An astronaut’s guide to risk taking | Chris Hadfield

Everything worth doing in life has risk. Learned to ride a bike, learn to walk. When I was a kid learning to walk I fell and
cracked my skull, but I needed to learn to walk. Taking a test, getting married, getting a
drivers license, all of those things, they give you an approved capability or an improved
richness in life, but they all come with a degree of risk. That is exaggerated if the thing that you
want to do is fly a rocket ship. Rocket ships are dangerous. It’s a controlled explosion. If you drew a cartoon of a rocket what it
would be would be a bomb with six seats on the top. I mean rocket ships are crazy dangerous. On the first flight of the Space Shuttle when
Bob Crippen and John Young were sitting there back in 1981 and they blasted off out of Florida,
now that we go back and we look at what the actual history of the Space Shuttle was, their
odds of dying that day in the first eight-and-a-half minutes were one in nine! Terrible odds, one in nine. I mean look around you at ten people and realize:
just to try that one in nine times they would have died. They got away with it, and we learned a lot
from it, but even when I flew on my first shuttle flight on the 74th shuttle flight
we learned enough things, we had improved it, but the odds of dying that day for my
crew were still one in 38, which—no insurance company would be happy. It’s hard to get life insurance as an astronaut
actually. But the question you really need to ask that
is do I want to learn to walk? Do I want to ride this bike? Do I want to get married? Do I want to learn to drive a car? What risks are worth taking in my life? Because even if you decide “Okay I’m going
to take no risk, I’m going to stay at home and hide under my pillow,” there’s still
risk with that and you’re still going to die eventually anyway! So it’s kind of a measure of what was worth
doing in your life, and therefore what was worth taking a risk for? Once you’ve got that behind you and said
“Okay I’m going to be an astronaut, I’m going to fly a rocket ship, that’s a risk
I’m going to take,” now it changes your whole job. Your job is not to be afraid, your job is
not to be an incompetent nervous passenger, your job now is to defeat the risk, like when
you learned to ride a bike. If you just stay as a passenger on the bike
you’re never going to know what to do with the handlebars and you’re never going to
master riding a bike. And once you can ride a bike you’ve got
a freedom you’ve never had before. And rocket ships are just the same, you have
to decide what risks are worth taking and then start changing who you are, learning
how to turn the handlebars so that you can make this thing do something that otherwise
might hurt you or kill you. And then once you’ve got that done it can
take you to places and give you richnesses in your life that you never would have had
access any other way. And in my case when you make it through that
launch, when you’ve guided that rocket up through the atmosphere and the engine shut
off, suddenly you’re in the rarest of human experiences. You’re weightless, and the world is pouring
by at five miles a second, and you can see across an entire continent and you’re peering
into something that is brand new for humanity. So I think it’s worth asking yourself: “What
risks are worth taking?” And once you’ve decided to take them, then
change who you are so that you can win, you can defeat, you can master that thing and
open a door for yourself that otherwise was just shut.

46 thoughts on “An astronaut’s guide to risk taking | Chris Hadfield

  1. Risk management is a core skill of life I wish they taught outside of Finance. Every choice we make should be weighed with a risk/return perspective.

  2. Then it comees to the question of the Van Allan radiation belt and if there has ever been a space mission. I guess not!

  3. Space elevator would be a risk towards global unity. An attempt at a new day for relationships, human ACHIEVEMENT, and pure universal inspiration, but this is reality based on so called “merits”(🥇), so theres no time for human spirit. We’ll be busy focused on chasing money burning shit and being loud til we’re frail and collapse telling ourselves how bad someone in another country has it waay worse, cause thats what makes people better? I’d rather try to work with those less fortunate on a massive project to encourage them how smart the human race is, but only together(not holding hands unless needed).
    Just dreaming though

  4. When I was a kid there was no one teaching me how to live, I born in Iran and I had a dad with many issues and I got beat a lot, I born in a country (Iran) always on sanctions and it was war when I was a kid and when I wanted to study first government kids could go university and have job but others ehhh, now I'm 35 I lived a healthy life for myself, I never had childhood you teenage years and now I have mental issues, all saying it depends but when you can have it and you don't know it's your fault

  5. Going down to the bottom of
    the Marina Trench, down to
    minus 36,000 feet is even
    more dangerous than doing
    up to over a hundred miles
    above the earth. Given the
    choice between going down
    deep in a submarine, or going
    high up in a rocket, I'll take
    rocket anytime, thank you!

  6. That was actually quite silly I have got to say: firstly; while it's obviously true that you need to figure out what risks you are going to take, just because something is risky or not does not mean that it is or is not "worth doing": secondly; just because something has say 1 in 10 odds of happening does not mean that it will or will not happen 1 out of every 10 times it means that it has the potential to happen 10% of the time: thirdly; just because something is "unique" or "un-unique" or what have the does not mean that the should or should not do it, it depends upon the thing itself: fourthly; and no it's not about "victory" or "defeating the risk" if only because life is life, life is not a game; it is about taking calculated risks, in other words trying to and figuring out things like the risk reward ratio, how necessary/important "it" (whatever "it" might be) is, whether "it" needs to be done now or can be done more reasonably/safely (what have the) later/can be done in a different more reasonable way, how tenable/doable "it" actually is, etc. and it's true that sometimes what needs to be done needs to be done and you just need to have the discipline (the ability of doing something that the does not want to be doing) and maturity to do "it", if "it" is indeed necessary/needed what have the etc.

  7. Thank you sir. Thanks for taking the risk you took, which lowered the risk for those who will follow you, and thanks for the unintended reminder that instead of trying to erase risk from our lives (and our kids' lives) we do better to weigh risk against the value of the outcome.

    Did I mention? Thanks.

  8. I'm sure the Japanese artist who signed up for the circum-lunar trip was aware of the risks, and Hadfield loses a lot of my respect for suggesting otherwise.

  9. Chris – brilliant. "The ride a bike" simple analogy runs parallel when Niel Armstrong first stepped onto the Moon (20 July 1969). That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.

    Chris the next time I'm in Canada I welcome the oppertunutry to buy you a coffee a shake your hand.

  10. a better way of framing the question would be "what's the lesser risk?" because not doing something isn't necessarily the lesser risk.

  11. 1:21 – That's a brutal statement regarding what you really care about.
    You have a wife & three children. You assess the risk of you dying is in the neighborhood of 1 in 40. You say goodbye to them anyway. And you do this more than once. If I was the spouse or child of a shuttle astronaut, it would be pretty clear to me where I fit in with the ranking of priorities.

    As for John Young and Bob Crippen, it's more understandable when your country is needing you to do this because of the Cold War. But that ended decades ago. Somewhere between the late 80s and the early 90s, the prime motivation to go became simply joyriding. And that's great if you're single. No one is depending on you to raise them. To teach them to do things like ride a bike.

  12. This man is so intelligent & humble. It’s truely inspiring listening to you Mr. Hadfield. Thank you for all your service!

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