Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) is an engineer, former Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot, retired astronaut, the first Canadian to walk in space, and author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and The Darkest Dark.
What We Discuss with Chris Hadfield:
- The difference between “I want to be” and “I want to turn myself into.”
- Enjoying small victories along a path of preparation and personal growth vs. grand “make it or break it” expectations.
- How intense is imposter syndrome for a newly selected astronaut?
- What’s the astronaut’s (as well as earthling’s) best antidote for fear?
- What really happens when you sneeze in space?
- And much more…
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Commander Chris Hadfield is the rare nine-year-old who managed to stay focused on the dream into adulthood, becoming the first Canadian to walk in space and, as The Telegraph called him upon weightlessly covering David Bowie’s Space Oddity from the ISS, “Space’s first rock star.” He’s the author of several books, including An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything and The Darkest Dark.
Listen to this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to learn more about the difference between wanting to be something and deliberately turning yourself into something, how cultivating curiosity in children goes much further than trying to convince them of the benefits of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), why Chris never counted on flying in space in order to feel good about himself while simultaneously building the life experiences that would prepare him if the opportunity arose, the value of dropping one’s personal threshold for victory and rejoicing in life’s small victories, how a small-town newspaper accidentally checked Chris’ ego when he became the top US Air Force test pilot graduate, what imposter syndrome is like for a newly selected astronaut, what Chris considers the biggest antidote to fear, what “aiming to be a zero” means, how a Canadian astronaut in orbit secures regular supplies of maple cookies, and lots more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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On No Dumb Questions, a science guy from the deep south (Destin of Smarter Every Day) and a humanities guy from the wild west (Matt Whitman of The Ten Minute Bible Hour) discuss deep questions with varying levels of maturity. Give No Dumb Questions a listen here!
THANKS, CHRIS HADFIELD!
If you enjoyed this session with Chris Hadfield, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield
- The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and The Fan Brothers
- Space Oddity | Rare Earth
- Chris Hadfield | Website
- Chris Hadfield | Facebook
- Chris Hadfield | Instagram
- Chris Hadfield | Twitter
Transcript for Chris Hadfield | An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (Episode 408)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
Chris Hadfield: [00:00:02] My first spacewalk holding onto the outside of a spaceship and I'm blind I've lost one of my five senses. What do you do next? That's always what the question is. I talked to Mission Control. We thought maybe it was one of the purified chemicals in the suit because it causes eye irritation. It's a nasty chemical. So we thought let's open up the purge valve. And let my limited oxygen supply blow across my face out of my little pressurized tank and squared out into the universe. And maybe that will flush the contaminated air out of my suit, and then my eyes will get better. But that's a bit of a gamble because I only have a very finite amount of oxygen. It's a very odd feeling to be blind holding onto the outside of a spaceship, listening to your oxygen hissed out into the universe.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:52] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. If you're new to the show, we have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, psychologists, even the occasional war correspondent.
[00:01:08] Today, though, it's the former we're going for an astronaut. We've got Commander Chris Hadfield here on the show. Commander Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space, author of the Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. He stayed in space for six months with multiple spacewalks under his belt. He also made the first music video in space, not bad. He's one of the premier space educators of our time. This is one from the vault. Jason and I took years to get them on the show. Just took an absolute eternity but it was worth it. He's really insightful, self-aware. He's a great leader and he started the path to becoming an astronaut at age nine, which is, I thought that's incredible. That's when kids think they're going to become an astronaut and then he went and actually stuck with it and did it.
[00:01:48] Today, he's going to show us how to think like an astronaut, how we focus on something so singularly and so hard while managing to keep something like that separate from his sense of self-worth and identity. I think that's an interesting point. We'll talk about focus, neutralizing stress, and how to persevere when the going gets tough. We'll also discover how he stays calm in high-pressure situations by training for his own demise, a little dark. And last but not least, mindsets of astronauts and other do or literally die high performers. There's just nonstop wisdom here. I was swimming and gold with this one, Scrooge McDuck style.
[00:02:19] If you're wondering how I managed to book all of these great authors, thinkers, celebrities, astronauts, every single week, it's because of my network. I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company. Now, enjoy this episode with Commander Chris Hadfield.
[00:02:39] We thought, okay, we've got all these really serious questions. We've got all these interesting things, but we're going to start with something silly, just because somehow this was the most burning question, which is what happens with some of the more mundane things in space. For example, if you sneeze, do you get thrown backwards? How do you find everything that, you know, might've happened as a result of that sneeze? Is that important? Because we're reading in a book about things like toenail clippings becoming a problem. It seems like human bodies create all kinds of stuff that doesn't mesh well with Space Station.
Chris Hadfield: [00:03:09] So Jordan, if you were going to live on a spaceship for half a year, you'd have a million things that you're supposed to do. I think like most astronauts you would sort of make up a list of little things that she wanted to try and weightlessness. You know, like do a hundred somersaults in a row or whatever. Or close your eyes and picture that you've just stepped off a cliff and now that you're falling forever and see if you could maintain that visual image in your head. There's a sort of a big shopping list of fun things to try when you're living in weightlessness onboard a spaceship, and one of them is sneezing. You would think that if you have a great big loud sneeze, that it would pinwheel you backwards. But if you think about it just a little — and I did try it because it was on my list. But if you just think about it, anything that you exhale or expel when you're sneezing, you basically had to inhale shortly prior. The air had to come into you in order to go out of you. It's just mass in mass out.
[00:04:07] And so, if it would push you backwards, it would also pull you forwards when you're breathing. And so I tried it and there is no appreciable change as a result of sneezing. It doesn't spin you backwards. Of course, you don't want to just sneeze uncovered, just like on Earth, because instead of just arcing a little ways and falling to the floor, in space, it will fly right across the whole ship and land on the wall or somebody else or something. So you want to cover your mouth but just a straight sneeze does not propel you in a cartwheel across the ship, unfortunately. Your body is too heavy in proportion to the tiny, tiny mass of the air and the little snot driplets that are coming out of your nose and your mouth. So it's not enough to matter.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:48] Ah, that makes sense. Yeah, I guess now I'm just imagining a strong sneeze and then somebody 11 feet away at the other end doing an experiment goes, "Oh man, come on."
Chris Hadfield: [00:04:57] Well, you know, what's worse is when you're exercising. We have a stationary bicycle on a treadmill. And if you've ever looked, we should go to the gym and look around the floor under the really heavy cardiovascular equipment, you can see where everybody's sweat drips. You know, you can see the staining and actually the corrosion often on an old piece of equipment. Well, imagine if your sweat doesn't drip but it just sticks to your body until it gets thick enough on your body — almost like a jelly that if you suddenly move, it comes to a sort of glopping off you like this now ball of floating body temperature sweat coming across the room. And that is way worse for any other crew members to be attacked by somebody else's flying sweat.
[00:05:38] So what you do when you work out is we have a towel floating next to us the whole time. And you regularly — while you're working out with you, grab the towel and just tell yourself off so that the sweat doesn't inadvertently become an extraterrestrial and go and insult somebody else in the crew.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:54] Yeah, that makes sense, right? Because it seems like if you're sweating and there's no gravity to pull it down and have it drip off you, it just kind of creates a weird sweat mask that just maybe floats away depending on how much you're moving and then it doesn't have anywhere to go.
Chris Hadfield: [00:06:08] It gets thicker and thicker on you until it's thick enough that that surface tension isn't strong enough to hold there anymore. Sort of like if you took, like a glass and you spin the wine in a glass and it'll stay in, but it could spin it too hard then the surface tension and the weight won't hold it in the glass anymore. And a certain little glob of it will come flying out of the glass. Same thing happens with your sweat. It gets big enough glob of your own sweat that it will float away. Keep a towel handy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:34] Nice. And I'm sure we'll have more ridiculous questions in a little bit, but I definitely want to get to some of the really meaty stuff that I think has a great takeaway and great lessons for the listener here. You started planning what to do when you were nine years old to become an astronaut. That's highly unusual. And I kind of want to dig into what that means, because I think when nine-year-old kids mostly say things like, "Oh, I want to be in the army," or, "I want to be a policeman," then thinking, "All right, what's the next step in my career?" they're just waiting until they're old enough to become that particular thing. How was that different for you?
Chris Hadfield: [00:07:10] There's a big difference. And one is, "I want to be," is one way to express it. The other is, "I want to turn myself into," which is a whole different way of looking at was conceptually the same idea. Everybody wants to be all kinds of things. I want to be a lottery winner. I want to be whatever, but that doesn't move you one iota closer. But if you say instead, "I want to turn myself into," whatever — a heart surgeon. "I want to turn myself into a chess master. I want to turn myself into a MIG welder." Then suddenly it changed your whole job, your job isn't just to wait and buy lottery tickets. Your job is to actually start to modify who you are. If you're trying to be someone who understands how to do a MIG welding, then it narrows down your choices of what you're going to read next. Or you might go to a shop near your house, and go and learn from the people that are there welding. Watch a program about metallurgy or whatever.
