Life lessons from the Star Trek universe
Star Trek is more than just a science fiction show about space exploration; it’s a source of inspiration and makes a compelling argument that humans are essentially noble creatures–flawed and little impulsive at times, but always with their hearts in the right place. Young or old, the wisdom of Star Trek can be learned at any point in life, and has inspired generations of people to be optimistic, inclusive, and persevere. We put together some enduring life lessons from this space opera empire that stand the test of time, six universal truths about how to live your best life, on Earth and beyond.
Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before
Star Trek, at its very core, is about space exploration. The introduction to the original series clearly states the mission of the starship Enterprise, “to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.” So, yes, travel around the universe, catalog what you find, and always observe the “Prime Directive,” but more than that, embrace the unknown and enjoy the wonders of discovery. You can learn something about the universe and about yourself through your exploration of the final frontier, and this will make you a better person. Think of Data (The Next Generation), the android who, in a quest to become more human-like himself, is always observing humans. Data looks for the lesson he can learn in every interaction, and how he can apply these lessons to become a better “human.”
A Leader is Only as Good as Their Team
Bold Kirk, strategic Picard, skeptic Sisko, sarcastic Janeway, and dutiful Archer; all strong leaders with distinctive personalities who always looked after their crews, leading them through obstacle after obstacle. But like any good leader, they all knew that they were only as good as their team. Regardless of how charismatic the many captains of Star Trek are, and how boldly they act, they’re at their best when they listen to the wisdom of their teams (unless you’re Worf, apparently). Like the crew from the original series, Uhura who is highly skilled in linguistics, or Leonard McCoy, the “country” doctor (and not a bricklayer, escalator, mechanic, magician, or anything else).
Utilizing the expertise and skills of your team is often the only way to get out of the pickle you’re in. Take, for example, when Captain Archer (Enterprise) is taken captive; without the efforts of the entire crew his escape plan wouldn’t have worked. Or when Seven of Nine (Voyager) is able to use her insider knowledge of the Borg in order to help other crew members escape from the Borg queen.
The Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few
In the hands-down best Star Trek movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Spock and Kirk are forced to make a crucial decision: is it more important to save one person or many people? Spock puts the argument to bed by sacrificing himself for the greater good. This life lesson doesn’t always ask for someone to sacrifice their life, merely that something must be given up in order to benefit others.
Remember, in The Next Generation, when Worf willingly accepts being branded a traitor in order to prevent a Klingon civil war, being disgraced and exiled in the process? And think of the many times starship Enterprise has been sacrificed for the greater good! Every time the captain answers a distress call or changes course to help a stranded ship, they’re putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few.
Never Judge a Book by its Cover
Not all Romulans are out to destroy you, and not all humans are trustworthy. Your enemies could be trying to prevent interplanetary war, or your friends could be harboring alien parasites, you never know! It’s an enduring lesson, for sure, that we’ve all been told since childhood: don’t judge a book by its cover. This doesn’t just apply to a person’s appearance, but includes any instance where you should look at all the evidence before taking action (in other words, don’t rush to judgment).
Remember when, in the original series, Kirk’s crew hunted down the Horta, a disgusting slug creature, only to discover it to be a highly intelligent lifeform that was enacting revenge for the murder of her children by miners? Ok, that’s a pretty extreme example, but because the crew didn’t understand her motivations, the Horta was taken to be unintelligent and hostile when the exact opposite was true. So be careful when you encounter your next giant slug in the mines of Janus VI, is all I’m saying.
With every subsequent series, Star Trek broke barriers in terms of embracing diversity. The original crew consisted of a black woman (when attitudes about blacks were still controversial), a Russian (during the Cold War, no less), and a Japanese man–and it’s in the original series that we see the first interracial kiss on TV. The Next Generation upped the female representation and covered topics like homosexuality and the rights of robots. Deep Space Nine added numerous alien races into the main cast, and Voyager gave us our first female captain, Kathryn Janeway.
The idea that a show about humanity’s vision of the future would embrace diversity from the beginning was optimistically prescient; and it’s a life lesson that has stuck with Star Trek fans ever since. If you think about it, an open-minded race of humans exploring space for the joy of discovering new places and people makes a lot more sense than a bigoted race of humans doing the same thing; you kind of have to be open minded to be able to really embrace the final frontier.
Red is a Dangerous Color
Perhaps the most enduring Star Trek lesson of all: red is a dangerous color. Red gets you noticed, whether you’re driving a red car, wearing a red dress, or, more importantly, wearing a red Starfleet uniform. Being noticed can be great, but somehow also means you stand a chance of being vaporized.
It’s amazing to think that a show that was canceled after only three years has created such a cult following in its wake. More than 60 years after Star Trek made its way into our living rooms, the enduring life lessons that we learned still cling on (see what I did there?). What are some of the important things you’ve learned through Star Trek?