Steve Smith made an audacious childhood dream to be an astronaut come true despite multiple setbacks. He is one of America’s most experienced astronauts with 4 spaceflights and 7 spacewalks to repair the Hubble Space Telescope and to build the Space Station. At the conclusion of his career, he was the third most experienced spacewalker in history and he twice received NASA’s highest honor, The Distinguished Service Medal.
Steve’s path to space was long – three decades – and arduous. That path included a life-changing near-death experience as a youth, an MBA and two engineering degrees from Stanford, elite national athletics success, tenure as an IBM Product Manager, a medical rejection by the Air Force, four astronaut application rejections by NASA, and a medical rejection by NASA. He relentlessly pursued his childhood dream.
At NASA he was the first in his class named to a flight and quickly rose to the Deputy Chief Astronaut leadership position – the number two Corps’ position – where he led the daily operations of the 125-member Astronaut Corps. He led multiple failure reviews, operations teams, and spacewalking crews. After his flight career, he served as a Diplomat living overseas for a decade and conducted NASA negotiations with European and Russian space agencies.
Steve now uses his one-of-a-kind mix of experiences to serve as a board director, venture capital advisor, and keynote speaker. He credits hard-won lessons learned and a resulting set of principles, which he calls the “explorer’s mindset,” for giving him the creativity, will, and grit to achieve his goal and succeed as an astronaut, decision maker, and leader. In his speeches, he shares the magic of spaceflight and motivates audiences to use the explorer’s mindset and practices to improve individual, team, and leadership performance in today’s dynamic, fast-paced business environment.
LEADERSHIP AT 17500 MILES PER HOUR
Strong, effective leadership is a cornerstone of exploration ventures where leaders must make difficult decisions under pressure that carry risk to people’s lives. Leaders in the human spaceflight business process massive amounts of information in a complex, dynamic and fast-paced environment under the added constraints of budgets, stakeholders, schedules, and growing foreign and domestic competition. Business leaders face a similar environment in today’s global economy and they can benefit from exploration leadership techniques.
Steve Smith spent 28 years at NASA in multiple roles. He is one of America’s most experienced astronauts and spacewalkers with four space flights and seven spacewalks. On Earth, he served in the number two leadership position in the Astronaut Corps, led multiple teams in concept development, failure investigations, and strategic planning. Steve also served as a Diplomat overseas for 12 years negotiating with European and Russian Space Agency personnel.
Steve will describe the practices of leadership in the hazardous and dynamic field of human spaceflight. He will reveal how these practices can be used by business leaders on Earth so that they are effective in today’s competitive global business arena.
LIFE LESSONS FROM SPACE
Exploration is a dangerous and unpredictable endeavor. To cope with risky and dynamic environments, explorers rely on critical attributes such as creative thinking, resilience to setbacks, and perseverance. These attributes define the “explorer’s mindset.”
Steve Smith began dreaming of being an astronaut at age 7. Through nearly three decades of sheer determination, he overcame a near-death experience and multiple rejections by the Air Force and NASA to become one of America’s most experienced astronauts and spacewalkers. He rode the space shuttle into space four times and went outside the shuttle seven times to perform spacewalks to repair the Hubble Space Telescope and to build the Space Station.
Early in life, Steve was inspired to adopt the tenacity and habits of iconic explorers. He applied that mindset to guide him on his long path to NASA and to succeed and survive as an astronaut. Along the way, he adapted several life practices that allowed him to lead a balanced life as a husband, father, son, and explorer. In this speech, Steve reveals how individuals and teams can and must adopt the explorer’s mindset, and specific life practices, so that they thrive in today’s fast-paced, dynamic environment.
AN ASTRONAUT’S JOURNEY: DREAMS, RESILIENCE, AND EARTH’S BEAUTY
Steve Smith has traveled fast, really fast. Mach 25 to be exact. That’s 25 times the speed of sound. He did it only after a three-decade effort to fulfill a childhood dream expressed in several colorful childhood drawings.
Along the way, NASA rejected him four times and even rejected him permanently (or so thought NASA) by medically disqualifying him. He’ll describe what inspired him to continue and he’ll provide advice for audiences of all ages on overcoming disappointment and how to feel strong and inspired. Riding the rocket on four space missions, performing seven spacewalks, and traveling 16 million miles was magical and changed Steve’s perspectives.
Through his personal stories, gorgeous photos, and a passion and skill for sharing his space experiences, Steve reveals how spaceflight can be everything from joyous to serious to humorous.
Seeing our planet from a distance brought Steve both awe at its beauty and concern for its environmental fragility. He saw an island in a vast ocean. He will inspire us to be good to nature – and to each other.
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