Whilst in Sydney I was surprised to be able to go and see Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut, singer of David Bowie songs, all around overachiever and author of my favourite book of last year. Upon leaving the lovely old State Theatre my immediate thought was that every bullshit motivational speaker in the world should just pack up their dental work, botox and facelifts and piss off back to the make believe world they live in because there is a new Sheriff in town. Peanuts such as Anthony Robbins look like shallow cardboard cutouts and anyone who goes to see them is simply an idiot. Hadfield is someone who has been there and done that and the things he did are seemingly beyond most of us.
When he spoke he did so with that gentle humility that only Canadians seem to be able to pull off. I suppose when you have been a fighter pilot intercepting Russian bombers over the Arctic during the Cold War , test pilot, astronaut, commander of the ISS and have spent nearly 15 hours wandering around outside the ISS there is no need to boast . The thing that resonated most with me was when he spoke of the gradual move towards being the person you want to be and the steps needed to overcome the raw innate animal fears that all of us have. In an Astronauts Guide to Life On Earth he chronicles his desire to be an astronaut from an early age and how every step he took in his career was an incremental one that lead him towards becoming that person. This was something he was keen to pass onto a young 13 year old in the audience who asked how about to become an astronaut. To me it seemed to reduce down to have a goal in mind and to take tiny steps towards that end point. Each step is as important as the last and it is the steps themselves that seem to be the important thing.
Intriguingly, for an an astronaut he has a fear of heights, which he considers to be a natural innate fear and that we all have these fears and that these fears can be conquered or managed with data. If you understand what the fear is then it can be dealt with, again by taking tiny progressive steps towards overcoming it.
In a world where being a dickhead seems to be cause for both celebration and attracting excessive attention it was wonderful to sit in the company of someone who not only had done some extraordinary things but who was willing to share not only their experiences but also their optimistic life lessons.