March 14, 2014

I was intrigued immediately by his concept: an astronaut's insights on how to best live our lives here on Earth. Col. Chris Hadfield even wrote the book on it. I want him to be my friend. He came to the University of Toronto and offered a free public lecture on this topic, because our campus raised more money for prostate cancer than any other during Movember. Maybe you'll even remember the manly men of the Burly Moustache Consortium wandering the halls of BMC.

The manly men of BMC's Burly Moustache Consortium: (from left to right) Vijay Shahani, Andrew Tran, Stuart Jantzen, Joshua Lai, Brendan Polley, and Dave Mazierski.

But I digress. Chris Hadfield's lecture was perhaps the most inspirational that I have ever seen. He is insightful, gracious, and kind. Of course, he opened his talk by speaking about what it was like to go into outer space, but his actual message was so much more.

As it turns out, death and dying were at the front of his mind the first time he left Earth for the International Space Station. The odds of safely returning to Earth are less than 1 in 30. And if you bump into one of any of the hundreds of switches in the cockpit as you get into your rocket, then things might not go well for you and your crew. He introduced me to this great saying: "There is no problem so bad that you can't make it worse."

Chris Hadfield, as a young boy, dreaming about space from his first flight simulator. You might be able to spot him in the flesh, even in the dark.

I know this is sounding pretty grim, but stay with me. In 45 minutes he covered a lot of ground. But here is the lesson that sticks with me the most.

Eventually, the conversation turned to cooperation and teamwork. He said (and I paraphrase), when I left in that rocket with my crew, those were the last five men on Earth for me. Every piece of human knowledge and expertise we could possibly need, we had to have between the six of us. And it wasn't enough for just one of us to know something; there needed to be redundancy. This is how you must approach any project that you embark on. There can be no competition. You have to work together, and teach one another, and lift the whole team up. This is your best chance of success, your only chance at survival.

I left feeling inspired! What a fantastic role model for Canadians to aspire to.