[00:08:09] But as soon as you turn yourself from someone who just wants to be something into someone who is deliberately changing who they are to turn yourself into who you want to be, then your whole part in the process changes. And what's intriguing about nine years old, Jordan, is that I've spoken to a lot of successful people, Olympians and such. And a lot of them had a major event or a decision point in their life when they were like nine, 10. It's when you start to become aware of the world, you start to become aware of the fact that you have some control over your own life. Things don't just happen by magic and by accident. You may even start to realize you are going to be the results of your own decision-making.
[00:08:52] A lot of people never actually realized that. But some of the really successful folks that I've talked to had that some influence, maybe some inspiration, something they saw, something that really inspired them when they were nine or 10 years old and it changed their behaviors. And that's definitely what happened to me. I watched the first two people walk on the moon and I thought, "Wow," you know, "I'm going to grow up to be something. Why don't I grow up to be that? That's the coolest thing ever. If that's on the list, if that's a possibility, if that's something manual of life choices, then shoot, I choose that. How did they become that? And how can I maybe change myself so I could become that?" I think maybe that's where the difference lies.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:33] Was that more big decisions like, "Okay, I've got to go to this specific college, in this specific school, or were these more daily choices that would inform the type of person you would become?
Chris Hadfield: [00:09:43] Oh, the big decisions are the easy ones. That's just saying something out loud. You know, it's like saying, "I'm going to speak Spanish," or, "I'm going to lose 10 pounds." Great. "I got to lose 10 pounds." That's the easiest thing in the world to say out loud, but what's actually going to make you lose 10 pounds is a sequence of hundreds, if not thousands of small decisions. Every time I was about to put this food in my mouth, I needed to make a different decision to take the escalator, I needed to walk. When I was about to sit down and watch TV, I needed to get on a bike. I mean, it's just the little decisions that actually have an effect. The big decisions may help you choose what you're going to do next. Your life is really only the inevitable accumulating result of each of the small decisions you made. Everything else is just sort of the framework within which those decisions happen.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:31] Did you ever find it hard to focus on this kind of thing when you're nine years old? I mean, were there a lot of moments where it kind of faltered or you changed your mind or was this something that you were really just hell-bent on even at that age?
Chris Hadfield: [00:10:43] Oh, no, shoot. I find it hard now. I'm no different than anybody else. And I make lots of wrong decisions. I don't stick to my own schedule. You know, I try, but if you don't have a long-term plan, if you don't actually have that overarching framework of where you're trying to get to, then I'm at a loss to figure out how it is that you choose what to do next. What do you use in order to decide? Whereas if you know that someday you want to raft down the Nile, if you've never considered it, it's never going to happen and you're never going to be a person who is capable of it.
[00:11:14] But if you set that as kind of one of those easy, big decisions, then it helps you choose what to do next. And you're going to get it wrong more than you get it right. Life is going to deprive you of a lot of the things that you think you ought to hopefully have a chance to do or be entitled to. But I think having multiple, very crazy, cool long-term goals so that they help you choose no matter what all the little messes of life are dealing you, they help you choose what to do next. Then I think you have a lot better shot, at least making some of them come partially true.
[00:11:45] I mean, my goal was to walk on the moon and I still haven't done that, but I was lucky enough to fly three different rocket ships and to live half a year in space on three different spaceflights and command the spaceship and do spacewalks. It is purely the direct results of all of those little minute by minute decisions that I've made since starting when I was a kid, just turning 10.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:06] Did you decide to learn more about how to learn these things? I mean, in the book, there's a lot of talk about enrichment classes and things like that. And I think learning how to learn and meta-learning is a super-hot topic, but back then, not so much. Was that something you were conscious of at that point?
Chris Hadfield: [00:12:23] Yeah, to me, it's like talking to a kid about STEM is a waste of breath. Kids aren't interested in the adult acronyms that go along with the process. Kids just want to know the information. They just want to learn and they want to be in an environment where the things that they're curious about are available to them. And I was lucky enough to be raised in a place where the education system was available. And the advanced education was available, raised in a household where curiosity was encouraged, but not just curiosity, answers. Answers are more important than just being curious. If you just go around going, "Huh, I wonder how that works," then you don't get anywhere. But if you say, "I need to know how that works and I want to figure it out," and then learn how that works and then add that to the group of things that I know how to do now. And that's the environment that I was raised in both as a family and sort of, in a culture. There's a lot of different ways to get there, but the particular sequence of events that I was lucky enough to be a part of as a kid, encouraged it and enabled it, and silently allowed me to continue to pursue the things I was dreaming about.
[00:13:28] Information has never been more available now. Back in 1540, when Gutenberg invented the printing press, information was all hearsay and very hard to get a hold of. By 1500, in 60 years, one lifetime, they had printed two million volumes. It was like the Internet of the 1500s and suddenly information was available. And now with social media and with the Internet and with everybody having a smartphone, it's never been easier to pursue the things that you're curious about and add to your own body of knowledge. And so it's more readily available now than ever. And I think people just need to recognize that some accumulated knowledge of humanity is right there in your pocket and all it really takes is you to make sure that you incrementally keep asking questions and answering them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:15] Did you have trouble separating your sense of self-worth on making it to becoming an astronaut? I mean, the odds are really low and it seems like it would be very tough to focus on something so singularly and so hard while also managing to keep something like that separate from deciding whether or not you slash your life is a failure or a success.
Chris Hadfield: [00:14:37] Yeah, absolutely, I understand the question. Maybe if you look externally at it, it looks like I was pursuing one thing, make or break, and it was never that way at all. You know, publicly people know that I'm an astronaut and lived on the Space Station but, of course, my life was significantly deeper and broader than just that and I've done millions of other things. All of them were interesting and important to me and I never counted on flying in space in order to feel good about myself or to feel like I've succeeded. You know, as a teenager, I learned to fly airplanes, and then I went to university or several different universities. And I joined the air force and became a pilot and qualified to become a fighter pilot and worked for NORAD intercepting Soviet bombers. And all of those things — I was a downhill ski racer as a teenager and a ski instructor. I loved all of those things.
[00:15:29] And to me, they were sort of leading — someday, maybe if I'm an astronaut, well, shoot, if I have a couple of engineering degrees, and I know how to fly fighters, and I've been to test pilot school, all of which are really interesting and a wonderful endpoint in life. Like if you can just get it that far, that's a pretty cool job and a pretty interesting set of challenges, but they also sort of shaped my life such that maybe also I could, in addition to those things, get selected as an astronaut also. But even when you get selected as an astronaut, you're an astronaut candidate for years, and you're never really sure that you're going to fly in space because you're one small accident or one tiny medical disqualification away from never flying in space always, and you never can count on it.
[00:16:13] So I always kept it as a long-term goal, but I tried to succeed as often as I could. It's sort of like a lot of people keep a bucket list where they have this list of things by which they measure themselves. You know, "Here are the things that I need to do in order to feel happy with myself." At least, I think that's what bucket lists are. And to me, it just seems very limiting if I don't do these things. If you look back in your bucket six months later and you haven't got any of them done, then by definition, you're a loser or you failed yourself. And I think you should drop your personal threshold of victory way lower. Allow yourself to be victorious every day. Don't wait for something that probably won't ever happen 20 years from now, in order to feel like for the first time in your life, you've succeeded.
[00:17:01] I've always tried to feel at the end of every single day like, "This was a cool day. I learned some cool things. I didn't do everything right, but I got some good stuff done and I'm slightly more ready to deal with the things that are coming along tomorrow." That's how I've approached it and I got to fly in space, but it wasn't "make or break" for me. It was just a lucky, continuing point in amongst all the other stuff I've been doing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:22] I think that's great advice looking at life, your life, our life, as small wins loosely joined together. And of course, it's easy for us and for me interviewing you right now to look at your life in hindsight, which looks like a straight line, but was actually a windy road with a lot of different goals that ended up with you in space, but wouldn't have been all for naught if you didn't end up on the Space Station. And I think a lot of us could use a dose of that as well. Because lots of us will say things like, "Well, I'm not outcome dependent. Well, I'm not worried about this. I'm not worried about that," but the more we invest in what we think is our singular goal, the more outcome dependent we become. And then one day, if we do experience a setback or a temporary failure, it can look a lot bigger than it really is because of the way that we've magnified it.
