On the ride into work, I have been listening to the audio book of The Last Lecture by Professor Randy Pausch. In 2006, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He underwent the most aggressive treatments in hopes that it would prolong his life. A year later, he was given the prognosis that the cancer was terminal and he only had a short time left. One month after hearing this news, he delivered his “Last Lecture”. He knew that it would be recorded, and he also knew that it was a way to give advice to his children, long after he had passed away. It includes stories of his childhood, lessons he wanted his children to learn, and things he wanted his children to know about him. The book is loaded with many “lessons” and bits of wisdom that many of us can apply to our own lives on a daily basis, and if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.
In the book he talks about one of his childhood dreams being to be Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek. He spoke of the things he learned from Kirk and the way he handled situations. In reality, there are many lessons that can be learned from the Star Trek series. Here are some things that I have observed from the show.
Know your role.
When I was a manager, I didn’t micromanage. I had people who I trusted to do their job and I held them accountable for that. Same thing is exemplified on Star Trek. Kirk, as Captain, trusts his First Officer (Spock), his Medic (McCoy), his navigator (Sulu), his engineer (Scotty), and his Communications Officer (Uhura) to each do their specific jobs. They are all held responsible to do them. When this happens, it’s easy for him to command the ship.
Logic – vs – Emotion
When faced with a problem, Kirk often turns to Spock (the logical one) and Dr. McCoy (the emotional one) to discuss how to face it or solve it. In real life, we are faced with challenges each day. Before deciding how to handle it, we should look at it logically, as well as emotionally. We must take into account all points of view before proceeding.
Talk things out before choosing violence.
One of the things that is interesting about Star Trek is that most of the conflict is resolved without violence. Sure, there are times when the ship was under attack, and there was no choice, however, in many situations the crew showed compassion and understanding to their “enemies” and the issue was resolved. If anything, the show illustrated that violence only led to more violence. There is something to be said about compromise.
Don’t be afraid to learn and explore new things.
In the opening monologue each week we are told that the USS Enterprise had a mission “To boldly go where no man has gone before”. Look at the word “boldly”. Boldly means “in a confident and courageous way; showing a willingness to take risks”. It is easy to be afraid of the things we don’t know. It is easy to fear that which we do not understand. That didn’t matter to the crew of Star Trek – they BOLDLY explored “strange new worlds” and encountered many different creatures and species. They often found that those creatures were a lot like them. That in itself is a lesson, but the point I have here is to live life. Don’t be afraid to take a risk or think about something a bit differently. Without risk, the Wright Brother’s would have continued fixing bikes instead of inventing a “flying machine”. With out taking a chance, Edison would have never invented the light bulb, and we’d be reading a book by candlelight! Learn new things – never stop learning. Never stop dreaming.
Friends are important, and often like family.
In almost every episode of the series, Spock and McCoy disagree with each other. While Spock is emotionless, McCoy is often screaming at him red in the face. On the other side of the coin, it is clear that they would do anything for each other. This is true for all of the main characters. Hey, what friends don’t occasionally have a disagreement?! In the end, though, they all trust each other and would go as far as giving their life for each other. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock sacrifices his life for the entire ship. “I have been and always shall be your friend”, Spock tells Kirk just before dying. The friendships of these crew members is obvious. Throughout series and the films which came later, you truly get a feeling that they are like family – and friends and family are so important.
Smile – Don’t take life too seriously.
One of my favorite thing about the series is that almost every episode ends with some kind of wisecrack, pun, or just a feel good smile. This after the crew has just faced a life threatening attack, certain death, or wild adventure. Life is going to throw all kinds of stuff at you. It’s key to make the best of the situation and to laugh at your mistakes.
These are just a few of the lessons that I have taken away from Kirk and the gang – I am sure you probably have more you can add….
“Live long, and prosper” – Spock