orbiting the earth in the International Space Station (ISS).
He is also a competent guitarist/singer, whose 'weightless' rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity"
became a runaway hit on YouTube.
Having retired from active duty, Hadfield has just launched a book titled "An astronaut's guide to life on
earth" (Macmillan). Divided neatly and logically into 3 parts ("Pre-launch", "Liftoff" and "Coming down
to earth"), the book is a looping narrative of how a 9-year old kid gets inspired by Neil Armstrong's first
steps on the moon, decides to become an astronaut, and actually achieves that goal through dogged
Now, all of us have had childhood dreams - I wanted to be an engine driver, for instance - but what sets
Chris apart is his clarity of purpose. In his own words, he wasn't destined to be an astronaut; he had to
turn himself into one. This book takes us through his life journey in a very interesting way. In the
process, Chris also does a great job of explaining the technology that goes into a successful space
mission, the ever-present risk of accidents and death, and how sheer hard work, preparation and
attention to detail become essential traits for survival in the unforgiving emptiness of space. (Okay, I got
a bit carried away there.)
What differentiates this book from the usual preachy "Look at me, I'm the hero, here is my formula for
success" variety is Hadfield's humility. "Square astronaut, round hole. It's the story of my life", he says.
And goes about acquiring more knowledge and skills, so that he gets the confidence and ability to
succeed in a highly competitive field where he is surrounded by experts who seem to know exactly what
The book is also peppered with common-sense wisdom on leadership, teamwork, and coping with life's
many disappointments - all based on real events, and described with refreshing candor. Just when you
begin to think, "Hey, this guy is sounding too good to be true", he talks about some setback, and how he
struggles to come to terms with it and move on. This is one astronaut with both feet planted firmly on
the ground. In a crisis, you want Chris Hadfield by your side. Not Clooney, not Bullock. (Okay, that was a
cheap shot, Your Honor. Withdrawn.)
A whole lot of management gurus have written a whole lot of books on how to be a "professional" and
how to be successful. This book by Chris has the ring of authenticity - he's been there, and done that.
Read it, and then gift it to your children.
December 14, 2013