Chris Hadfield: [00:18:09] Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I ran into countless dead ends, you know, "Hey, this isn't going to work." Like when the Challenger accident happened in 1986, I thought, "Well, what am I pursuing astronaut flying for? NASA's not going to fly again. They're not going to keep quiet space shuttles. They just killed all these people, including an innocent teacher, very publicly, you know, and I'm a Canadian. We don't even have a space agency up in my country. You know, what are the odds?" But I had lots of other options. I thought, "You know, hey, I already have an engineering degree and I'm pursuing a master's and I know how to fly. And I've got lots of other things I can do. And they're all interesting to me." There's all sorts of things that I could turn and focus myself towards. And it's really just kind of up to me to decide what my own measures of success are and stop waiting for somebody else to tell me when I've succeeded.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:55] Yeah. Becoming a fighter pilot, go into US test pilot school, in the book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, it's funny because you graduated at the top of the US fighter pilot school and I guess the local news wanted to write an article about it. What was the title of that article?
Chris Hadfield: [00:19:10] Well, it was so funny because they were on the phone with me. I was down in California at Edwards Air Force Base — I'd won, as you say, top pilot on the course and so the hometown paper up at the — in Cold Lake, Alberta wanted to write a newspaper article about it. So they did it and they said, "Oh, what are we going to call the article?” And I said to them, "I don't know, Canadian wins top test pilot or something to that effect." And that's the title they put. Canadian Wins Top Test Pilot or Something to That Effect. That was the title. That was the headline of the newspaper. It was a pretty good humility check for me, like, "Get over yourself. Stop thinking you're too important. Just try and do the things that are important to you. And if other people want to remark on it, that's their decision. Not yours."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:52] That's funny. Right? It's like, they've clearly got their best people on this one.
Chris Hadfield: [00:19:57] Yeah. It's just people and people make mistakes and they do their best. Everyone's got a different agenda. So, you know, stop thinking that everybody thinks my particular set of priorities are the only ones that matter.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:08] It seems like becoming an astronaut, the process of going to space is a process of just continually starting over. Go to fighter pilot school. You can graduate at the top and then, "Oh, I've got to apply to the astronaut program." Now you're one in 5,000 which is kind of like top college odds, only every one of those 5,000 was probably qualified in some way for space versus colleges where 80 percent of the applications are Hail Mary's from random people whose parents made them apply. So you're getting selected for these different programs and graduating from these different programs. How are you feeling when you finally get selected? Is it more excitement or is it more relief or is it just kind of, "Okay, here we go again, starting from the bottom of the totem pole"?
Chris Hadfield: [00:20:50] Yeah, we sort of have this weird perception that we're climbing a ladder. The ladder of success and everything you do in your life is somehow preordained and organized, such that when you finish this particular phase, you are never going to be one rung higher. And boy, that sure hasn't been my experience. It's not really a ladder. It's more like just a million little pedestals that you go stand on. Then you go stand on this pedestal for a while and you can see some stuff. But then you've got to get down off that one to go climb and stand on another one. And maybe the other one will be bigger or have a better view or suit you better. But if you really want to change where you are, you're tired of the pedestal, you're on or if you want to try and accomplish something else in your life, then you're going to have to step back before you can step forward, almost invariably or at least that's what my life has been like.
[00:21:37] And the day you're talking about when I got the telephone call asking if I would like to be part of the space program and be an astronaut, I was at the top of my profession. I'd been the top test pilot, as you say, at the test pilot school. I was the top test pilot in the US Navy as a Canadian. And I had lots of other sorts of external measures of success, so I was respected and competent and really enjoying my work. And then to be selected as an astronaut, suddenly I'm a guy who knows nothing. When I showed up for work, I sat down in the office and the two people in the office with me, one of them was perfecting his Russian, so he could be the first American to live on the Mir Space Station. And the other was John Young who had fallen on the first flight of Gemini. He'd flown the first by the Lunar Lander. He'd walked on the moon and he'd done the first flight of the space shuttle. These are my two guys sitting in my office and I'm like, "I'm a complete imposter sitting here. I'm just some guy who went through an application process, but I have zero skills right now."
[00:22:37] So I think you need to accept the fact what you've done so far, really only, hopefully, qualifies you for what you're trying to do next, but it sure doesn't give you any sort of golden tickets. But I applied, as you say, with 5,300 other people for a few slots as an astronaut and in the most recent NASA astronaut class, 18,000 people applied for eight positions. So, the odds are terrible and I really wanted to be an astronaut, I still do. So I had a lot invested in it.
[00:23:07] When the phone did ring that Saturday, just after lunch, and the president of the space agency asked if I would like to be an astronaut. Of course, I said yes. The biggest emotion was one of relief because I had done a bunch of things with this as a hopeful endgame in mind, and that had put demands on my family. And it had been sort of the reason that I'd made a lot of choices in life. And so to have it actually work, it's like if you're rebuilding an engine and you've taken it right down, all its pieces and you put the whole thing together. And then at some point, you turn the key and if it starts up with the runs, it's like, "Wow, all of that wasn't in vain and I don't have to go back and try and do that whole process again." And the biggest emotion was one of relief. It was sort of like, "Okay, this phase of life — me being a test pilot, it's now about to wrap up and I'm about to step off a new diving board into the void of the next phase of life, so let's see what comes next.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:07] Yeah, it seems like a very common theme in almost all of the shows that we have with high performers, that imposter syndrome, where everybody feels like, "Oh, I'm starting over. I don't know if I deserve to be in this company." It seems like breaking through that. Imposter syndrome is a universal skillset. What types of personalities are good for astronauts in general?
Chris Hadfield: [00:24:26] Actually Jordan, for dealing with the imposter syndrome, here's a coping mechanism I've always used. When I got selected for test pilot school, I thought, "Holy cow, I got to fly 30 or 40 different airplanes this year. And I have to — I don't know how to do any of this stuff. I got to learn control theory and all of this — very, very demanding year." So what I do is I try and find someone who's already been through this thing, but I'm just starting, who's out at the other end of it. And try and find someone who has as unimpressive to me as possible. And then I kind of focus on them. I go, "Well, if they could do this, then surely I could do this thing." And that even becomes true — you know, astronaut is a very esoteric and difficult position, but there's all different capabilities. We're just people. And some astronauts are just staggeringly, amazing people, and some just barely made it into the office, and so some are more impressive than others. And so that's the mechanism I've always used to try and get over what you call imposter syndrome. Just find somebody who's already done that thing, that you otherwise would not have all that much respect for and just focus on them. And it helps humanize the task that you've bitten off for yourself.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:36] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Commander Chris Hadfield. We'll be right back.
[00:25:42] This episode is sponsored in part by DesignCrowd. These are some weird unstable times we're living in and the global economy is having a few rough months. It has a lot of talented people looking to make some extra income and, you know, like pay the bills, keep the lights on. That is especially true in the world of design. I bet there's never been this many great designers ready to do great work. And in fact, hundreds of thousands of great part-timers and full-timers are hanging out at DesignCrowd. They actually have over three-quarters of a million designers from all around the world. This is an on-demand crowdsourcing platform for graphics. So whether you need business cards, logos, letterhead, your Fortnite avatar because maybe you're making your money on Xbox these days. DesignCrowd got you covered. What you do is you tell them what you want. You post a brief, invite — I don't know, 750,000 designers to submit a project proposal. You'll get 60 to a hundred different designs for you to choose from. And then you pick the one you like and approve payment. That's really it.
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[00:27:47] And now back to Commander Hadfield on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:27:53] That's funny. It was almost like the reverse comparison. Instead of just comparing yourself to all the amazing things that all the amazing people have done around you and thinking, "Oh, no, I don't know if I can do that." You can focus on that one time that he tied his shoelaces together and you go, "Okay, good. We're all human."
Chris Hadfield: [00:28:09] Yeah, we're all just human. And these guys, none of them were born doing this. They figured out a way to do it. And so I'm going to do the same thing. You know, it's a daunting thing. And the beauty of being an astronaut is it is a bottomless pit of demands for competence. You can never be good enough, ever. Right up until the moment of launch, you are trying to improve your capabilities because the vehicle will kill you in a heartbeat. And the way to survive is through your own wits, your own skills, your own proven competence. And then it's a life of service as well because you're supporting others and getting other people ready for spaceflight and supporting their families and training them and working with them, working in Mission Control and such.
