Before I started reading Tim Peake’s autobiography Limitless I knew that I was going to learn plenty.
I mean, astronauts have plenty to share and what they are particularly good at is psychology.
Tim Peake’s life lessons began before becoming an astronaut though. At Sandhurst, the esteemed Royal Military Academy, he talks about resilience, how much self-control you can tap into and learning to choose your mood.
He describes this self-control as seeking a ‘Condor moment’:
We were constantly trained to seek what is called at Sandhurst a ‘Condor moment’ – named after the old cigar advertising campaign in which, typically, someone having a tough time would light a cigar and retreat inwardly to a calmer place. The idea, as taught at Sandhurst, was to reach that calmer place without needing the cigar.
We can all choose our mood and decide what mental weather we are going to experience. But it helps to do certain things in order to prepare.
Tim talks about the importance of practising over and over again until they become routine and habitual so that when the pressure bites you have something to fall back on. As soldiers they were deliberately overloaded with information so that something was bound to go wrong. He says,
The screw-up was potentially where you did your best learning.
Getting to a calm place in the face of pressure and challenges takes some doing but it is training for different scenarios and worse-case situations that can stop you from flapping.
Life hacks from Sandhurst also feature in the book Stand Up Straight by Major General Paul Nanson CBE.
In an article for The Spectator, Nanson says,
We’ll meticulously rehearse an operation until we’re sick to death of it in the military and no detail is too small to master in advance. Rehearsal is everything.
He says more in an article for The Daily Mail too:
Through practice and training, we move certain actions from the conscious to the subconscious, so that when the time comes, they happen almost on instinct and without conscious or deliberate thought. In war, repetition and practice are the seeds of victory.
But the ‘Condor moment’ is also about seeing the bigger picture, not losing perspective and exercising courageous restraint. Look at the photo of the condor at the top of this article and consider the perspective.
The term originates from a 1980s series of commercials for Condor tobacco, where a pipe smoker deftly deals with anyone ruining the peace of his meditative smoke. For us, it signifies the presence of mind to take a moment to consider your options and plan your next step. In a crisis, stepping back from the situation, taking a breath and letting the adrenaline dissipate is vital.
When we are bogged down in a moment and things are getting to us then the ability to have that bird’s eye view helps to ‘reset’, recalibrate and stop us from reacting negatively, angrily or out of character whereby our blood rules our brain. Taking time to pause and reflect before an action is key.
It seems to me that the Condor moment has been misinterpreted slightly as the adverts are a tongue in cheek look at inner-peace being disturbed and then subtle revenge dished out to get rid of the ‘problem’.
The Condor adverts were very funny, especially the submarine one.
Here’s a couple more.