This was a super interesting book. Here are some of the things that stood out to me:
- I didn’t realise how taxing being an astronaut is on your family. Chris’s wife, Helene, would have raised their kids alone for ~75% of the time. She also has to put her husband above her a lot of the time, then watch as he receives praises and accolades, because of the sacrifices that she makes.
Chris talks about learning a huge range of things as essential to his success. He doesn’t turn down learning opportunities, no matter how diverse the area or how unlikely it is that he’ll need the skill.
I think there are parallels to our own careers. For example, for a data scientist, you could become aws or gcp certified, learn more about data ingestion, data privacy, ethics, dashboards, system administration or many other topics that aren’t super relevant to data science, but one day could become vital. On the other hand, you could funnel the time learning these things into other areas that are more useful. It’s a tradeoff, but you can take the overall message, which is more or less “Learning is #1 priority, above everything”.
I also learned a lot about space from this book. Waiting for a large meteorite to hit the space station sounds like a certain death, yet it sounds like it hasn’t happened yet. I didn’t know that zero-gravity was so hard on your system. Peeing into a funnel sounds bizarre. I wonder how they shit or masturbate – do you just collect it on a tissue afterwards? What about sex? That must be awkward for others.
The re-entry into Earth sounded scary. It’s the last part of the journey and there would be a temptation to think that you’ve made it okay. Yet it’s the descent from Everest that is so often fatal.
Chris emphasises the real accomplishments you can take from your everyday life. Life is a picture, but you live in a pixel. If you only consider the big events as the worthwhile ones, then you will be frustrated and disappointed with a lot of life. Celebrating the small things makes you happy. Knowing how to do something today you didn’t know yesterday. Admiring the sun on your blinds. Enjoying lazing around in bed writing this, blasting some of your favourite music really loud. It’s the little moments that too often move us by. I guess meditation would help with that.
The success of others does not have to mean your failure, even if you are competitors. For starters, others success is a good lesson for you in humility. It’s also motivational for you to get better. Helping others get ahead gives you a chance to try and teach things to them, which solidifies the knowledge in your own head. They will also turn around and teach you things. It’s really a win-win relationship.
Chris also looks for humour to lighten the mood a lot of the time. He never considers that a waste of time, especially in tough situations. Remember: it was the navy seals who could laugh at their own situation the most who made it through.
Separating yourself from criticisms is essential for an astronaut. You can take the same approach to your work. It’s not “your work”, it’s just “work you have done”. Feedback is a gift
Anticipating what will go wrong and what you will do in those situations helps you be prepared for when they do happen. This is essential for an astronaut. For a data scientist – you could do this for presentations, or assume that you’ve got things wrong in your code and write tests to check them.