[00:28:49] And so it is just this yawning void of demand on yourself. It's so much more than just a job or a skillset. It completely defines and shapes your life, really for the rest of your life. And that's a really fun thing to be a part of, to have something that is that demanding on you. That is that exact thing that's forcing you to constantly rise to a level that you thought you never could or would never be challenged enough to attempt. And so you come out the other end of it with a set of skills and experiences that you never would have allowed yourself to dream might actually be part of who you are. And it's great to be involved in any sort of program like that, especially if it's one that excited you when you were a little kid.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:32] It seems like the ratio of training to mission time is extreme. Do you happen to know what that is? I mean, it seems like it's 8.5 minutes to space, give or take 10 years or 20 years of training.
Chris Hadfield: [00:29:45] Yeah. Well, I was an astronaut for 21 years. I was in space for six months. So you could just do that math at 20 and a half years of training for six months in space, but our spaceflights used to be much shorter. A space shuttle could only stay up for a couple of weeks until you could no longer purify the oxygen or there wasn't enough to purify the carbon dioxide or there wasn't enough oxygen or the toilet was full or whatever. So the spaceflights were short. So you could train for 10 years for a two-week flight and that's a pretty staggering ratio.
[00:30:16] But the interesting part is on the day of launch, you're still not a hundred percent ready. The vehicle is still very unknown and the most complicated flying machine ever built. We only flew it 135 times. Anytime you've ever gotten on an airliner, it's floating countless times, thousands of times before they ever take paying passengers onboard. And yet we flew the shuttle on operational missions, right from the beginning. So to try and get yourself ready for that, even with all those years of preparation, on the day of launch, there's still a lot of unknowns. And the only bulwark between success and failure is your own preparedness and readiness to face up to the things that are going to go wrong. So that's an amazing process to be part of also.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:58] I heard that both you and — I know Mike Massimino is also afraid of heights. I mean, I got to laugh a little bit. Did you guys not read the job description? I mean, how is it possible?
Chris Hadfield: [00:31:09] I think everybody should be afraid of heights. I mean, if you're not afraid of heights, then you're missing something. Because if you stand right on the edge, if you just fall from your own standing height, unprotected onto a hard surface, you can do serious damage. You know, just fall face forward sometime and see what happens to your body, just from your own standing height. We can't afford to fall. And so if you're up the ladder or up on the edge of a balcony or a cliff, your body ought to be telling you, "This is dangerous." If you're not bolted to the wall or protected by your guard rail, then you are one tiny little random event away from serious injury or death. And that ought to scare you. Just because there's danger present doesn't mean you need to be terrified. If you're on a balcony with a high railing, then you can't fall. Whatever, if you're in a 20 story building, sitting on the inside 20 stories up, you're 200 feet in the air, but the floors underneath you so you can't fall.
[00:32:05] So knowledge or competence is the biggest antidote to fear. Having a basic respect for height is healthy, you ought to. But if you know that you can't fall, then you don't need to be just afraid. You could go ahead and function. So if you're bolted to the wall or strapped or wearing a harness, or if you're supported by something or even more so like Mike Massimino and myself doing spacewalks, yeah, you're 250,300 miles above the earth, but you can't fall. The spaceship is going so fast that if you let go of the ship, you just fly around the earth, along with the spaceship. You can't fall. And so evenly or high, if you can't fall, then you don't need to be afraid and that's the big difference. Have respect for the things that will kill you, but don't just be shivering chihuahuas at the time because you can't figure out the difference between actual danger and just perceived danger.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:57] Right, when Mike Massimino was on the show he said something very similar, which was that knowledge has kind of the antidote to high-pressure situations. It's how you stay calm. You know, you've got the training, you know you've got the knowledge. Is that your experience as well?
Chris Hadfield: [00:33:12] Yeah. Not just knowledge, but proven ability to put the knowledge into practice. Yeah, I agree with Mass completely but just reading a book about something doesn't make you competent. You have to take it the ideas and then get it into a situation as close to reality as you can. It's like read all the books you want about riding a bicycle, you don't know how to ride a bicycle yet. You actually have to go out and learn. And when you're riding a bicycle, you have a high risk of falling. You're going to fall sometimes, but then you have a tricycle first or training wheels or one of those bicycles without pedals that you just push for a while or somebody running along with you holding the bike up. You'd take the theory and then you practice it over and over and over again, under a nonthreatening set of circumstances.
[00:33:53] And you could do it for any. You can do it for writing an exam. You could do it for giving a public talk. You could do it for your wedding vows. You can do it for whatever, just practice it under as realistic of circumstances as possible — circumstances without the actual threats of the real event. So that when the event happens, you have changed who you are. You are not that scared incompetent person. You changed what your instinctive reactions are. It is not instinctive if you're falling to the left to turn the handlebars, that's not what our caveman ancestors did a million years ago. We invented bikes and handlebars, but now when you ride a bike, you instinctively do something that was not your born instinct. You've changed what your instincts are. And that is the antidote to fear — is to change your fundamental instinctive reaction to things. And for an astronaut, the list of things that we need to learn and change our reaction to so there were not overcome by the danger of the situation but could still function and fly the ship calmly and competently. That's the whole focus of the job. It's, it's what we do for those 20 and a half years of training, getting ready for the 165 days in space.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:01] Were you ever worried about maybe how prepared the Russians were going to be compared to you all? Because when we hear things about like the Kursk submarine and how much went wrong with that — and that was a nuclear submarine, you know, kind of space shuttle adjacent in some ways. It's pretty damn scary.
Chris Hadfield: [00:35:17] Well, I think ignorance is always scary because you have no idea what to be afraid of if you don't know what you're doing is scary because you're incompetent. But if you actually start digging into the reality of things, then you can knock off the things that scare you one by one. I mean, nobody's perfect. I was a test pilot airplanes crash all the time and everybody's test fleets. It's part of the job. That's why we have test pilots because we don't completely know what we're doing and someone needs to figure out what to do. And it's true for spaceships. And of course, talking about the Russians as if there's some monotheistic or singular —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:53] One person, right.
Chris Hadfield: [00:35:54] One person, you know, we killed the crew of Apollo 1. We killed all seven people in Challenger, multiple astronauts died in airplane crashes and in training accidents. The Columbia crew, we killed them through our own decision making. and we were doing our best to not do that, but things go wrong. And if you want to do something worthwhile in life, there's always going to be risks. Your job isn't to avoid risk. Your job is to try and do something worthwhile in life and therefore that changes your responsibility. You have to be the person that figures out what the risks are, what the actual dangers are, and then deal with them. And it doesn't matter if you're flying a ship where the instructions are written in English or Japanese or Russian, or it doesn't matter. The real task is you. And how are you going to understand this ship and how it's going to try and kill you, and how are you going to recognize it and train and become ready enough for it. Just like riding the bike.
[00:36:47] It doesn't matter who wrote your book of instructions or who built the bike. Your job is to look at the bike, find out his strengths and weaknesses, and then go figure out how to make this bike do what you want. And the Russians build great hardware. They got into space before anybody else — Sputnik and then Gagarin. They build great Space Stations. They're not perfect but they have a long legacy of extreme success in space. And I was the pilot of a Russian Soyuz spaceship — really beautifully put together and well-evolved little spaceship, lovely thing to be able to fly — imperfect, like all machines, but immensely capable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:23] How's your Russian these days? You still keeping it up.
Chris Hadfield: [00:37:25] Well, yeah, it's — how's my English these days? I'm still keeping it up. Yeah, I studied Russian for 20 years and was the pilot of a Russian spaceship. So what that means is I spent years in Star City, Russia. One-on-one with a professor, learning basic control theory, orbital mechanics, orbital dynamics, meteorology, vehicle design, vehicle programming, and then all operations and emergency procedures — doing all that a hundred percent in Russian. If you want to fly a ship, you have to speak the language of the ship.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:58] Right, so you know space Russian.
Chris Hadfield: [00:38:00] Yeah, I'm not sure I'd want to discuss theology in Russian. Like anybody, I have a limited vocabulary in language but yeah, my Russian's good enough to get by, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:10] Sure good enough to get by slash pilot a spaceship, that's pretty impressive.
Chris Hadfield: [00:38:15] Well, yeah, I don't overstate it. I mean, if I talk to a native Russian speaker for a very short period, they'll immediately recognize that it's my third language, not my first language, but it's good enough to do all the things I needed to do which is why I learned it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:28] It seems like there's so much training that at some point, you'd think you'd have a day where you go, "Ugh, I don't want to do this again," but then maybe thinking, "Well, this is better than dying." Is that kind of what keeps you through some of those long days slash long years of training doing the same things over and over?
Chris Hadfield: [00:38:42] Whenever anybody has offered to teach me something for free, I've always taken them up on it. That's a wonderful opportunity in life. If someone says to you, "Hey, you know what? I'm going to show you how to play Taps on the trumpet." In the next hour, you're going to know Taps, [Humming] you know, that little —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:57] Sure.
