Chris Hadfield: renowned astronaut, Internet-famous guitarist and now part-time motivational speaker, at least at the TED2014 conference. The former commander of the International Space Station spoke about a spacewalk gone wrong and how preparing for every possible problem affected his outlook on fear.
During Hadfield's first spacewalk in 2001, a drop of an oil and soap mixture, used to keep the Canadian's helmet from fogging up, got caught in his left eye and caused him to tear up. Without gravity, the tears didn't stream down his face and instead got bigger, drifting into his other eye and rendering him blind in the vastness of space.
"What's the scariest thing you've ever done?" he asked the audience in Vancouver, Canada, Monday. "What are you afraid of? Spiders?" He then gives the advice for any spider-fearing person to walk directly into a spider web not just once, but multiple times. "I guarantee if you walk into 100 spider webs, you will have changed your fundamental human behavior. And you can apply this to anything," Hadfield, 54, said.
Hadfield's training was like running into hundreds of spider webs, in that he faced his fear straight on by simulating everything that could go wrong during a mission. Eventually, he was able to cry out the remnants of the material from his eye and recover his vision.
"You have taken the dreams of that 9-year-old boy that were impossible and dauntingly scary, and put them into practice," he said. "And figure out a way to reprogram yourself, to change your primal fear."
He finished the talk by serenading the audience with his cover of "Space Oddity."