More wisdom from an astronaut

I have written before of some great advice from astronaut Mike Massimino in his book “Spaceman.” As I read further, I came upon this gem which summarizes what matters most which applies to more than being an astronaut.

Massimino was influenced by the movie “The Right Stuff,” which defined by example what it took to be a test pilot and astronaut. But, after becoming an astronaut and watching his fellow astronauts help him when his father was being treated for cancer, he made the following important observation.

“If you’ve ever wondered what the right stuff is….It’s not about being crazy enough to strap yourself to the top of the bomb. That’s actually the easy part. It’s more about character, serving a purpose greater than yourself, putting the other guy first, and being able to do that every single day in every aspect of your life. People ask me all the time what it takes to become an astronaut. It’s not about being the smartest or having the most college degrees. The real qualifications are: Is this someone I’d trust with my life? Will this person help look after my family if I don’t make it home?”

Massimino notes there are smarter people than he who did not make the cut to be considered. Yet, he had been a great teammate in every thing he was involved with and honored the process by seeking help and learning from others. His education was guided by the goal of becoming an astronaut. Yes, he was also smart, but he said these other attributes were essential.

Reading this made me realize how translatable these vital attributes are to other disciplines. Being a good teammate, asking for help and offering help will carry you far in many endeavors. He noted that previous astronauts, like Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and Jim Lovell were most gracious and giving with their time and advice. That is a lesson for us all and an example to the newer crop of astronauts.

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11 thoughts on “More wisdom from an astronaut

  1. We simply don’t hear enough about this sort of thing: “It’s more about character, serving a purpose greater than yourself, putting the other guy first, and being able to do that every single day in every aspect of your life.” We should! Thanks for this.

    • Thanks Hugh. It is all about character. I was attracted to this book by an interview with Massimino. After failing the application process three times, he was asked what he would be doing if he failed a fourth time. His response was applying a fifth time.

  2. Dear Keith,

    This is so timely. I noticed that these good men helped and lifted each other up instead of judging their fellow astronauts as to their religious, political or other belief systems. I bet they didn’t agree on everything but they loved and respected each other. There are some valuable lessons to be learned here.

    Ciao, Gronda

    • Gronda, many thanks. I agree. There was astronaut who Massimino said was first in line to donate blood for his father. He said the astronaut would have cut off his arm for you if he thought it would help. He was just that kind of person. Keith

  3. Ah, this is a refreshing post! ” The real qualifications are: Is this someone I’d trust with my life? Will this person help look after my family if I don’t make it home?” ” So true, and unfortunately in today’s word, there are many who forget about putting others first in times of crisis, and sometimes the leaders crumble while the ‘meek’ step forward and restore calm.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    • Lisa, you find out who your friends are in a crisis, don’t you? Who bails on you and who shows up. I had an Aunt Nell who seemed to always come to the hospital when a relative or friend was admitted. She was a rock. Thanks, Keith

  4. Note to Readers: As a sidebar, for fans of The Big Bang Theory on CBS, Mike Massimino has done several guest shots as a fellow astronaut to the character Howard Wolowitz. In a stroke of comedic writing genius, Wolowitz was trying to get Massimino to give him a cool nickname by playing Elton John’s Rocket Man when he spoke to Massimino by skype. When his mother hollered in the background about bringing his Fruit Loops cereal up, Mass, as he is called, gave Wolowitz the nickname “Fruit Loops.”

  5. I love this post! This is what humanity is about … this is a lesson for so many today, and one that I constantly remind others of … it isn’t all about me, or you, but how we can help others. Thank you for this timely reminder, my friend!

    • Jill, many thanks. I was reminded of the recent movie “The Martian,” where the crew did not hesitate to go back for their left comrade. I think this is a reason troops have such camaraderie when fighting abroad and they miss that when home. Keith

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