Chris Hadfield: [00:38:57] — thing at a funeral, whatever. [Humming] If someone says, "I'm going to teach you to do that in the next hour," and they have a trumpet and you've got nothing going for the next hour, why wouldn't you say yes. Shoot. At the end of this, I'll be that same guy I was before and I'll know how to play Taps on trumpet. That'll be cool. And that's what astronaut training is like. They say, "Okay, this week, we're going to be in the cadaver lab at Hermann Hospital. And we're going to teach you basic surgical techniques, how to do a physical on somebody, how to find all of the major parts of the body that you need in order to do first aid and basic care, how to reinflate along, how to do a tracheotomy," and that's what we're doing this week. And that's just part of your astronaut training, because when there's only three of you up on a spaceship, you may well have to do surgery on somebody else.
[00:39:45] And so to me, it's just the right way to go through life and that is to constantly be trying to learn and improve on who you are. If at some point in life, you think you know everything you need to know that you're the process of dying after that. What Shawshank Redemption, right? Get busy living. So I just see that as an important part of it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:03] It seems like there's a lot of attitude, of course, involved in this. And you are training in many ways for your own demise in Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, you're training for your own demise, doing these death sims. And I wondered if maybe prepping your will, your taxes, all that kind of stuff maybe it makes you feel like you've got one foot in the grave in some way?
Chris Hadfield: [00:40:22] Oh, I don't know. I think at some point you need to accept the fact that you're going to die. It's like people say, "Hey, would you go to Mars on a one-way trip?" And I go, "Hey, we're all on a one-way trip."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:34] Yeah, we just don't all end up on Mars.
Chris Hadfield: [00:40:36] If you think this is a two-way trip then you're just deluding yourself. So the real question is what are you going to do during your one-way trip? And are you really that concerned about where you are on the last day of your one-way trip? I mean, it's a little bit of a delusional question. I think the real question is what are you hoping to accomplish and what gives you a sense of satisfaction and joy while you're alive? And how are you living your life in order to do as many of those things as possible? What gives you a sense of pride and joy at the end of the day? That's how I shape it all. I don't worry too much about the fact that this is an overload or that I feel like I'm studying. No, it's more like, "Okay, I am going to die some days, so probably good to have a will. Okay, that's done. Now I can stop worrying about that." Anything that you've gained competency and really just gives you an improved opportunity to be calm.
[00:41:23] So here's an example. I had a really major medical issue while I was training for my third spaceflight. I was disqualified from spaceflight. They took away my medical, we fought it and I did all the research and tried to learn everything I could and worked with the medical community and the regulatory community and tried to do, but it was going nowhere. Like finally, it was going to come down to one day where my wife and I were going to get in the car, drive to the hospital in downtown Houston, which from the Johnson Space Center is about a 30 or 40-minute drive. And we were going to do this test. And as a result of this test, it was either I'm going to continue and go fly in space on my third flight or my astronaut career is over. I'm never going to fly in space again. So what would you do during that 30-minute drive?
[00:42:06] And what I did is sort of what I always do and that is, I said, "Okay, we're going to get one decision or the other, but this is not going to define us for the rest of our lives. We've already done a million cool things. We've got a million cool things coming up. This is just a day and something's going to happen today. And then we're going to go tomorrow. So let's just got ready for it. So if they say, 'Hey, you passed and you're going to continue being an astronaut,' then that's easy. We know what we're doing. We're going to go back home and I'll go back into work tomorrow. But if they say, 'Sorry, you failed. Your medical is done. Now, you can't be an astronaut anymore.' What are we going to do next?" And I talked to my wife and I said, "Okay, who are the first five people we're going to phone? And what other jobs do we want to do? And we're done with this job. So what do we want to do next? Where do we want to live? Where are we going to move to? What jobs are we going to apply for? Hey, what other education would you like to get? And what haven't we had a chance? Where do we want to go?" So we spent the half-hour planning for what we are going to do when they tell me that I failed my medical and I'm never going to fly in space again.
[00:43:04] And so when I got there and they laid on the table and did all their tests and they came up and said, "Hey, it turns out a false alarm, you're healthy. You're going to fly in space." Either way, we were okay with it. I would much prefer to a flown in space the third time, but I wasn't going to let that define who I was. I'm not going to be that poor sniffling guy who didn't get to fly in space the third time. That's not going to be the definition of who I am. Instead, it was, prepare for things going wrong, have a plan, and then you can come into it sort of calm and competent and relaxed and not just spending your whole life with your fingers crossed, feeling all stressed.
[00:43:40] And so that's why we do deaths sims. What happens if I'm up in space and I'm killed in an accident or something? What should my wife do? Who should she call? Is our insurance good enough? When is she going to move back to Canada because she's not going to stay in Houston forever if that's not my job? And where should she be? And does the right people have the right phone numbers and who does she want to have helped her? To me, that all just improved her state of mind, rather than just sitting there with this big, scary blackness on the edge of your worry and stress system. Instead, it's like, "Okay, we've addressed this. We got a plan. If it happens, it's not desirable but we got a plan. If it doesn't happen, great. Move on." And that's how we prepare for spaceflight. I think it then sort of helped shape how you prepare for everything. And to me, it's a choice, but to me, it's the choice that I make and how to deal with the rest of my life as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:32] It seems like there's a lot of look on the bright side, but train for the worst-case scenario. In An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, you've mentioned no matter how big a problem is, you can always make it worse. And that, of course, seems a bit pessimistic, but that seems like a requirement of just the — because of the gravity of what you're doing is so — any little mistake, an astronaut that doesn't sweat the small stuff is a dead astronaut also from that section of your book as well.
Chris Hadfield: [00:44:57] Absolutely. Right. There is no problem so bad that you can't make it worse. And that that's a good thing to remind yourself of. If you're doing something that has no consequence — if you're playing tiddlywinks — then yeah, who cares? So you get, "Eh, we'll play another game." But if you are doing something that has huge consequences, life or death, or big financial consequence or reputation or whatever, then you need to find a way to get as good and ready for it as you possibly can and take it seriously. And if you just sort of wave your hands and go, "Eh, it'll probably go, okay." That's not how we fly rocket ships.
[00:45:33] When you get on, on an airliner and you sit there in the back and you look up through, you don't expect the pilots upfront to be waving their hands going, "Eh, it will probably go okay." You expect them to have trained and learned everything about that airplane and to have sweated the small stuff and to have been in the simulator recently and practiced all the emergencies so that when you take off out of New York and you get a Canada goose going down each intake, and now you have to do a forced landing in the Hudson — that that's the skillset that the crew up front has. That's what you expect sitting in the back. And that's what everybody expects of astronauts. They expect us to have done all of that work. And if you hadn't done all of that work, then you'd do a much better job in a more calm and comfortable way or a job of doing it as well. You don't miss it. You're not overwhelmed by it. It's within your skillset. It's something you can do while thinking of something else. You notice how beautiful it is, how magnificent it is, how much fun it is. You're not just completely overwhelmed by the demands of the moment.
[00:46:36] What astronauts do for a living is visualized failure, figuring out the next thing that's going to kill you, and then practice it over and over and over again, until we can beat that thing. We know how to deal with it and then move on to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. And that rigor of preparation and rigor of thoughts, I think, applies to any profession or your personal life. How are you getting ready for the major events in your life? The things that matter to you, the things that have consequences. How is it you're actually preparing for them? Are you just sort of waving your hands and go, "Oh, it'll probably turn out okay." Or are you actually using the time available to get ready for it? And yeah. it's a personal choice and maybe it will turn out okay. But if the stakes are high, to me, that's just not a gamble I will willingly take.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:20] Even with all of the training and all of the scaffolding, if you will, around potential tragedies and all of the important little details, getting an order, it seems like that stuff as much as it trains you for everything that you could possibly predict going wrong, it's also important because it helps you get out of things that you could not predict. For example, you're blinded on the spacewalk. Can you tell us that story?
Chris Hadfield: [00:47:41] During my first spacewalk, we were outside building a huge robot onto the outside of the Space Station, a real complicated procedure. Nothing was going as planned. And while I was working away, suddenly one of my eyes started hurting really bad in snapshots, I started tearing up, and I couldn't see out of it anymore. What do you do? I can't rub it cause it's inside my helmet. I'm out there on a spacewalk. I got an unlimited amount of time. It was kind of like, "Well, I could still see out of my other eyes, so that's probably why I got a backup eye."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:11] Yeah.
