This is the first non-fiction book review on my blog! Woah, nelly!

I was given this book by my parents for Christmas after heavily hinting to my mom while christmas shopping in the local book store that I wanted it. Thanks, Mom and Dad! 😀 ( I also promptly left for university without taking a beautiful picture of its cover… smooth move, Sarah.)

Anyways, this book. I’d wanted to read it for a while, after two different friends had recommended it with words like “hilarious,” “space is awesome,” and “Chris Hadfield is so cool and he’s a CANADIAN!” Needless to say, I was delighted on Christmas morning when I ripped off the wrapping paper to reveal this literary gem. I promptly devoured it on Boxing Day, and it was so good! Definitely went above and beyond my expectations.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here… what even is An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, you ask? It is a lighthearted and humorous collection of stories and life lessons learned by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (that guy who covered Space Oddity while in space) about his time working with the Canadian Space Agency, in particular the five months he spent as commander of the International Space Station.

The book gave me a lot to think about. I learned a lot more about what “being an astronaut” actually entails (an incredible amount of hard work and a lot less actual space travel than I originally thought, which sounds really obvious now…) and also more about how all the technology you think of when I say “space travel” works. Though this is by no means a technical book. It is more about getting along with people and enjoying life than it is about rocket science.

Which brings me to what I really want to discuss: being a zero. Hadfield talks in his book about when you are working in a team, be it on the ISS or in your own family, you can either be a minus one, a plus one, or a zero. A minus one is someone who drags the team down, creates extra work for others, and makes things more difficult (or, in Hadfield’s line of work, even more life-threatening). A zero is someone who does their work properly, doesn’t make things more difficult for others, but aren’t the MVP of the team, either. A plus one, on the other hand, is someone who is entirely indispensable to the team. They’re the superstars, MVP’s, the ones who pick up the slack or take a hit for the team.

Hadfield’s life philosophy, as it were, is to aim for zero. Nobody wants to be a minus one, the person everyone wishes wasn’t there, and very few people actively aspire to be zeroes. As humans, we like the idea that we are unique, special, indispensable, and irreplaceable (which I believe every human is, but that is a post for another time), and when you are a zero, you are none of those things. Not an asset, not a hinderance, just there. Everyone wants to be a plus one, the person other people can’t do without, the hero of the story. But, Hadfield observes, those who go into a team situation thinking “I’m the plus one here. This team would crumble and fail without my amazing awesomeness!” typically end up becoming minus ones instead.

The key is to aim to be a zero. To not let any task, be it doing the dishes or scrubbing the toilets, be beneath you, to realize that you aren’t “the best” on the team, and so give others their moments to shine as well, and to work hard and look out for others. More often than not, he says, you will find yourself recognized as a plus one in the end. Kind of fits in with the concept of humility, right?

All in all, this was a spectacular book, and I highly recommend it if you are the least bit interested in space. I would give it a solid four out of five stars.

Let’s discuss! What do you think of Hadfield’s philosophy of “aiming for zero”? Did you read/get any awesome books for Christmas? Tell me all in the comments! 😀

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