It might be surprising to get business advice from an Astronaut but a recent talk by Commander Chris Hadfield was both inspirational and practical. I must confess I was rather awestruck by the man and totally mesmerized by his speech but here are a few of my favourite quotes by Chris Hadfield.
- “How are you going to go from a fanciful dream to a reality?” Let’s start with the dream. Cmdr Hadfield showed a very cute photo of him as a child sitting in a cardboard box which he called his very first “shuttle simulator.” Dreaming of being an astronaut when you are 4 years old can seem impossible but he did it – one small step at a time.
- “Impossible things happen.” As business owners, we often are daunted by how to achieve our dreams. Cmdr Hadfield inspired the whole room by disavowing the word “impossible”. Because seemingly impossible things – going to the moon – do happen!
- “Impossible things happen because a bunch of people work incredibly hard.” He then addressed the “how” question with a very elegant answer. Work hard. Which, while simple, is complex. But everyone relates to hard work. As entrepreneurs, we are all intimately familiar with hard work.
- “Launching a rocket is about a bunch of little innovations bundled together.” Becoming an astronaut or launching a rocket takes a lot of incremental steps. Discoveries from decades ago contributed to the innovations we have today. Building a business is no different. It takes a series of incremental steps.
- “Launch is still the hardest thing. 50% of the risk of death is in the first 9 minutes.” Getting your business off the ground is extremely hard. Half of businesses fail in the first year. Your chances of survival increase each year but it isn’t until the five year mark that you have a high chance of survival. Launching a business is a long liftoff.
- “Success is determined not by what you pay attention to but by what you can learn to ignore.” Staying focused while the world whizzing by the window or zero gravity causing things to float all around you or walking in space must be hard when you are an astronaut. But they are trained to be incredibly focused. Another lesson for those of us running a business.
Some things he said were gut-splitting!
- “Jaguar boasts its 550 horsepower. Well, the space shuttle has 80 million horsepower!” It isn’t even possible to compute that amount of horsepower. How relative the world is! Whether the power of your car or the magnitude of your successes (or failures).
- “Like an unfriendly gorilla jumping up and down on your chest and then throwing you off a cliff.” During lift off it feels like a gorilla jumping on your chest. Lift off is nine minutes long! Zero gravity happens very abruptly, thus akin to being thrown off a cliff. What a ride! Hopefully running your business isn’t like that.
Getting inspired by an astronaut is an awesome way to get business advice. Do you have any other favourite quotes by Chris Hadfield?
NOTE: Chris Hadfield spoke at a Vancouver Board of Trade event March 20th which was presented in partnership with the BC Innovation Council. The event was titled “Leapfrogging Innovation to Business Revolution.” The theme being the role the BC technology sector has had in the local economy. BC tech companies (including Mentio!) gave 90 second pitches on their business.