Chris Hadfield: [00:48:11] I was like, we got two ears, two eyes. So I just kept working, but the trouble is our bodies are designed for gravity. And the reason that your eye tears up partially is because it flushes, whatever the contaminant is that's in your eye. It's a modified sweat gland, actually, that's up underneath your eyelid, but it's a very complex chemical mixture that comes out. That's the actual liquid of your tears, but it comes into your eyeball. And then it drains and it either drains down your cheek or in your little tear duct and out your nose. And that's why your nose runs, but it's like a little waterfall, but without gravity, it doesn't go anywhere. This contaminated water just sat there on my eye and got bigger and bigger ball of contaminated water. Unfortunately, until it got so big that it floated across the bridge of my nose, into my other eye. And then both my eyes were contaminated and blinded. And now, I couldn't see at all. So there I am — my first spacewalk, my first time outside, and holding onto the outside of a spaceship and I'm blind. I've lost one of my five senses, probably the most important one.
[00:49:10] So what do you do? You know, that's the real question? What do you do next? That's always what the question is. You could panic, you might even be forgiven for panicking, but it's probably none of your instincts are right. The things that we have evolved for the last million years as a species on earth, they were not evolved in the spacewalking environment. They were evolved in whatever the plains of Africa or something where the threats were quite different. So panicking isn't going to help. And when I just took stock, I was like, "Well, okay, so I can't see. Every time I close my eyes, I can't see. How is this any different? I can still hear, I can still taste and touch smell, and I can still talk so I can communicate. So let's just deal with it and let's work the problem. Is just going to kill me? Well, not right now, so let's move on. What can they do next?" And I talked to the other crew member. I was outside with Scott Parazynski. I talked to Mission Control. I opened up the purge valve on the side of my suit. We thought maybe it was one of the purified chemicals in the suit, lithium hydroxide, that was breaking through because it causes irritation. It's a nasty chemical. So we thought, "Let's open up the purge valve," and let my limited oxygen supply blow across my face out of my little pressurized tank and squirt out into the universe. And maybe that will flush the contaminated air out of my suit. Then my eye will get better, but that's a bit of a gamble because I only have a very finite amount of oxygen. It's a very odd feeling to be blind holding onto the outside of his spaceship, listening to your oxygen hissed sound into the universe. So I did it for a while, but eventually my tears, rather than draining, they were evaporating off my face slowly but it works. So that whatever was contaminated in the tear was like drying like a little crust.
[00:50:58] And so after a while, my tears had diluted the contaminant enough that I could see. So I convinced Houston, I should stop purging my oxygen at the space. They're just giving me advice. It's really up to me because I'm the one who's there, but also Scott, the guy who I was out on the spacewalk with — and Scott's a really impressive guy. He's climbed Everest twice and he's a medical doctor and almost an Olympic level runner and worked with the national bobsleigh team and he's a commercial pilot, a really impressive fellow. Scott And I had practiced, we hadn't practiced from me being blinded, but we've practiced for one of us having some sort of incapacitation while we were outside of the spacewalk. Because you might get the bends where you're getting nitrogen bubbling in your blood, or you might have a radio failure or you might — I don't know, get electrocution or you have a heart attack or something where suddenly you have to rescue the other person. We'd practiced and qualified to rescue each other. So we knew that we could help each other. And he even volunteered to come over and said, "Hey, I can take you back to the airlock," but it never quite got that bad. So I could have just panicked, which has sort of been my instinctive reaction, but I changed my instinctive reaction. So I changed my natural bent, sort of turned myself into somebody else.
[00:52:09] And as a result, we got the whole spacewalk done. We got everything done and we found the contamination and the soup was actually just the stuff that we put on our adviser, the anti-fog, it was caustic. It was nasty on the eyes. And there was just — some of it had gotten into my eye. It sort of like putting a little bit of oil and soap into your eye and so we changed what the anti-fog was made of. So it was eyeball friendly from then on. So we learned from it made spaceflight a little better as a result. And because of all of our preparation and practice, we still got the job done for the day, which in the final measure is the real measure of success.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:45] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Chris Hadfield. We'll be right back.
[00:52:50] This episode is sponsored in part by BiOptimizers. You know, there's one phase of sleep that almost everyone fails to get enough of — and I'm definitely included in that number. This one phase of sleep is responsible for most of your body's daily rejuvenation, repair, controlling hunger, weight loss, hormones, boosting energy, all that stuff. And it's deep sleep. I know I don't get enough cause I track my sleep. If you don't get enough, if you probably struggle with cravings, maybe a little slow metabolism, apparently premature aging. That kind of sucks, worst conditions as well. Why don't most people get enough of this phase of sleep? Well, the jury is still out, but one big reason can be magnesium deficiency because over 80 percent of the population is deficient in magnesium. Magnesium increases GABA, which is critical for sleep. It also plays a critical role in regulating your body's stress response system. And a lot of people who are deficient have stress and anxiety. We don't get enough of this. Check out BiOptimizers Magnesium Breakthrough. They got them all, all the magnesium. BiOptimizers offers free shipping on select orders and a 365-day money-back guarantee on all their products.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:05] This episode is also sponsored by ZipRecruiter. Hiring is challenging, especially with everything else you have to consider today, but there's one place you can go where hiring is simple, fast, and smart, a place where businesses can connect to qualified candidates. That place is ziprecruiter.com/jordan. ZipRecruiter sends your job to over a hundred of the world's leading job sites. They don't stop there. They've got powerful matching technology. In other words, they scan all the resumes. They find people with the right experience. They actively invite those people to apply to your jobs. You're not just weeding through schleps in the entire time and your inbox is annihilated. ZipRecruiter makes hiring efficient, makes it effective. It features like screening questions to filter out candidates in an all-in-one dashboard where you can review and rate the people that have applied, or that will be applying to your job. ZipRecruiter is so effective that four out of five employers who post on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate within the first day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:56] Right now to try ZipRecruiter for free, our listeners can go to ziprecruiter.com/jordan. That's ziprecruiter.com/J-O-R-D-A-N, ziprecruiter.com/jordan ZipRecruiter, the smartest way to hire.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:11] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us going and helps support the show. To check out these deals for yourself, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. And of course, we've got worksheets for today's episode as always. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Now the conclusion of our episode with Commander Chris Hadfield.
[00:55:33] You mentioned in An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth as well that it seems like this really dovetails with that story that promoting the success of others enhances competency, right? You always sought in the book anyway, and in the stories in the book, to promote the success of other people, which is strange in a competitive environment, because it seems almost like the opposite of what most people would do in that situation. How does promoting the success of others enhance competency of the whole team, of the whole organization?
Chris Hadfield: [00:56:01] Well, ants do it. I mean, if you are one ant in the world, you're basically useless. You're incompetent. You can't get anything done — one ant. But a bunch of ants promoting each other and helping each other out. It's pretty amazing what an ant colony can do and bees do it. And lots of other species on earth, plants, and animals, promote the competency and the capability of others within their own little tribe or group in order to improve the chances of success of the rest of the group. At times, dog eat dog is what we do and is completely competitive. But for most complex environments or environments that are bigger than just one member of the species, you are better served to recognize that you do not have every skill needed. Or you don't have all of the strength needed or the rock capacity needed to face up to the things that are liable to happen. And you are better served to build a team of people. And the more skills your team has — if everybody on your team is super competent and has all the abilities, then your combined chances of success have gone way, way up. Whereas, if you've been spending the whole time putting other people down and pushing yourself forward, maybe that'll work for some operations, but it sure won't work for spaceflight because you count on each other with your lives all the time. And there's no way you can have all of the skills that are needed. There are too many things that need doing simultaneously.
[00:57:30] So both when I was a member of the crew and when I was the commander of the Space Station, to me, get yourself a long-term goal and then start simulating the things that are going wrong and find out what you as a group of human beings can't deal with yet. And then start building the skills of the people on your team. So that when this thing happens, at least one of you, if not all of you can deal with it, or at least collectively you can get it solved. Any skills and your team is one more opportunity or one more incremental chance for your group to succeed. And sometimes I think we lose sight of that in our day-to-day business. And if you see somebody else get the head, you somehow sort of think it's you getting behind. But if you're both on the same team, then you need to get over yourself. You need to look at what is actually the purpose of your team and not just think about your own selfish games.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:22] Yeah, that sort of dovetails with your idea always aiming to be a zero. What do you mean by that? I'm aiming to be a zero here.
Chris Hadfield: [00:58:29] Yeah. Well, I tried to take, what is maybe a counterintuitive or slightly unusual idea and put it into a phrase that you can remember. And it does not sound like a good idea to aim to be a zero. You know, it's just not what our cultural mantra would value. But when I was a fighter pilot, I was in my early 20s and I'm flying one of the most sophisticated flying machines ever built, an F/A-18, and I'm doing it to defend North America against Soviet bombers during the Cold War that are practicing cruise missile launches on North America. And I have to get out there with a fully armed F/A-18 with the capability in my own airplane to cause a big international incident.
