1. Every day is a fresh start and an opportunity to learn something new: We often ask kids, either as a reflective educator, or as parents around the dinner table, "what did you learn today?" But, how often do we turn that question on ourselves? Are we continuous learners? Or do we go through our days by rote, doing the same old things as a variation on an on-going theme? What if, instead, we were determined to not let a day go by without learning one new thing? A new set of facts about a topic of interest? A different perspective about our current beliefs and professional practices? A new skill? It can be as simple as trying out an interesting recipe for dinner. "What did you learn today that made you grow - just a little?"
2. Things don't happen just by luck (good or bad): We always talk about being in the right place at the right time to get a new opportunity, or job, or career advancement, and, conversely to miss the boat for the opposite reason. The fact is, the only way that you can be in the "right" place, is if you have put yourself there. By that I don't mean just physically, but in terms of your learning, your life experience, and your attitude. For everyone who gets an opportunity because they were in the right place at the right time - there were a dozen others who were too, and who didn't get it. It's not a matter of luck, its a matter of preparation.
3. In fact, most of life is preparation: Chris Hadfield is an astronaut. Almost every Canadian school kid has seen pictures or videos of him in the ISS doing experiments, or singing songs, or simply pointing out things through the station window. We all know that an astronaut is someone who flies around in space. Chris Hadfield is an amazing and accomplished astronaut. He has been in the space programme for 23 years, of which only six months have been actually been in space! Three opportunities to "do his job" in more than two decades of training for it. I originally met Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space, back in the late 1980s. His was a similar story. Years of training for three flights and a few weeks in space. Know what you want to accomplish and get ready for it.
4. Look for the next step: Superman is (shockingly!) a fictional character. No-one can actually "leap tall buildings in a single bound". But, we can all scale just as high a target if we take it one step at a time. There is no need to be in a hurry, you just have to keep moving onward and upward. Each forward step takes you closer to your goal. Too many of us spend our lives like the ball in a pinball machine either shooting forward and falling back, careening from one experience to the next or, sitting in the chute waiting for someone else to pull back the plunger that gets us started. As Commander Hadfield says: "Almost everything that you chose not to do in your life, no-one told you couldn't". Know where you want to go, and get on with it.
5. Have a vision not a dream: Back in my days of accrediting schools, I once had a Head say to me that he knew what his vision was, but he just didn't know how to get there. That wasn't a vision, that was a dream. We all have dreams. Like Chris Hadfield, I watched Star Trek growing up, saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon and imagined myself flying around in space. For me, that was a nice fantasy, for him, it was a career path. His journey from a young boy with a vision to an amazingly accomplished spaceship commander was marked by learning new things every day; making his own "luck"; dedicating himself to years of preparation; and, systematically heading towards his goal one step at a time. In a funny, self-deprecating moment, Chris Hadfield called himself a "loser" because his goal had been to land on the moon not to command the International Space Station. In reality, his vision had remained intact, but history had altered his target.
I took my two youngest sons, Morgan and Quinn to hear Chris Hadfield speak. When we were leaving Morgan, who is 12, said to me - "Dad, I really want to be an astronaut when I grow up." So, my learnings, these five steps, are really being written for him, so that he can take his dream, turn it into a vision, and create his own future - one step at a time.