If you haven’t read Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, I highly recommend it. In brief, Hadfield is a well-known astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency who has completed 3 tours of duty on the International Space Station and mulitple spacewalks, much to his delight. He may be best known for recording the first music video in space. Hadfield is a highly motivationed thinker; on the surface, the book is a memoir about his life, why and how he became an astronaut. However, as the title suggests, it’s really a guidebook for life.
In short, Hadfield’s story is this: in 1969, like millions of kids, he watched Neil Armstrong take a stroll across the surface of the moon, and instantly, like millions of kids, his heart’s compass swung toward space. Unlike millions of kids, Hadfield kept his life pointed to his true north, and this is where his story diverges from everyone else’s. From the age of 9, he decided to live his life as if he would become an astronaut. At no point did he expect he would ever actually go to space–Canada didn’t even have a space agency until 1990–but that didn’t change his resolve to be prepare for the possibility, just in case. He writes that, from that day on, whenever presented with a choice as small as salad or potato chips, he asked himself, “What would an astronaut choose?”
Most of us lack the discipline to become astronauts. Perhaps our grades aren’t good enough, or we’re not physically fit, or our individuality precludes any sort of military training. The important part of Hadfield’s story isn’t: make these choices and you’ll get what you want. He repeats the message that he never honestly thought he would ever go to space; he just decided to be prepared if the question ever came up, and even if he hadn’t gone to space, all the things he did to move his life in that direction would have paid off in other ways. He tells another story, which involves a partnership between NASA and a music festival. Hadfield, thinking ahead as was his wont, determined that it was possible that he might meet Elton John, and if he did meet Elton John, Elton John might be aware that he, Hadfield, was a musician as well as an astronaut, and if Elton John knew that, he might ask Hadfield to jam with him, and if Elton John did ask Hadfield to jam with him, the song he would be most likely to suggest they play would be “Rocket Man.” So Hadfield prepared for possibly meeting Elton John by learning to play “Rocket Man” on the guitar. In the end, he did meet Elton John, but was not asked to jam, but that doesn’t change the fact that he learned to play a new song.
it’s a good message for elementary kids, which is why I chose it for my New Year’s bulletin board, but that doesn’t mean that adults of any age can’t or shouldn’t move their lives in the direction of their hearts.