[00:59:06] So that requires a lot of competence, but it also requires a lot of confidence and that is a certain mindset. And if you give a young person that level of responsibility and therefore confidence, they tend to start thinking that, "I'm good at this. I bet you I'm good at everything. I bet you no matter what problem comes along, I've got the answer to this." And you walk into a room with that attitude and you look around and you make your own immediate snap judgment, and you start giving people the benefit of your brilliance, you're pretty sure that you're a big, positive influence on what's happening around you. You come into a situation and you look around, you size it up, and you start making pronouncements based on your own arrogance.
[00:59:49] But everybody else in that situation looks at you and recognizes that this isn't a positive. This person is a negative. They don't understand the subtlety of what's going on. They didn't understand the nuance. They haven't been here. They're just trying to knock off the easiest simplest things. And they really aren't proposing anything that's actually going to work in the long run. And so they see you obviously as a minus, not as a plus. Unless the building is on fire. If the building is on fire, you got to come in and make decisions. The building is hardly ever actually on fire.
[01:00:20] And so what I learned, as I got a little bit more experienced, was that rather than just coming into a situation all pumped up in my own abilities, and then starting to tell everybody else what they needed to be doing. Instead of aiming to be a plus one and everybody knowing that I'm a minus one, come in and deliberately for a while aim for neutral, aim to be a zero for a while. Nobody needs me within the first three minutes of walking in to start telling them how to live their lives or what they need to be doing, because I'm just showing what an idiot I am. I'm much better served to come into a situation and watch for a while and learn and try and figure out what's actually important here. What are the actual factors? How can I actually be useful? And then be much more measured in how you're trying to be a positive influence. Maybe wait a while, and then see if you can actually make a useful suggestion. Or just spend a while — like a friend of mine who was reported for duty with the Navy at headquarters in DC and his boss said, "You are going to be given several God-given opportunities to keep your mouth shut and you should take advantage of everyone." And that sort of thought process of learning a little bit before you start making an announcement. Aim for zero when you come into a new situation until you have the nuance and the competence to be able to be a positive influence. And a lot of us go into new situations regularly and I think that little mnemonics sort of reminder of, "Aim to be a zero," is maybe we're thinking about at least initially.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:48] Do your job well, don't try to be a hero, focus on not hindering others, and just do your own job until you've got all of, like you said, the nuances of the situation and you know you can play with those rules.
Chris Hadfield: [01:02:00] Yeah, or at least enough. I mean, you may come up with a good idea in 10 minutes, but recognize that that situation existed before you got there. And there's probably parts of it that you do not understand when you first arrived. So do yourself the favor of waiting a while before you start inflicting your uneducated opinion on everybody else.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:20] A lot of people ask you, "Oh, how do you feel now that it's all over, so to speak or that, now that you're back?" and you've got some thoughts on that mindset. I'd love to hear that.
Chris Hadfield: [01:02:30] Nobody understands anybody else completely. And we only see a small subset of what other people are thinking or doing, or what their concerns are, what they've actually done in their lives, or what battles they fought. I think when people look at my life, they only know about the parts that have been reported publicly. They know perhaps that I was commander of a spaceship, or that I recorded a David Bowie song, or that I, you know, did whatever because they only know about that one shining moment in my life. They then immediately make the assumption that that was the only shining moment in my life. And now that it's over my life must be a hollow echo of what it used to be or something.
[01:03:07] And so a relatively common question asked to me is, "What do you do now after you've done something so fantastic as that? How do you ever top that?" I was never in the business of topping anything. I wasn't trying to command a spaceship so it would top something. It was more just a huge demand on myself of trying to be able to do something that was a really interesting and complex task, an interesting job. But I've done all sorts of other things. I've been to a lot of other places in my life. And for me, it's all much more balanced than in perspective. And I didn't need that third spaceflight in order to feel that my life was fine or that I'd been successful or that I'm happy with what I've done. And so I try and be interested in and take pride in everything that I'm doing, whether it's menial tasks — I mean, recently the winter's damage on an old hiking path needed clearing and I spent most of the day by myself with a chainsaw, going along this hiking path, and just clearing the fallen branches, and rerouting around the new wet spots and such. And at the end of the day, I felt really good and proud. I had set myself out a task. I'd applied the skills that I had, the technology I had available, and I had accomplished something that was important to me, and that gives me a feeling of satisfaction and self-worth.
[01:04:30] That's how I feel about my spaceflight as well. It's not blown out of proportion in my own mind. It's just one of the things in my life that I set my mind to. That now I feel that I did a good job at and that it served a good purpose, and that allows me to now face up to the things that are coming next to my life. I think that your own personal balance and perspective — you shouldn't believe all your own press and you need to really just be paying attention to what's coming next, and are you ready for that, and not just live in the past on some sort of glory of one thing that happened that one day in your life.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:01] I think a lot of us do that to ourselves. We convince ourselves that only the high points of our lives matter and it sets us up to think and feel pretty badly most of the time, because if it's not the day we get launched into space or have babies or get married, we're kind of like, "Well, you know, I guess I'm not really doing anything. I'm not really accomplishing anything," and it's dangerous I think.
Chris Hadfield: [01:05:23] You need to keep your own life in perspective and you need to take pleasure and notice that life is a limited resource. And you should not miss our part of it just because it's not the most externally validated part of your whole life. There are beautiful things within eyesight all the time. There's interesting stuff going on. You can choose to love what's happening or hate what's happening anytime you want. It's totally kind of a personal choice. Of course, life gives you circumstances that are more desirable than others, but at the same time, there are people that are in a very good set of circumstances, who for whatever reason, almost miss their own life. I try not to be one of those people. I try not to get too enamored with the big events, but try it and take pleasure in each thing as equally as I can. And I'm not any sort of perfection at it, but I try and keep that in mind. I think, as a result, you end up a little more balanced and looking forward to each day better than only if she looked forward to one or two or three days in your whole lifetime, it just seems like you're missing the point.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:22] What's the deal with the shot of rocket fuel before the flight? That sounds both nasty and dangerous. And also, where do you have that? There's no tap, I assume, for that in the office.
Chris Hadfield: [01:06:32] Yeah. What you're referring to is an old Soviet and now Russian tradition of the people that built your rocket, they've worked for a long time. They're hugely competent. They're a big team of folks and they're very, very proud of the work that they do. And being able to build a ship that can take people off the surface of the planet. You know, for a group of engineers and technicians to successfully do that, that's hard. And almost no country, no group of people in the world can do that. They're very prideful and they feel hugely responsible for the crew onboard. They recognize that the life of the crew is counting on their competence. Often sort of traditionally in Russia — actually down at the launch site, which is just Kazakhstan, just South of Russia in a place called Baikonur — at some point prior to your launch, not the day of launch, but well in advance, you sit down with the rocket builders and you have a ceremony, a little sip of rocket fuel, which is really just distilled alcohol, very, very strong, almost pure. You cut it with a little bit of water, maybe take it down to a 100-proof, but very, very strong searing wickedly dry alcohol but that's not the point.
[01:07:41] The point is, is to thank them and to honor their work and for them to meet you personally, the person that is going to bear the fruit of their labor and have a chance to fly their rocket ship to space. Actually, I very much valued traditions. I think they give a sense of relative importance or of lack of trivialness to some of the events in our life. If you could get married in one minute, you know, how important is the institution? If we gave out the medal of honor and we gave one to everybody in the country, then it's no longer any sort of measure of anything. Having a tradition and a ceremony and a time-honored way of doing something that represents something else, I think, is valuable and is worthwhile. And it helps you prepare or get ready for the next things that are coming. And there are lots of those. They're around us all the time. But sitting down with the rocket builders and having a little sip of wickedly, powerful, refined rocket fuel alcohol, that was one small but fun, memorable event on the way to space.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:41] Jason, you had a question about maple cookies.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:08:44] Yeah, so my dad's birthday is this weekend and he's a huge space fan. So I bought him your book, You Are Here: Around The World In 92 Minutes. And I noticed in the very back of the book, the last photo is a picture of a maple cookie floating on the International Space Station. And as a huge personal fan of maple cookies, even though I can't get my friends to bring them back from Canada for me, because they eat them all before they get to my house, I was wondering after you have your maple cookies up there, do you have to go around to all the air scrubbers and clean out all the crumbs, just so you don't gum up the Space Station?
