Mike Massimino served as a NASA Astronaut from 1996-2014 and flew in space twice: STS-109 on space shuttle Columbia in March 2002 and STS-125 on space shuttle Atlantis in May 2009—the final two Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions. He became the first human to tweet from space, was the last human to work inside of Hubble, and set a team record with his crewmates for the most cumulative spacewalking time in a single space shuttle mission. He received his BS from the Columbia University School of Engineering, and his two MSs and PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is an engineering professor at Columbia and an advisor at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. He has had a recurring role as himself on the CBS comedy “The Big Bang Theory” and is a frequent expert guest on news programs and late-night television, including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNBC, and The Late Show with David Letterman, and has been called the real-life astronaut who inspired George Clooney’s role in the movie “Gravity.”

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The Learning Leader Show

  • The 3 Trusts – Trust your gear, trust your training, trust your team… And the 4th: trust yourself.
  • Mike persisted through 3 rejections over 7 years on his way to becoming an astronaut, including overcoming a medical disqualification by training his eyes and brain to see better.
  • Mike participated in a mission that significantly increased Hubble’s discovery potential and led to the award of a Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of dark energy during a spacewalk.
  • Why Mike was chosen to be an astronaut: Mike has a great combination of competence (he knows his stuff) and high character. He’s the type of guy that can get along and work with anyone. He’s honest, humble, and authentic.
  • The power of having a deep passion for what you’re doing. Mike watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon when he was six years old and then did whatever he could over the rest of his life to become an astronaut. His desire to become an astronaut led him to go to prestigious universities, earn his Ph.D., become a pilot, become scuba certified, develop great communication skills, and so much more. All of that work led to him accomplishing what he set out to do when he was just 6 years old.
    • “I knew right then that I wanted to be a part of something that meaningful. I wanted to have something I was so passionate about that I’d be willing to risk everything for it. I wanted to know that if I ever got killed, I got killed doing something worthwhile. The kid who looked up at the moon and wasn’t afraid to dream – I decided that part of me deserved a chance. I sat there in that reception area, watching the crash footage play over and over again on the television, and that was when it hit home for me: you only have one life. You have to spend it doing something that matters.”
  • What Mike learned from Alan Bean: The most important lesson is to care for and admire everyone on your team.
    • “My favorite lecturer was Alan Bean, who flew on Apollo 12 and is one of the twelve guys who walked on the moon. After retiring from NASA, he became a painter. Alan’s lecture was called “The Art of Space Exploration.” He talked about the mistakes he’d made and how he learned to fix them. One lesson that took him a while to learn was that at a place like NASA you can only have an effect on certain things. You can’t control who likes you. You can’t control who gets assigned to flights or what NASA’s budget is going to be next year. If you get caught up worrying about things you can’t control, you’ll drive yourself nuts. It’s better to focus on the things right in front of you. Identify the places where you can have a positive impact. Concentrate there and let the rest take care of itself. The last thing Alan said to us was ‘What most people want in life is to do something great. That doesn’t happen often. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t be blasé about it. And don’t blow it. A lot of times, believe it or not, people blow it.
  • “Kennedy’s address announcing the Apollo program was one of the great presidential speeches of all time. He challenged us. He excited us. We reach for impossible things, he said, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
  • Competence + Character = Trust.
  • The Right Stuff – The Original 7 Astronauts.
  • If you have a bad boss, what should you do:
    • Stay the course
    • Lead by example
  • “Life is funny. I’d applied to the wrong graduate program, but that eventually led me to the right grad program. I’d taken what I thought was the wrong undergraduate major, and that was the thing that set me apart and allowed me to find my niche. I don’t know if there are any lessons to take from that except to realize that the things you think are mistakes may turn out not to be mistakes. I realized wherever you are, if you make the most of what you’ve got, you can find a way to keep moving forward.”
  • “If you can learn to live with indignities in life, you can go far.”
  • “That’s how a team works. You help the people around you, and everybody’s better off for it. The crazy thing is that most of those guys wanted to be astronauts, too, but they never saw it as a competition. We were on the same team, where you want everyone around you to be as successful as possible, because in some way or another their success will become your success. It’s good karma – what goes around comes around.”
  • “Right after we launched, I realized that all the training we’d on what to do if something went wrong during launch-how to bail out , how to operate the parachutes, how to make an emergency landing-I realized that all those years of training were completely pointless. It was just filler to make us feel okay about climbing into this thing. Because if it’s going down, it’s going down. It’s either going to be a good day or it’s going to be a bad day, and there is no in-between.”
  • “The camaraderie that firefighters have, that brotherhood that forms among them – my father was a part of that, and it came from having a shared sense of purpose. He told me that whatever you do in life, it can’t just be about making money. It’s important that you work to make the world a better place, that you help improve the lives of the people around you.”
  • Perspective: Mike shares how looking down on Earth from space changed his perspective and filled him with deep gratitude.
  • Apply to be part of my Leadership Circle

Time Stamps

00:29 – How To Handle a Bad Boss

03:46 – What Happens Minutes Before Launching to Space

09:31 – Imposter Syndrome When Picked To Become an Astronaut

14:44 – Qualities to Be Chosen for Space

22:15 – Marketing Strategies from Space

27:41 – Advice From Neil Armstrong

30:30 – The Process to Chase Your Dreams

38:03 – No One Leaves the Pool Until Everyone Passes the Test

44:56 – Spacewalking & Gratitude From Space

55:21 – Humility Within NASA

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