I’ve been reading Chris Hadfield’s book, An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth. In it, Chris talks about a great many things in the book and I would urge anyone who would like help or guidance on how to become a better human being to read it.
Because he talks about the life lessons he has learned in his journey to becoming an astronaut and how they transfer to life down here on earth. There are a great many things to learn from his achievements, including the fact that at 9 years old, he watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon and decided he wanted to be an astronaut. Even though Canada didn’t even have a space programme.
One chapter leapt out at me so much that I have now read it three times.
Aim To Be a Zero.
In space flight, zero may be the point at which the rocket ignites and departs the launch pad and therefore signifies excitement and anticipation, however zero in most other elements of life has a negative element to it.
A big fat zero is not a score to be proud of in sport.
Zero points means a whitewash
From hero to zero signifies a fall from grace, embarrassment.
And yet Chris is saying that we should aim to be a zero when we enter a new environment, a fresh relationship or a new era of our lives.
When you read his reasoning, you realise that he is right. I have written previously about how I was once singled out and labeled as being ‘not a team player’. And in reflection, while I am proud of that in many ways, there are also elements of it that I am less than proud of having read this chapter in the book.
Let me explain. Or paraphrase Chris Hadfield’s words.
“Whenever you enter a new situation, whether this is a rocket ship or a meeting room or even a fresh personal relationship, you will be viewed as one of three things. “
A Minus One – actively harmful, someone who creates problems.
A Zero – your impact is neutral and doesn’t tip the balance one way or another
A Plus One – someone who actively adds value.
Chris is right of course. We all want to be a Plus One.
But by entering the environment, relationship or meeting room and proclaiming yourself to be a Plus One, you are almost certainly singling yourself out as a Minus One right away. That’s regardless of the skills and life experiences you may be bringing.
Now reading this in print, in the book and paraphrased here, it’s surely obvious. None of us want to be looked upon as a dick.
And yet sometimes we cannot help ourselves and we cannot even see it in our own behaviours.
I am just as guilty of that.
I am a solo person in my work a lot of the time. I have no staff, have no need of a smoked glass office. I can work anywhere I can find a flat surface or the shade of a tree, some coffee and an internet connection. I am, in effect, A Company of One, which is how I like it.
Does that mean that I can take credit for all of the achievements I attain, either with clients and marketing or the magazine articles I write or the online success of this blog?
Nope. Not even close.
When I work with clients on content marketing, or work on track in my previous driver coaching career, I sometimes have to dial back quite significantly on my expectations of others. While I can be a master procrastinator at times, at others I can be down right impatient for progress. Especially when I see a solution to a problem that needs to be actioned.
This video interview gives a greater overview of the idea behind being a Zero. As he says, when the house is on fire, you need to make decisions and take action. In those times, yes you need to be a Plus One. Spoiler alert – do not click through to read the flat earth comments….
In nearly all life situations, the house isn’t on fire. In fact we have time to consider the situation properly, soaking up some of the finer nuances of a situation can be really beneficial to everyone, myself included.
So does this mean I am going to head back and re-write my blog on Not a Team Player? No I am not. It’s a marker in the sand of where I was at the time and also, more recently, where I was as a person as I wrote the blog post.
Could I have done things better back then? Yes, without a doubt.
Could I be doing things better going forward, even today? Yes, without a doubt.
And if you look in the mirror with any kind of honesty, you will admit that there will be occasions, even recently, where perhaps you were being a bit too much an outward Plus One.
Which was making you appear as a Minus One.
Instead, aim to be a Zero in every new situation. Even if everyone knows that you’re the Plus One.