Business Success – Lessons from an Astronaut (part 1)

14th April 2015

For Valentine’s Day, my wife bought me Chris Hadfield’s book ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth’. Chris has spent decades training as an astronaut and over 4000 hours in space.

As I read through, it occurred to me that his way of living and thinking and preparing has a lot to teach business owners as we navigate our own (slightly less exciting) journeys through life.

There’s far too much here to cram into one blog post, so I’ll have to spread things out a bit.  To start, though, here’s a few things I got from the book.

1) Nobody is born a business owner/leader

Chris made the point that nobody is born an astronaut.  Nobody comes ready-equipped with the skills, knowledge and ability to go into and work in space.

Similarly, nobody is a born business owner and leader.  It’s something we have to learn.  We have to learn how to market our services and products.  We have to learn how to recruit and motivate a team.  We have to learn how to negotiate with suppliers and work with customers, and develop what we do and never stand still.

We often start out as ‘technicians’ – mechanics or accountants or lawyers or bakers or whatever – who decide we want to go into business for ourselves.  We then have to make the conscious decision to stop being just a technician and acquire all these other skills we need to grow and thrive.

Which brings us on to point 2:

2) Owning a business doesn’t make you a business owner/leader

Chris made the unusual point that after going into space for the first time (after already having trained for years) he didn’t consider himself an astronaut.  Rather, going into space and seeing how the other more experienced men and women acted, gave him an idea of what an astronaut should be.  What he had to reach towards.

Similarly, forming your own company and starting your own business doesn’t make you a business owner/leader.  You still, to begin with with, have the mentality of an employee or technician.

You need to create an idea of what you want and need to be.  See how experienced owners and leaders act and react.  Get a plan in place of what it’s going to take to get you from where you are to where they are.

3) Sweat the small stuff

Chris learned that being an astronaut doesn’t put you at the top of the pole and exempt you from the grit and grind of everyday life and jobs.  Rather, he learned to muck in, to look out for others, and not to neglect the small everyday things that needed doing.

As business owners/leaders, we need that eye for details.  We need to not lose sight of the stuff that needs to happen everyday, and happen well, to keep things moving onwards and upwards.

There’s always a temptation to see such things as beneath you, but by getting stuck in we’ll remain in touch with, and focused on, our team and our real business.

That’s part 1.  Coming in Part 2 we’ll see what’s so great about Negative Thinking.