Life Lessons From Star Trek: The Next Generation


There will always be people superior to you.

Just like when Captain Picard and the esteemed crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC 1701-D encountered the Borg and found themselves mismatched against the technologically advanced alien species, we all encounter people who have more brains/ guts/ knowledge/ tenacity/ whatever than we do. It does not inherently make them better people. It simply means that they have different strengths. The Borg, while far superior in terms of technology and space travel, lacked the ability to use and apply individual thinking, a fact that ultimately led to their demise. So while superior in some ways, the Enterprise crew was superior in others. Accept superiority over others in certain situations, and don’t feel like you aren’t “good enough” because of it. Instead of fighting it, try to learn from it. Just like the crew of the Enterprise, we have strengths which are unique to us as individuals, and if needed could be used to defeat galactic enemies hell-bent on our destruction.

Turn a disadvantage into an advantage.

Enterprise crew member Lieutenant-Commander Geordi LaForge is technically handicapped: he’s been blind since birth. But he didn’t let that stop him from moving up the Starfleet ranks from Ensign to Chief of Engineering. From the very first episode, “Encounter at Far Point: Part I and II” Geordi uses the unique abilities of his visor (the device that lets him see material compositions, infrared light, etc.) to offer Commander Riker important information about the material make-up of the Far Point station, a fact which later serves to help them solve the mystery and release two captive beings from the grips of an alien race. Apply this lesson to yourself. Instead of hiding behind a weakness or blaming it for your shortcomings, try and find a way to capitalize on it and turn it from “weakness” to a unique advantage.

There are no shortcuts to greatness.

In Season 1, Episode 5 “Where No One Has Gone Before,” the crew of the Enterprise meets a mysterious man known only as “The Traveler.” His purpose on the ship is to examine its engineering system and increase its warp-core power so they can reach and explore the farther regions of the universe faster. Unbeknownst to the crew, the Traveler possesses a magical ability to propel people and things through time and space. During the course of his experiment, he inadvertently propels the Enterprise 2.7 million light years away. Lieutenant Commander Data calculates that, at maximum warp speed, it would take the ship more than 200 years to return to the rest of civilization. Meanwhile, the Traveler has fallen ill and may not be able to send them back to their galaxy.

The Enterprise tried to take a shortcut to exploring the farther reaches of the galaxy. In the process, they almost met with disaster by stranding their ship millions of light years from where it should be. There are no shortcuts to true achievement in life, and attempting to find one can lead you astray or take you too far, too fast. If you want to be great — do something great, be something great — you have to do it the hard way. You must devote your time and effort, and accomplish the necessary feats mostly on your own through hard work and innovation.

We need both logic and emotion.

Vulcans, an alien species who are recurring friends and sometimes foes of Starfleet, are renowned for their unwavering logic. Complex problems are whittled down to simplistic questions, and the answers are informed only by facts. Romulans, on the other hand, are sizzling pockets of emotion, be it rage, heartache, or the thirst for revenge. Each alien race represents a portion of the human psyche; our two halves that consistently move us to make one decision or another. The all or nothing approach of each species renders them less capable than their Starfleet counterparts because simply put, most decisions require both emotion and logic. This is especially true for humans, as we are at once emotional and logical. Most life decisions cannot be boiled down to one single question that calls for solely applying one or the other. I’ve found that we make the best decisions, the ones that properly take into account the very essence of ourselves, when we use both our head and our heart.

It’s not the destination, but the journey that counts.

This is perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from Captain Picard and Co. When Starfleet began its space exploration program, they didn’t have an end point in mind. They didn’t know whether a concrete “destination” even existed. Their goal was simply to venture farther into the universe than anyone had before, and to bring with them a sense of curiosity and a desire to understand what they encountered. They embraced the idea that what happened along the way was more important than where they ended up. In that way, life is like space: a giant, unknown, beautiful, scary, fiery, confusing blob of nothingness that contains both wonders and horrors. Life, like the universe, has its fair share of questions without answers, and we spend much of our time figuring out which way is the right way. But in doing so, let’s not forget that the present matters, too, and the road itself is decidedly more interesting than where it ends. After all, happiness is not a destination, but a manner of traveling.

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