Chris Hadfield: [01:09:17] There are ships that come up that have people in them but there are more ships that come up that are unmanned, robot ships, resupply ships. They're built by SpaceX and by Japanese space agency, European space agency, by the Russians, and there's one built by other companies in the US as well. And they come up and they're filled with food and supplies and clean clothes and experiments and all that stuff. But there's a little bit of room in them for a care package from home. And my wife, we're trying to choose one or two small things to put in there that would give me a touch or a taste from home. And plus my psychologist and my psychiatrist, the whole support team, they would do their absolute best to put something in there that would be fun and interesting and good for my mental health. And in one of those came up some maple cookies. I mean, I love maple cookies. They have that strong taste and smell and they're in — for a Canadian, they're in the shape of a maple leaf, which of course is on our flags, so very nice.
[01:10:18] Crumbs normally happen when you set something down and it sits on the plate and gravity is pushing it into the plate. So if you're careful in space, you can just float the cookie in front of you and take a bite. And the crumbs are just floating there in front of you. So you can have a relative crumb-free experience eating a maple cookie. And in that picture, in the back of You Are Here: Around The World In 92 Minutes, that picture I took — it was funny. I opened this cookie, I had it floating, I thought, "I should take a picture of this cookie," took a picture, and then I took a bite of it and floated it again. So I took a couple of pictures of this cookie floating with my particular bite marks. And then, at the end, I took one last picture of just a couple of crumbs floating there in space as well, just before I ate those. [01:10:57] So it was a quick little touch of home, a really nice treasure, a little moment. And I thought, a fun picture to put in the back of my second book.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:11:06] I really, really enjoyed it, after going through all of the pictures of all the continents and all of the great stories that you have in the book, just getting to that little picture of the maple cookie at the end, I was just like, "Aww, man, now I want a maple cookie. This is great."
Chris Hadfield: [01:11:19] Well, who doesn't want maple cookies? My wife sent up enough for — I could float around the ship and give one to everybody on board. We work hard and the station is pretty big and noisy and demanding. And you could go half a day and not even see another astronaut because you're working on your own set of experiments. So it's so nice to have somebody float up to your way mid-afternoon, give you a smile, and float a cookie to you, and then go back and suddenly you've got this little tasty treat of relatively symbolic of Canada there. It was a nice thing to be able to do as commander of the ship too. So I thank my wife for it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:49] Yeah, I can imagine. It's like, "Here's a cookie, and don't forget to take the crumbs and your toenail clippings out of the air intakes when you're done."
Chris Hadfield: [01:11:58] Yeah. Well, we vacuum out everything once a week, but yeah, anything disgusting like toenail clippings, you are far better off to vacuum those out yourself immediately. Don't wait for somebody else to clean those up.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:08] Commander Hadfield, thank you so much. This has been wonderful.
Chris Hadfield: [01:12:11] Jordan, it's been fun talking to you, and Jason also. Nice to speak with both of you, gentlemen. It is such a rare, new, and amazing experience to be exploring the rest of the universe in person. The people up on the Space Station. Peggy Whitson who's the commander up there right now. It's her third time. She's got the all-time record for Americans in space. Her third time living on the Space Station in her second command. These are just the first steps. This is just us leaving Earth, permanently. The earliest phase of that. And to be part of that, it's been what I always dreamed of doing. It's what I passionately pursued and tried to be good at most of my adult life. And just thinking about it gives me great pleasure, so it's been a lot of fun talking to the two of you about it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:51] Well, thanks so much for doing so it's been just amazing and we'll look forward to having you on pretty soon, hopefully again at some point. I know you're up to a lot, even helping kids lose their fear of the dark, a lot of things worth talking about, so we really appreciate it.
[01:13:05] I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's a quick preview of my conversation with retired FBI agent Joe Navarro, who popularized reading body language and nonverbal cues to read into someone's behavior. Joe is one of the original agents who founded the behavioral analysis unit. And his episode profiles some of the dangerous personality types that we come across in our lives and teaches us what to look for, so we don't become a victim. Here's a quick bite of that episode.
Joe Navarro: [01:13:33] There is no pill that cures malignant narcissism. There just isn't. You can't take a pill for it. Character flaws are fixed and rigid and they remain with us and it would take heroic efforts on the part of the person to overcome these things. Only they can fix themselves.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:55] The point is things will not get better so document everything. The person with the best set of records of events wins.
Joe Navarro: [01:14:03] I have to be honest and say, look, as you said, Jordan, it's not going to get better. Things will get worse and unfortunately, it usually does. And the person that pays the price are those that are closest to the malignant narcissist. Once I teach you to look for these behaviors, you will never forget them. You will be more aware that you will be able to notice them. And when we begin to accumulate these behaviors and we aggregate them and they go into that checklist, you know, there's 130 something items on predator checklists, and you say, "Wow, this person tops 50. This individual will put you at risk." They will victimize you. It doesn't matter where you're at. There is no safe place. There is no safe church. All it takes is one predator to undo all of that.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:07] For more on dangerous personality types and how to spot them before they can do damage to you or those you love, check out episode 135 with Joe Navarro here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:15:19] Big thank you to Commander Hadfield. The book will be linked in the show notes, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Everything — always linked up in the show notes on the website. The worksheets are there. The transcripts are there. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram if you want to tell me what you thought or hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:15:35] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits. So it doesn't feel like a ton of work. That's over at our Six-Minute Networking course. It's free. You don't have to enter your credit card or any of that crap, jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig that well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course. They contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[01:15:57] This show is created in association with PodcastOne and my amazing team, including Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. You know somebody who's into space or just a fan of Commander Hadfield, please share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of this show. I would love it if you share this show with the people that you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you learn and hear on this show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:16:34] A lot of people ask me, which other — pardon me, Destin — nerdier podcasts that I recommend and —
Destin Sandlin: [01:16:40] That's fair.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:40] — No Dumb Questions is up there with the — from the Smarter Every Day crew. If you haven't heard of that YouTube channel, obviously you just don't know how do you use YouTube because —
Destin Sandlin: [01:16:49] Aww.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:49] Destin, you're everywhere, man. I mean, you were on a nuclear submarine or something like that underneath Antarctica, last I checked. That's kind of amazing.
Destin Sandlin: [01:16:57] Yeah. It was North of Alaska, but it was incredible, man. It was an amazing experience.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:01] I never know which one is which there's Arctic and then there's Antarctic. Is Antarctic just south? Is that all there is to it?
Destin Sandlin: [01:17:07] Yeah, that's pretty much it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:08] Okay.
Destin Sandlin: [01:17:09] Hundred percent.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:10] You can tell where — you can tell why I became a lawyer and where I ended up in school but —
Destin Sandlin: [01:17:14] Oh, it's all good.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:00] Tell me about this nuclear fusion thing we were just discussing sort of off-air. I mean, that to me is — I thought that was just science fiction. A lot of his propulsion systems and things like that.
Destin Sandlin: [01:17:24] Oh yeah we did an episode on No Dumb Question recently about nuclear fusion propulsion. And if we're ever going to be like a true interplanetary species, and if we're ever going to go least beyond Mars with people on board, we have to have more efficient rocket propulsion systems. And there's this concept called nuclear fusion propulsion. And I took a course about this whole concept at the university and the professor, his name is Dr. Jason Cassibry. He's well respected in the whole ecosystem of fusion propulsion research. He came on the podcast and explained everything to us in a very simple level. So we talked about the concept of fusion in general and how that could eventually be used for propulsion. And it's kind of out there in the future, but to understand the fundamentals of how nuclear fusion works and then how that might be used for propulsion — by the end of that episode, which is episode 84 on our podcast, the No Dumb Questions podcast, hopefully after listening to that, you will have the fundamentals down path.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:25] So is this essentially like a nuclear blast behind some kind of shield that launches a spaceship forward? Or is that oversimplified?
Destin Sandlin: [01:18:31] Uh, not quite a nuclear blast. So, you know, that's fission. It's a little bit different but basically, you're able to squeeze plasma really, really tight until you get a tremendous amount of energy out of it. And then if you can focus to where that energy goes — you know what Dr. Cassibry does a much better job of explaining it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:51] Yeah, I have to go ahead and grab that. I think otherwise, you know —
Destin Sandlin: [01:18:54] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:54] We got to leave them wanting more, especially —
Destin Sandlin: [01:18:56] Yeah. I mean, if we could figure fusion out, number one — I mean, it would be a huge thing for humans in general, because we would have much cheaper energy that we could power all of our homes and everything, but we're still trying to get a fusion reactor that works. So once we get one that has a gain of over one, we'll be gravy. So anyway, that's episode 84. I really enjoyed the discussion and I would love it if people would check that out and see if they could learn about nuclear fusion propulsion 101.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:19:22] Excellent. So we'll link to that in the show notes as well, of course. Thanks, Destin.
Destin Sandlin: [01:19:26] Thanks, Jordan. Appreciate it.
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