Scott Kelly — Lessons Learned from 500+ Days in Space, Life-Changing Books, and The Art of Making Hard Choices (#478)

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If the Earth was flat, wouldn’t the edge be the most popular tourist attraction on Earth? I would just go set up a taco truck and make a billion dollars with my edge-of-the-Earth tacos.

— Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) is a former military fighter pilot and test pilot, an engineer, a retired astronaut, and a retired US Navy captain. A veteran of four space flights, Scott commanded the International Space Station (ISS) on three expeditions and was a member of the yearlong mission aboard the ISS, the single longest space mission by an American astronaut. In October 2015, he set the American record for the total accumulated number of days spent in space.

Go for Launch: How to Dream, Lead, and Achieve is Scott’s two-hour audio course available exclusively on Knowable. In this candid and entertaining audio course, Scott shares instructive stories from his childhood in New Jersey, his days as a US Navy test pilot, and his year hurtling around the globe at 17,500 mph and teaches hard-earned lessons on perseverance, personal motivation, and the human side of success, drawn from his experiences in the most competitive, extreme environments imaginable. You can find it now at

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#478: Scott Kelly — Lessons Learned from 500+ Days in Space, Life-Changing Books, and The Art of Making Hard Choices

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear another episode with someone who has a fascination with space? Listen to my conversation with Columbia physics and astronomy professor Janna Levin, in which we discuss youthful indiscretion, omnivorous reading, Möbius strips, philosophy 101, UFOs, and much more.

#445: Janna Levin on Extra Dimensions, Time Travel, and How to Overcome Boots in the Face


  • Connect with Scott Kelly:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • Lesson excerpt: the smartest person on the mission. [01:29]
  • Scott tells us how his mom was breaking boundaries right here on Earth in West Orange, New Jersey during the 1960s, and how it inspired his brother and him to aim high (really high!) with their own ambitions. [11:51]
  • Many astronauts come from an elite pool of overachievers, but as someone who graduated from high school among the lower half of his peers, Scott was atypical in this respect. What catalyzed his course correction? [15:51]
  • Self-describing as “a below-average guy performing at an above-average level,” how did Scott find the right approach to sustaining the momentum necessary to succeed? [22:07]
  • How did Scott begin to put his plans in action, and what did his twin brother Mark — who also went on to become an astronaut and a senator — do to nudge further correction to a course that might have otherwise faltered when there was a choice to be made between going to a frat party and studying for a calculus test? [25:02]
  • Can Scott point to any failures that set him up for later success? [29:27]
  • Incidentally, how does flying an F-14 Tomcat differ from flying a space shuttle? [33:40]
  • What books has Scott most gifted to others? [37:49]
  • On scientific literacy, taco trucks, and how someone might develop a larger capacity to separate fact from fiction. [40:42]
  • What would it really take to expand humanity’s presence beyond Earth to — for example — Mars, and why is it important even if it shouldn’t be seen as a “plan b” for our collective future should we fail in the stewardship of Earth? [47:42]
  • Why did Scott produce Go For Launch on Knowable, and what does he hope people will take away from it? [53:53]
  • What would Scott’s billboard say? [56:49]
  • In space, no one can hear you cry. [57:57]
  • Parting thoughts. [58:32]
  • Lesson excerpt: the strength of a diverse crew. [1:00:34]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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11 Replies to “Scott Kelly — Lessons Learned from 500+ Days in Space, Life-Changing Books, and The Art of Making Hard Choices (#478)”

  1. I find it very disturbing that Americans are becoming so intolerant and polarized that they will not accept any belief other than their own and call others “stupid” or “science deniers” with separate opinions. I don’t think the earth is flat, but I have no problem is someone else does. America is at a crossroads and thinking it’s okay to suppress the “dangerous” and censor things is destroying the republic. I couldn’t listen to this whole episode. I wish we could all live by the saying, “I may not agree with what you are saying, but I will defend until my death your right to say it.” Where is the line- violence, hate speech…. beyond that “science is NEVER settled”, and 4 B dollars paid it in courts of law for vaccination damage, waiving liability to vaccine manufactures so taxpayers pay for damage, the PREP act, and the vaccine inserts themselves says that some are vulnerable. This whole “anti-vaccine” is not science is like saying no one can get side effects from a medication. That’s anti-science! I miss the days when I could have friends with all different beliefs, now if they don’t vote the same, think the same on vaccines, or accept we accept, I can’t talk to them!? We are Americans. We are divided. We are intolerant of what we view as intolerant. We are destroying ourselves. God help us. Yes, I am anonymous, because I fear what you will say. Yes, that is very sad.

    1. I totally agree with this. I’m not FE or antivaxx, but Scott Kelly is wrong about science. “Follow the experts” is not science, it’s groupthink. It seems he understands this on an interpersonal level, but not on a national level.

  2. Just wanted to say that I am a long term listener and think you deserve feedback. Brilliant inspiring show! I read the 4 hour work week when working 16 hours a day based in Hong Kong at the age of 50. I’m now 57 and retired at 54 and living the dream in Devon UK.
    Many thanks for all your wisdom and tips, it works!!!!

  3. Tim, I just have to take a minute and say what an inspiration you’ve been to me. I’ve been listening to you since 2009 when you were all up about weird chemicals you could inhale to make your brain perform better. Even though I couldn’t relate to your hyper-masculine focus on performance athletes and such, I was hooked by your “do what works” philosophy. You always provide incredible insight and value. Thank you what you bring every week!

  4. Tim, in a 5 bullet Friday several weeks ago, you recommended an interlocking gym floor tile that I think you found on Amazon. Can you share the info on that product again?

  5. I had just began research of competitors for a possible poetry app & then I saw you had added Wild geese to this weeks newsletter. So far, I think Poetizer is the best on the market. How do you find poems, where do you read new poems? Are you also into spoken word or just written poetry?

  6. Still my favorite podcast and have been for some time. One guest I would love to hear you interview is Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. Please Tim try to get him on your show! Although that can be hard as he is probably rock-climbing right now…

  7. Love your interviews, Tim. My favorite things to listen to on long trips or on the daily rowing maching time. However, “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck is fiction, and the first of The Good Earth trilogy. Great reading—I re-read them again in the last three or four years. Ms. Buck spent many years in China and the writing reflects this. Highly recomment.

  8. Great answer to the billboard question, but for THIS guest did we miss an opportunity? “If you put a bumper sticker on the ISS…” 🙂

  9. Tim the time codes in your show notes would be much more useful if they were deep-linked to that point in the audio. We do something similar with deep-links to YouTube video: we have code on the page that makes a standard deep-link scroll to the embedded video and start it at the indicated time code.

    The code is published at this GitHub gist, and should be easy to adapt to your audio plugin as long as it accepts some kind of a deep link. Hope it’s useful to you or somebody else: