Michael J. Massimino, a NASA astronaut who has flown several space missions to repair the Hubble Telescope, talks with us about finding our path in life. From learning how he evolved into an astronaut, we can reflect on what may be possible in our own life... no matter the odds. But life isn't all about striving. Mike also focuses on his intention to live a happy life. In fact, that was his goal as well as becoming an astronaut.
Mike's effervescent personality made this interview particularly fun. It is my honor to welcome NASA astronaut Mike Massimino to The Global Townhall. Interview with Maddie Wheat and Gabrielle Reilly.
Maddie Wheat: Given you have had a really successful career, what advice would you give others to help with their careers?
Mike Massimino: I think first you have to dream about what you would like to accomplish, or what you would like to become. Try to discover what you really love, or what your passion is. After that (which can be a substantial accomplishment just framing it out) be honest with yourself. Ask yourself "is this really important to me?" So no matter how crazy it is, or how far-fetched, if it's really what interests you and if it's really your passion, you have to take steps to approach it. Even if it is a nearly impossible dream you have to take steps to approach it.
Don't give up when the going gets rough. Things are not always going to work out smoothly for you but you have to keep trying. I think that if you do those things you may not reach your dream or accomplish what you set out to do, there's always that possibility, but you will at least have the satisfaction of trying. I think other doors will open up along the way that may be even better or offers an alternative. I think you have to follow what you're interested in.
Maddie Wheat: There are a lot of people out there that don't know what their passion is. Do you have any suggestions on how you find it?
Mike Massimino: That's a tough one. You never know when it is going to hit you. For me I was a very little boy. I was six years old when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. But even in the years leading up to that I idolized the astronauts, even though I grew up in New York and there were no astronauts wondering around.
I wanted to grow up to be just like them. Then as I got older when I was going to school, I tried to do well, but I didn't dream of becoming an astronaut. I knew I liked math and science so I decided to study engineering in college. So there might be natural things that you enjoy more than others. Some people might enjoy writing more than math, or art more than sport.
School is a great place to try different subjects out. When you're in school, they force you to take all these different classes when you are young. You need to take math, science, english, reading, etc and can explore acting, music and sport. So you should try and explore as many things as you can.
I knew when I went to go to college that I wanted to extend my childhood for as long as I could. So I wanted to go to the best college I could to get that experience out of college. I wanted to study something more math and science orientated rather than english and writing (which I also liked) so that is why I went into engineering.
So I think you will naturally discover what you like. It doesn't mean it has to be something you're really good at, it just has to be something that you really like. Ask yourself some basic questions like "am I enjoying this or does it really stink?" "Is this fun for me or is it really a chore?" It can't always be fun and games but mainly what you like doing. Hopefully it is something productive that you like doing.
Then when I was a senior in college I saw the movie "The Right Stuff." That movie really touched me. It showed the camaraderie amongst the astronauts. It showed some really cool guys that I had always looked up. It showed scenes of John Glen looking out the window on his first orbital flight and the view of the Earth was just magnificent. I wanted to see that view, I wanted to be one of those guys and that is when I started taking steps even after college, going to grad school etc, to try and get involved with NASA to pursue the astronaut thing.
So, try different things and see what you like. Start with basic things. What did you like in school? It might just be a topic like baseball or race cars, investing in the stock market, politics, news, whatever you find you're really interested in, even as a hobby, to make as your career. You may not find it straight away, but hopefully you do find it.
Gabrielle Reilly: Yes, I'm actually finding a common thread throughout many of the celebrity interviews... many talk of having a dream when they were five or six years old as you did. I have found that of myself. I had a vision that I would be exploring ideas with the world's most successful people, I had no idea how, but although my life took some different courses, here I am. That vision led me here on an indirect path. So, perhaps people should also try to remember what really stirred them when they were five and six to see if that inspires anything in them.
I think you're right. I think it is like a little kid thing. What is important to you down in your heart as a child. Then we grow up. I think we need to own up to what really touches us at some point in our lives and go after it.
Gabrielle Reilly: It's interesting that you said one of your goals was to extend your childhood out into college. I think you have really successfully done that even to this day. I was watching your interviews on youtube and I was thinking you still have a fun childlike demeanor. You're responsible of course, but a child at heart still.
Mike Massimino: That is the greatest compliment you could have given me. You have made my day, possibly even my week or month. Right now Gabrielle, I am not sure what my next step in life is going to be. I will be staying at NASA for a bit longer but I am getting older and I want to extend my childhood even further and I think it is possible. Occasionally I meet people who are older than I am going into their late 50's and 60's, and they are very successful, but they are still happy like kids. I think it is because they know what they really love.
I think it's important to change. Your career has a path. You reach a goal and you might have to find something else to do. That is important. I'm also trying to help myself out with this answer right now. As you get older certain doors begin to close because you are becoming an older person you need to find other things that will keep you as engaged as you were when you were younger. That's the key, trying to extend your childhood as long as possible.
Gabrielle Reilly: Yes. I once had singing lessons with an eighty year old Russian opera singer who used to sing at Carnegie Hall (talking about trying new things.) She said "race you to the elevator" and we both skipped along as if we had the glee of six year children. I love this woman. She became my new role model on how I would like to age. I don't want life to squeeze the joy out of me either, and living with happiness as a priority, makes it possible to live life with joy until the day you die.
Please find Mike Massimino's second interview on the possibility of him dying on a mission Mike Massimino Interview.