We are in love with stories. Everyday of our lives, we are in the process of telling them, watching them, reading them, playing them, using words and visuals to convey what has been part of our past or what may be part of our tomorrows.
Star Trek is a timeless collection of stories. The decades of Trek stories, and this year celebrates 50 years of them, tell tales of going where no (one) has gone before. Each episode is an adventure to the unknown. Space itself is still unknown—since humankind hasn’t yet gone to the far reaches of space millions of miles or light years away, but have spent the majority of time only 250 miles up at the International Space Station.
There will come the day when we go further, and take a chance on the unknown. Star Trek stories tell us that we will take along the best of ourselves, and the imperfect too. Their voyages show us with each episode, each chance they take, how their understanding of life goes up a notch. The stories of where they boldly go tell us why they take a risk and to know the difference between danger and fear. Says Kirk:
“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown—only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”
What stops so many of us from trying our unknowns: fear. The crew aboard the Enterprise calculates danger instead of fear. They have trained for the jobs, turn to each other for help, and learn something new each time: how humanity can aspire to its higher self, and understand how to live in a universe that is filled with sectors of peace and war. Then they survive another day, and do it all over again.
What they teach us each time is that they make their discoveries based on facts, interpretation, and some measure of risk. They don’t quite give in to a primal feeling of fear.
Star Trek lessons influenced what I delivered at a recent keynote presentation to women students attending a conference on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), I gave ‘3 key things to do now at school, to make you happy for a lifetime.’
- Do what you love.
- Do what is hard.
- Don’t let perfection get in the way.
These young students are just starting to write their own stories. Many of them are looking for stories to guide them. I thought carefully about which key things to say and told them about how I changed my story along the way, reinvented my life, became a pilot, an instructor of flight, and then created a space experiment that has gone up to the Space Station, and to clear a path for other young students to follow, to dream, and to tell their tales one day.
In the best of worlds, the Captain would wait for all the facts to come in. But if he did, the Starship Enterprise and his crew would fail. This is: “Highly illogical,” according to the stoic Spock.
Kirk agrees, but replies with: “Sometime a feeling is all us humans have to go on.”
The absence of having all facts can invite danger, Spock sagely reminds us. But here is what is critical in a story, in each of our life’s stories: Try it. Or tell the tale that we had the opportunity, but didn’t the chance.
What is the story you tell about yourself? Is there a dream that waits unfulfilled? Do what you love. Do what is hard. Don’t let perfection get in the way. We can do great things when we take a risk: to change, to see new horizons, to know ourselves.
“You either believe in yourself or you don’t,” says Kirk. When you take a chance, you show that you do.
I attended the Star Trek Concert: March 30, 2016 in San Jose, CA: Music and lights from the orchestra set inside a starship, narrative added from 5 decades of Star Trek philosophy from Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Janeway…the voyages they took to learn them. “You either believe in yourself or you don’t,” says Kirk. When you take a chance, you show you do.