July 16, 2024

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This Astronaut was rejected by NASA three times. Here are his secrets to perseverance 

2 min read

When Mike Massimino was six years old in Long Island, New York, he saw astronauts as superheroes and held them up on a pedestal. The summer of 1969, he watched wide-eyed on the television as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon and remembers thinking, “They’re going to be talking about this 500 years in the future.” 

He immediately made his mom turn his elephant school play costume into an astronaut for Halloween.

“Neil Armstrong was it,” he tells Fortune. “The space program hit me at a very young age. I’ve always felt it was the most important thing going on in the world.” 

More than two decades after watching the first man on the moon—and receiving three rejections from NASA—Massimino served as an astronaut from 1996 until 2014, including during the last mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. His team set records for space walking times, and he won a Nobel Prize in physics for discovering dark energy. He’s also played himself on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory

In many ways, Massimino is an unlikely success story, but he’s also a master class in grit, which he credits for helping him beat the odds. Now, he has a message for others about perseverance. “The one thing I felt like I could control was how hard I tried and not giving up,” he says.

“You can control the effort, not the outcome,” a friend once reminded him.

Grit is the perfect combination of passion and perseverance, ultimately leading people to stay committed to long-term or lofty goals, as explained by psychologist and speaker Angela Duckworth who wrote Grit. As a researcher of the phenomenon, she found grit is a strong predictor of performance, as compared to other common attributes of success like consistency. Beyond career success, grit also improved well-being, and was found to improve people’s sense of life satisfaction, engagement, and happiness, and was even associated with lowering levels of depression. 

Alexa Mikhail

2023-12-03 06:00:00

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