In honour of today’s historic Falcon Heavy launch, here’s a new spin on lessons learned from Canada’s Astronaut. I was fortunate to meet him not that long ago and his perspective was inspiring and highly relevant to the business world.
I recently attended the Canadian Venture Capital Association’s annual conference, of which I have been a longstanding member. Although there was a lot of great information to utilize and reflect upon, I found the comments of Colonel Chris Hadfield, “Canada’s Astronaut”, to be particularly insightful.
Although paraphrased and representing just a portion of his powerfully illustrated keynote address, here are some concepts that especially resonated with me:
- How are you going to finish and what are you going to do next? When considering any achievement, it’s important to think about the task at hand, recognize where you need to “get to”, and what it will take to finish strong. The power of the words “finish” and “strong” is not lost on those who excel, but is often not well achieved (or fully understood) by others.
- What does success look like and are you prepared to achieve it? Visualizing successful outcomes and practicing the skills that are required in order to get there can greatly reduce the risk of failure. Be clear on what it will take to cross the finish line, visualize it, and practice every step.
- What does failure look like and how can it be avoided? Visualizing failure requires a thorough understanding of it and getting to this point often isn’t easy. Ask yourself if you have enough knowledge in order to resolve it, should failure loom. Having said that, “the beauty of failure is that it is deep in learning”; such a powerful concept.
- Teams need special attention. Words and communication alone are not enough. Having a shared vision of what success looks like, watching for changes in actual behavior (not just talk!), and celebrating success often can help to bring a team together to achieve great things.
These areas are fundamental for individuals who strive for success and are essential, in the case of teams. How true this is when considering the pioneers of space, who often only have each other to rely upon, including identifying and resolving problems. Although astronauts train extensively to address challenges, it doesn’t mean that trouble arrives with advance notice.
Considering life and death, mission critical situations should make everyday teamwork seem much more attainable; but why is it often so difficult? Perhaps the answer is found by reflecting on one final thought: Impossible things happen; do something unprecedented.
I’m ready to board, are you?