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  • Alison Lincoln

Think Like An Astronaut

In 2017, NASA received 18,300 applications for its’ Astronaut Selection board - only 12 were picked. As of May 2020, NASA has 48 active astronauts of which 18 are management astronauts.

If your sights have been set on being astronaut since the age of 9 and you’ve worked hard for 25 years just to be qualified enough to apply, you have roughly a 0.0006% chance of being accepted. If you’re not accepted does that mean you’ve failed and wasted all those years?

You might decide to improve your chances by instead focusing on becoming an Olympic athlete. Surely those odds are better? Well you’d be right. Every 4 years, 1 million athletes globally train to qualify for the Olympic games. A whopping 1% actually make it! Does that mean the other 99% have failed?

Maybe it’s time to think differently about achievement and what success is?

Chris Hadfield, in his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, suggests we need to:

“Think of advancement in terms of learning rather than climbing to the next rung of the professional ladder. You are getting ahead if you learn, even if you wind up staying on the same rung”

In an interview following England’s World Cup win, Johnny Wilkinson commented:

“Winning the World Cup, the final outcome, I learnt was not actually the true point of the exercise. The ambition and every second spent trying to fulfil it was the important thing. It’s not the outcome or result it’s the intention”

Maybe it’s time we reassess our interpretations of success and achievement and focus more on pursuing activities that lead us in the general direction of our ultimate ambition. Who knows where that might take us and what we might learn along the way!

I’ll leave the final words to Chris Hadfield as I think he says it best. Feel free to replace “astronaut” with any term that resonates with you.

“Accept the odds of becoming an astronaut are terrible. Never make it your own personal measure of success or failure. Rather make it a long term goal, unlikely but still agenda setting which will help guide you in your daily decisions and small victories!”


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