Col. Chris Hadfield On The Difference Between Fear and Danger

In this inspiring talk, U.S. astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield explains how to separate fear from real danger, and reminds us that fear can be the greatest danger of all.


“There is no problem so bad that you can’t make it worse. I was outside on my first spacewalk when my left eye went blind. I didn’t know why. Suddenly my left eye slammed shut, and great pain, and I couldn’t figure out why my eye wasn’t working. Now I was completely blind outside the spaceship.

“Why would we take that risk? Why would you do something that dangerous? The real question is how do you deal with the danger of it and the fear that comes from it. How do you deal with fear versus danger? The danger is entirely different than the fear. How do you get around it, though? How do you change your behavior? Next time you see a spiderweb, have a good look, make sure it’s not a black widow spider, and then walk into it.

“I guarantee you, if you walk through a hundred spiderwebs you will have changed your fundamental human behavior. Your caveman reaction, your natural panicky reaction doesn’t happen. Instead, you look around and go, ‘Okay, I can’t see, but I can hear, I can talk. It’s not nearly as big a deal.’ Actually, if you keep on crying for a while, whatever that guck was that’s in your eye starts to dilute and you can start to see again.

“The key to that is by looking at the difference between perceived danger and actual danger. Where is the real risk? What is the real thing that you should be afraid of? Not just a generic fear of bad things happening. You can fundamentally change your reaction to things so that it allows you to go places and see things and do things that otherwise would be completely denied to you. To come back with a set of experiences and a level of inspiration for other people that never could have been possible otherwise. What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?”