Daily Press (Sunday)

Don’t make it worse

- By Stephanie Vozza |

We all make mistakes. How we respond to them, however, can be the difference between moving forward and staying stuck. Former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, author of “Moonshot: A NASA Astronaut’s Guide to Achieving the Impossible,” says the lessons he learned in space not only helped him better handle mistakes; they improved his productivi­ty and focus. “Before becoming an astronaut, when I myself, ‘I’m the worst astronaut ever. That would fail at something or not do something is the stupidest thing you could have done. well, I would ruminate on it for a Why in the hell did you use a power tool? very long time,” he says. “I would lose Now we’ll never know if there is life in the focus and almost check out. For example, universe. This is going to be my legacy. I failed my qualifying exam when I was My children are going to be known as the a student in grad school, and I had about children of the person who destroyed the a week of misery and being down in the future of astronomy and broke the Hubble dumps.” Space Telescope.’ ”

The same strategy won’t work when Beating yourself up has one caveat, you’re an astronaut, due to the complexity Massimino says: Keep it to yourself. of the job and the level of focus it requires, “Don’t vocalize any of this [internal] Massimino says. “You’re going to make visual,” he says. “You’ll scare people if they mistakes. I’ve made many, but you have to can hear you. Have your rant, then finish learn to deal with them and maintain your up the last few seconds by telling yourself focus.” you’re never going to let that happen

If something goes wrong, especially again. Then it’s flushed, and it’s time to if you’re in space, you don’t have hours, move on and reengage.” days or a week to dwell on it. Instead,

Massimino adopted a 30-second rule he learned from one of his colleagues.

“Give yourself 30 seconds of regret or remorse,” he says. “It’s okay to be (ticked) off at yourself; it’s better than denying your mistakes, which could lead to bigger problems and is usually a sign of ego. But then get back in the game.”

What you do during those 30 seconds is what makes a difference. Massimino shares a story of a mistake he made while working on the Hubble Space Telescope.

He stripped the bolt head on a screw while repairing a handrail. The crew didn’t have a backup part.

“It was such a simple task, and we had backups for everything else,” he says. “I knew that this could be game over here.”

To get regret out of his system,

Massimino went all in during the first 30 seconds. “I called myself every name in the book,” he says. “In that moment, I told

After you’ve acknowledg­ed your mistake and gotten out the emotion, make sure you don’t compound the problem. In Massimino’s astronaut training, this step was referred to as “Hoot’s Law.” Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson was known for saying, “No matter how bad things may seem, you can always make them worse.”

“When you make a mistake, don’t try to rush and make up for it, moving quickly or trying to figure it out on your own,” Massimino says. “That’s usually a recipe for disaster.”

The best way to recover from a mistake is to be deliberate. Massimino says few situations require immediate action; most of the time, the best approach is to get help.

“Slow down so things don’t get worse,” he says. “Don’t break something else or exacerbate the problem. You don’t want to add problem B before your team can solve problem A. Learning how to deal with my mistakes was one of the most important lessons that I learned as an astronaut. It made me much more focused and productive.”

Lean into trust

Moving on requires trust. Massimino says he was scared to get on the Space Shuttle the first time.

“What I remembered in that situation was trust,” he says. “Trust your fear, trust that the machine is going to work for you, trust your training. Your name wasn’t picked out of a hat. Trust your team and trust yourself. Trust helped me get into these situations that seemed a bit scary, and it gave me the confidence to move forward.”

Trusting yourself can be the hardest trust to develop, but it’s what will get you through mistakes. Massimino says he was the first rookie to spacewalk on the Hubble Telescope.

“Servicing spacewalks was considered to be the plum assignment,” he says. “I was really excited to be a part of it. I was also pretty intimidate­d. This was the crown jewel of NASA at the time.”

Massimino’s mentor, Steve Smith, who had spacewalke­d on the Hubble Telescope on a previous mission, told him, “We wouldn’t let you go to Hubble if you were not ready to go,” Massimino recalls. “They had full confidence in me and didn’t think of me as a rookie. Doing a spacewalk on the Hubble was like playing in the Super Bowl. I practiced it in simulation, but it would never feel as big as doing it.”

Productivi­ty and focus help you in life’s biggest moments. “Life is almost always an open book test,” Massimino says. “Very rarely are we in a situation where we can’t ask for help. Trust yourself. Acknowledg­e your mistakes. And when it’s game time, execute the plan.”

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