Start-Ups and Space Flights

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I’ve just read Chris Hadfield’s excellent book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

You may remember Chris as the guy who sang David Bowie’s A Space Oddity on board the International Space Station in 2013.

In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth Chris talks about how as a young boy his ambition was to be an astronaut, as he grew older he realised this was highly unlikely, but he resolved that he would do everything he could to prepare himself so he’d be able to take any slight opportunity to further his ambition should it arise. So he became a glider pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, he took an engineering degree at Royal Military College with the Caradian Armed Forces, he became a test pilot and flew several experimental planes and obtained a master’s degree in aviation systems at the University of Tennessee Space Institute.

And, sure enough, the opportunity to join the space programme arose and he was prepared to take it. He flew three missions between 1995 and 2013 culminating in a 6 month stay on the International Space Station, 3 month as commander.

Chris tells a great story of grit and determination, doggedness and perseverance, hard work and focus and some good luck. And he shares the many lessons he has learned during his space career.

His ideas on “’attitude” resonated with me and the work we do with the founders and start-ups on the IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme:

‘In space flight, “attitude” refers to orientation: which direction your vehicle is pointing relative to the Sun, Earth and other spacecraft. If you lose control of your attitude, two things happen: the vehicle starts to tumble and spin, disorienting everyone on board, and it also strays from its course, which, if you’re short on time or fuel, could mean the difference between life and death.’

Just like in a start-up.

You need to keep your objective in sight. It helps the team stay focused and reduces the risk of running out of time and cash doing things that just don’t matter.

Chris draws a broader lesson for life, equally relevant for anyone starting a business.

‘In my experience, something similar is true on earth. Ultimately, I don’t determine whether I arrive at the desired professional destination. Too many variables are out of my control. There’s really just one thing I can control: my attitude during the journey, which is what keeps me feeling steady and stable, and what keeps me headed in the right direction. So I consciously monitor and correct, if necessary, because losing attitude would be far worse than not achieving my goal.’

And for any of you who have not seen Chris’s Space Oddity video, you’ll find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo

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