Colonel Chris Hadfield, one of Canada’s most popular astronauts and the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space, just landed in Toronto to speak in a talk titled: “Beyond the Horizon: The Hadfield Experience”. In the one-hour talk at Ryerson’s Mattamy Centre, he spoke about his experience as an astronaut, his dreams and aspirations as a child, what it takes to become a leader, space exploration leaders like Elon Musk, and more. Hadfield has expertise as an astronaut, engineer and pilot but he also is a brilliant motivational speaker who will inspire you to pursue any goals you’ve been putting aside and to reach your true potential. He advises that you should never leave a curiosity you have unanswered because, as easy as it is to go about your regular life and routine, there are also consequences to not pursuing curiosities that have long been on your mind.
Chris brings somewhat of a celebrity presence on stage with him. As the guitar sits on his side and the fog machine runs in the back, it is no doubt that Chris is a personality that is larger than life, but the messages he shares with the crowd is genuine. He has a special perspective of the world that literally only a handful of people have that translates into a powerful ability to captivate the audience. This talk was half about Chris’ experience as an astronaut and half about the skills it takes to become an effective leader.
He spoke first about his childhood and his interest in comic books and science fiction. He kept saying that there were no astronauts in Canada at the time that were going to space so there was no one to really look up to besides Russian and American astronauts. Regardless of this, he knew he wanted to become an astronaut since the age of 9. It was only later on that he answered a wanted ad for an astronaut in the newspaper that around 5000 other people responded to. From there, the rest is history. He’s seen the entire world in 90 minutes and reflects on the commonality of the human experience. We all share similar stories and want the same thing; to better ourselves and this world for our children. He talks about what’s new in space exploration including the fact that there is a planet out there for every star which means that there are about septillion planets out there in this world! He also talks about the very real potential for extraterrestrial life, and our next frontier – exploration on mars and learning more about the glaciers that were found on the moon.
As someone who went through years of post-secondary school, Chris advises that no matter how long you are in school it’s important to not lose sight of who you want to be and what exactly it is you want to achieve. He tells us that if you want to be a good, effective leader then you must start by improving yourself. A leader is someone who is willing to fail. It’s inevitable that when you’re trying something for the first time that things are going to go wrong so you have to be okay with that. He says that it’s worse if you have early success and aren’t taught any lessons from the beginning on how you can improve because it just reinforces poor skills and ill preparation. He also tells us to constantly challenge ourselves because the pace of innovation is accelerating. There’s a “shelf life” on expertise so you should stay updated on changes that are happening in your field. Chris believes that our career is not the thing we choose to do or what we announce to others, but it’s the sum total of all the things we do and all the little choices we make that brings us closer to the career we want.
The take-home message is that we all must be prepared to fail, and to also get back up and try again.
Chris ended his talk with an original song called “Beyond the Terra” for us all which was a real treat for the adults and children alike! If you want to learn more about his journey as an astronaut then I encourage you to check out one of his three books including “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”.