Mike Massimino failed his PhD the first time. Failed the astronaut test the first three times.
Failed to get the highest evaluation when he walked into space the first time. And almost destroyed the Hubble Telescope on the last attempt the US was going to make to fix it.
But he did it. He did it all.
Two things I noticed about him.
One thing is he kept saying things to me like, “I wasn’t the smartest in X but…”
He said that about his classmates. He said that about his neighbors. He said this about his fellow co-workers. He said this out in the middle of outer space. 350,000 miles away from home.
In my podcast, years later, he was still saying that.
He’s a liar.
He got his PhD from MIT in “robot arms on Mars”. He went into space twice. He fixed the Hubble telescope so now we can see images like this:
By the way, he failed the astronaut exam because his vision wasn’t good enough.
He then figured out how to TRAIN HIS EYES TO HAVE BETTER EYESIGHT. I never even heard of that before. He passed his next exam with 20/20 vision.
Clearly he was good enough. In fact, he is the best at everything he has ever done.
Humility without negativity (negative might be: “I’m not good enough so I will give up.”) seems to be key.
In other words: Humility With Forward Action.
Second, he told me something very interesting.
In his lab at MIT there were ten other students.
Four of them became astronauts.
Do you know how hard it is to become an astronaut? Out of the 1,000s of people who used to apply each year, less than 10 would get in. These 1,000s who applied were DESPERATE to get in.
And they couldn’t.
And yet FOUR from this one single lab flew into outer space.
If he had been hanging out in a bar instead of a robotics lab, I doubt he could say, “Me and 3 of my friends went into space”.
Life and it’s outcomes are contagious.
Be where, and with who, you will inherit the greatest possibilities, the greatest encouragement, the greatest knowledge, the greatest joys and friendship
These are the viruses you want to infect you.
Those are the people and places that will propel you into outer space.
And by “outer space,” in this one case I am talking metaphorically. Be the person the people around you expect you to be.
I learned this from Mike because I was curious and I reached out to him and wanted to ask questions.
Learning something from the people you admire is really the point here. If you do it just once a day you’ll learn 365 incredible things a year.
This will make your life a dream. And then you’ll dream of things you never knew existed.
(Mike showing me how fast the space shuttle would cross our skyline)
- I asked Mike about aliens. He said, “There are 10 times as many galaxies as we previously thought. We already knew there were a lot of them. Billions! And now the calculation is we’re only seeing about 10% of them. There are so many possibilities… with billions of galaxies and billions of stars in those galaxies. And each one of those stars, like our sun, has planets orbiting around them. To think we’re the only place where there’s life… I don’t see that.” He went on about whether or not we’ve been “visited” [12:27]
- “I think, James, it’s really hard some times to be honest with yourself about what you love.” [21:15]
- [28:00] Mike said it’s not easy to do something well. And if you want to do a good job, you have to love it. “Then when you’re putting the time in you feel you’re spending it well.”
- “Every job takes you away from your family. Every job has sacrifices in it,” Mike said. “So I wanted a job where I knew those sacrifices were worth it.” He says how he figured it out and found meaning at [29:00]
- “A friend of mine, who I mention in the book, his name is CJ Sturckow, he’s a marine pilot. He used to say, ‘If you make a mistake, give yourself 30 seconds of regret and then move on.’” But Mike didn’t get over setbacks in 30 seconds.“It was more like a few days of regret,” he said. And that’s ok… But it’s also important to learn the art of moving forward. Mike says how at [37:04]
- Mike used to have impostor syndrome. He was a rookie astronaut. And he felt like he didn’t deserve to be out there with expert space walkers, pilots, commanders and so on. So I asked him, ‘What is impostor syndrome? And how do you get over it.” He laughed… “Do you still feel like an impostor?” [51:24]