What 3 rejections from NASA taught this astronaut about grit

By age 33, astronaut Mike Massimino was rejected from his dream job at NASA three times. He shares the lessons he learned in passion, persistence, and resilience in an article for CNBC

The astronaut’s biggest takeaway? "The most important thing is to never give up. As long as you keep trying, there is always a chance," Massimino told CNBC.

Massimino dreamed of walking on the moon since he was just seven years old. After graduating from Columbia University, he took the initiative to contact a top NASA administrator, and eventually landed an administrative engineering job at NASA's headquarters while working on his graduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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He found himself in the top 10% of the NASA astronaut program applications. But NASA rejected him for having bad eyesight.

Massimino applied to the program again after completing his degree (and undergoing an eye procedure). But again, NASA rejected him—this time for providing references he did not know very well. "I picked people I thought were important instead of people who knew me. That was a mistake," he explains.

Still, Massimino persisted. He applied once more—making it to the final round of interviews—but NASA rejected him a third time. "I was crushed. It'd been ten years. Ten years of my life I'd been working toward this goal," says Massimino.

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But rather than give up, he contacted the program selection committee and learned he could apply again if he further corrected his vision. Massimino worked as a professor at Rice University and Georgia Institute of Technology while he improved his eyesight through intensive vision training. He applied a fourth time, and this time NASA finally accepted him to be a candidate for the astronaut program.

He completed years of training and went to space once in 2002 and again in 2009. His time in space totaled about three weeks.

Despite the hardships he faced, Massimino has no regrets. Reflecting on the challenges he faced in pursuing his dream, Massimino notes the importance of striving toward a goal: "I think the most important thing is to have a dream and to pursue it. Sometimes it will work out and sometimes it won't, but the important thing is to try." (Mejia, CNBC, 4/13).

Keep reading: How nudging makes it easier for people to make decisions that support their goals


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