Col. Chris Hadfield is the first Canadian to walk in space and the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. But, his story only begins there. Hadfield communicated in space via social media, bringing his unique personal experience to millions on earth. LexBlog CEO, Kevin O’Keefe, chats with Hadfield at Clio Cloud Conference 2017, about how no matter your profession, astronaut, lawyer or otherwise, you should be harnessing the power of technology to reach people.
Kevin: It’s not every day that I get to interview an astronaut, or even talk with an astronaut.
Chris: Pleasure to talk with you, Kevin, thanks.
Kevin: It’s not bad. I’m getting to talk with Commander Chris Hadfield that just got to speak to everybody at Cleo and I’ll tell you, it was one hell of a talk.
Kevin: Let me ask you just something … I was just trying to figure out things to ask you. I mean, one of the things you did, was you used social media in space. How’d that even come about, that you thought about it and said, “I’m gonna start doing this?”
Chris: I watched the first two people walk on the moon when I was a kid. That was the original social media.
Kevin: You’re right.
Chris: That was the original reality TV, and it was such a contrast with the Soviets. They kept the whole things under wraps, they didn’t talk to people, they turned it into a production and they released it after it had happened. NASA was so much gutsier, they said, this is way too important just to pre-process. We’re just gonna broadcast the whole thing, and let people see it.
As a result, it had a huge impact. I think I learned from that, that if you’re doing something that is worthwhile and rare, that you should not keep it to yourself. Through my whole 21 years as an astronaut, I tried to use whatever technology existed to share it as best I could. On the first flight, it was film, cameras, and hand radio, which is a lousy way to communicate. But by my third flight, Social Media existed, and everybody focuses on media, but what it really is, is social.
Chris: It’s a way to share the uniqueness of a human experience with a billion people, if they’re interested, and in an unfiltered way. To me it’s an immensely powerful communications tool, and to me it’s just a wonderful way to let people see what exploring the rest of the universe is really like.
Kevin: You have children, right?
Chris: Three, and a granddaughter.
Kevin: And a granddaughter. How old are your kids?
Chris: My kids are all in their thirties.
Kevin: What did growing up with their dad as an astronaut means to them, as you think about it?
Chris: Being the child of an astronaut, your parent has a very risky profession. You have to accept early that your parent may die just as a signed up to part of doing their job. But there’s a lot of kids whose parents are firemen or policewomen, or soldiers or whatever, so that’s not unique. It’s a public job, so you become a public figure, and that has its own pressures on family.
It opens a lot of doors. I remember once we were going to the White House, and I took my kids in to get a haircut and my son, who was about eight at the time, I was saying, “Hey we’re getting haircuts.” He goes, “Yeah, yeah.” I said, “Do you know why you’re getting a haircut?” He looked at me and I said, “‘Cause we’re going to the White House.” And he said, “Again?” ‘Cause from an eight-year-old kids point of view, it’s like a whole day of wearing a tie, it’s standing around, and eventually listening to adults talk to each other.
I say that little story because being the child of an astronaut opens opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist, but it also puts a lot of pressure on my kids. Because they don’t often get judged for just who they are. They get judged as being the child of an astronaut, and so if they are successful it’s because, “Well, of course, you’re successful, your dad was an astronaut.” And if they aren’t successful-
Kevin: You fail.
Chris: It’s ’cause “Why aren’t you successful, your dad’s an astronaut?” They get introduced, not as who they are, but as a relative of somebody else. It’s a mixed bag, but we’ve tried to find a way to deal with it with all three kids and they’re all happy and thriving in their thirties, so I think we’re okay.
Kevin: ‘Cause you left us with a message, that you’re sittin’ there in a box, it was your first space capsule, and then you leave us at the end with, “We owe it to young people to be an inspiration for them because at some point we were inspired”
Chris: I agree.
Kevin: To be successful. I’ve got to believe that that’s impacted your kids. Who else do you run into, that you said, “I did this because I watched you.” It’s got to happen a lot.
Chris: Sure does, and I meet people all around that I have huge respect for the innate abilities they’ve had, but more importantly than that, what they’ve done with those abilities. There have been some great people that I met, some of the people that people have heard of, like John Glenn. To me, he was one of the great Americans. A lifetime of service, huge personal skills, the willingness to accept an enormous risk to do something that pushes back the edge of what we can do, when he was a test pilot and when he served as an astronaut. Someone like that is very impressive.
The current Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, immensely skilled guy. Fascinating fellow, in his late sixties, early seventies, he signed up for seven years of service because he thought it would be good for the country and he could set an example that would further the aims that he found personally necessary. But the more I’ve gotten older, the more I find out that every single person is doing, quietly, something that requires bravery and resolve, and that is inspirational if you can just get them to tell you about it. So when I’m sitting next to somebody I try and not talk about the stuff I did in the past, but the stuff that they’re trying to do in the future. ‘Cause it inspires me. Whether they’re 10 years old or 90 years old.
Kevin: You left with the message … When you said Kennedy said we should go to the moon. Not because it was easy-
Chris: And back again, and back again, that’s important.
Kevin: And because it’s hard, and we had all of 15 minutes of space at that point in time. Somebody tells you, you’re going to the moon, but they … You ended with the message where you said, look at technology companies, a lot of legal technology companies, use the technology that you have today, now. Learn from how it might even be a failure, you’re using it, but put it to work for other people. A tremendous message, and for lawyers that’s tremendous.
Chris: I think for lawyers it’s important to remember that our ability to communicate with each other and our transportation capabilities around the world are such, that we have never had the ability to give information to each other at this rate. It’s never going to be going this slowly again.
Kevin: We know that for sure.
Chris: It’s picking up speed. So if you say, nah, I’m not on Social Media, all you’re really doing is saying, I’m gonna fix myself in time and not be part of the process of things accelerating and improving. You’re just basically stepping off the boat of progress and your welcome to do that, people have done it throughout history, but if you truly want to continue to be competitive, whether it’s as a person, a business, a Provence, a state, or a nation, you have to accept the fact that you have to get out in front of that technology.
You have to use it as a tool. There were cavemen who said, I don’t want that stone ax, I’ve got a club. I don’t need what pointy, I don’t need that, fire I can already eat raw meat. It is always easy to go with what you know and what is simple, but you are in the process of being left behind every time you do that. Finding a way, or finding someone who can help you adopt the technology to have it improve your business, to have it improve your capability, is going to pay off. It won’t be easy, but most of the successful hard things weren’t easy. You didn’t get to be a lawyer by taking the easy path. Why should that suddenly end now that you are a lawyer?
Kevin: Thank you very much, I appreciate it.
Chris: Thanks, Kevin.
Kevin: Take care.
Chris: Nice talk with you.