Is your workplace limiting or lifting your work?


Few of us reflect on the place we work in much depth; seems we have a fascination for people who do just that as long as they do something fascinating. Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut is on tour and sharing his experience as a spaceman working on the international space station. In space, the phrase ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is the second to second reality of the spaceman.

On stage, Chris pulls his audience into the intensity of everything he went through to get ready to go to space, the physicality of g forces and the confusion of noise and light, the immense joy of being alive (apparently one in nine launches end in catastrophe).

The idea that we, as mere business-as-usual mortals, might learn to be that sensitive about our work environment seems absurd. There is something about extreme environments that makes them a great teacher of life’s hard lessons. Chris asks in his 2014 TED talk why anyone would want to put themselves into so much danger? In a May interview Chris talks about not wanting to do nothing, just wanting to get stuff done. Isn’t that what all of us should be thinking while we’re at work everyday? So when living his dream - being a spaceman - he’s forced to deal with some pretty challenging realities like being blinded on a spacewalk, he’s just dealing with what are, for him, everyday realities. It's all about tradeoffs though, he did get to look at the window everyday and see staggeringly beautiful views of earth.

Back on planet earth at the Department of Everything, or MakingThis Inc, we forget to notice what’s going around us. It’s like it’s important for astronauts and not for everyday people. One rule for astronauts and another rule for the rest of us. What if the little things in our environment really did count a lot, but that they were not so obvious that we were forced to pay attention or we’d pay some ultimate price?

It’s hugely helpful to Chris Hadfield in getting his powerful message across that he’s worked in such an inspiring yet extreme environment. Most of us don’t think what we do is extreme. Few of us have an office like a space station. What might it mean if we did take the work environment really seriously?

Here are some things that we non-astronauts can do to get an edge for performance in our non-spacestations. The idea is to really notice what's going on at work in some detail and to process and share that :

  • Use a brain training app to improve your attention and to become more aware of your work environment
  • Watch an episode of Redesign my brain with Todd Sampson to keep intrigued and inspired, not overwhelmed
  • Meditate at least 5 minutes daily, more if you can manage it
  • Capture photos (with permission) of the most inspiring places you work in
  • Share one story a day with a friend about something you noticed happening to you or to someone else in the workplace

Please comment - I’d love to learn about how you make sense of what’s going on in your workplace. Turns out we're all as unique as Chris is!