I’ve been reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield, Canada’s most successful (and famous) astronaut. Hadfield went to space three times, the last of which entailed a 5-month stay aboard the International Space Station, of which 3 months as overall mission commander.

The biggest lesson I’ve drawn from the book is about readiness. Like probably 80% of boys who witnessed Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in 1969, Hadfield also wanted to be an astronaut. The difference was that he actually adopted a readiness mindset. It was impossible for a Canadian to be an astronaut until 1983 when Canada launched its own manned spaced programme to be piggy-backed on NASA’s Space Shuttle programme. But Hadfield prepared for the eventuality in case it would become possible. After 1983, he did everything possible in his career to be a perfect candidate, first qualifying as a fighter pilot in the RCAF, then as a test pilot as an exchange officer with the US Navy.

Once he was selected in 1992 in the second round of astronaut recruiting by the Canadian Space Agency, he volunteered for all the courses and odd jobs he could, as an astronaut that is, all so he could be as ready and qualified as possible when the call came. After his second flight on the shuttle in 2001, he was told that he would never fly again, as it would be someone else’s turn. Hadfield decided to keep the readiness mindset that had worked so well for him up to then by continuing to prepare for an eventual return to space, “just in case.”

Even though he was told his chances of flying again were essentially nil, Hadfield volunteered as NASA’s representative to the Russian Space Agency in Star City, near Moscow. He learned Russian. He took extra training to learn how to fly and operate in the Russian Soyuz space launch vehicle. Just when it seemed a return to space was completely out of the question, he was selected to command the space station on mission 34-35, to be flown in late 2012, early 2013. It was Hadfield’s attitude of preparation and readiness “just in case” that enabled his selection. He didn’t give up on his dream to return to space.

Food for Thought
How many of us are ready, “just in case”? Just in case that difficult client calls, just in case that outstanding prospect says yes to our proposal, just in case that opportunity for a promotion or unique posting comes along?

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

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