Dave Marinaccio is the best-selling author of All I Really Need To Know I Learned From Watching Star Trek. Published in 1994 and still in print, the book is drawn from his long career in the advertising business. Here, as the franchise celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sept. 8, Marinaccio discusses 10 important lessons the venerable sci-fi series of movies and television has taught him.
The 50th anniversary of the launch of Star Trek is this September. Fifty years after William Shatner made his first “captain’s log,” the power of Star Trek is felt across generations. Just this summer, the 13th Star Trek movie was released and has grossed over $231 million to date. It’s pretty clear: Star Trek is here to stay.
So what is it about Star Trek that captures the hearts of millions of people, decade after decade?
As an advertising executive, my work environment is a stress-filled one. I imagine many of you will be able to relate to this. About the only thing taken for granted is that today’s problems will be completely different from yesterday’s. At its best, it can be said that the job offers variety. Unfortunately it’s the same old variety day after day.
In situations of change, it is natural for human beings to look for touchstones. As a human being, I had always sought a center to my life, an example to follow. What I hadn’t realized was that I was already following a path into the future. It was pointed out to me at a business meeting.
I was comparing a current problem to something I had watched on television the previous night. I can’t recall the particular problem, but I do recall saying, “well, we could be diplomatic, but as Scotty said on Star Trek last night, ‘The best diplomat I know is a fully charged phaser bank.’”
“You turn everything into Star Trek,” a coworker responded.
She was right. For years I’ve related everything in life to Star Trek. But why not? Captain James Tiberius Kirk is the most successful person I’ve ever observed. He’s a great leader, a good manager of people, dedicated, moral, adaptable, at the top of his profession, gets the girls, is well known and respected. There are worse role models.
Star Trek appeals to both the young and old. As a kid it was my favorite TV show. As an adult, virtually every night after work I would walk in the door, collapse on the couch and hit the remote control. Star Trek was the only show I could always watch start to finish.
Anyway, that comment at work helped me discover something I already knew. I realized then that I already know what’s necessary to live a meaningful life – that it isn’t that complicated.
1. Each person or each species, no matter how alien, has the right to live their lives as they wish. (As long as they’re not trying to take over the galaxy or eat you or something.)
2. Everyone has a role in life. Sulu is the navigator. Uhura is the communications specialist. Do your own job and the ship will function more smoothly.
3. Whatever you are doing, answer a distress call. The most important time to help someone is when they need it.
4. If you mess something up, it’s your responsibility to make things right again. (Say you disrupt history and cause the Nazis to win World War II. To correct matters, you have to let Joan Collins walk in front of a car even though you’re in love with her.)
5. The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.
6. If you can keep your head in a crisis, you’ve got a fighting chance.
7. The unknown is not to be feared. It is to be examined, understood and accepted.
8. Close friends become family and family is the true center of the universe.
9. End every episode with a smile.
10. And lastly, with time and patience, you can even learn something from The Next Generation.
These lessons are no less valuable, no less urgent now, in 2016, then they were when the first ever Star Trek episode aired in 1966. This is why millions of people spend their weekend watching the latest Star Trek movie in theaters.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. It may be dressed in some real lame costume, but it’s there. Every situation you will face in life has already been faced by the crew of the Starship Enterprise NCC 1701 – how to respond to challenge, how to treat your friends, how to pick up girls, how to get ahead on the job, how to run a business.
And remember, as Captain Kirk once so wisely said, “sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on.” —Dave Marinaccio