Tag Archives: leadership

Star Trek Self-Help Books: A Thing?

The first time I came across a Star Trek-themed self-help book, I thought it was an interesting novelty. Perhaps something to review! Then I found a second one… then a third… and an honorable mention. So I read them all. For you, so you don’t have to do it yourself. Definitely not for my own enjoyment… Ahem.

Boldly LiveBoldly Live as You’ve Never Lived Before: Unauthorized and Unexpected Life Lessons from Star Trek by Richard Raben (1995)

This book bills itself as a lesson on patterning yourself after heroic traits, as represented by Star Trek characters. It’s pretty generic, but if you want a pep talk with a Trek theme, here you go. It’s often simplistic, and while the four heroic types (Analysts, Leaders, Warriors, and Relaters) may line up with Trek to some extent, they don’t really match the full range of possible personalities in the real world. But I appreciated the lack of gender essentialism, and the open advocacy of taking fictional characters as mentors, not even just role models. Plus it spans the first four series, not just TOS or TNG.

Make It SoMake It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation by Wess Roberts and Bill Ross (1995)

Two from 1995? Apparently the Nineties thought Trek was really inspiring? I have no idea. Anyway, this book is written entirely as Captain Picard’s retellings of episodes as he reminisces on his life and the leadership skills he’s learned as a starship captain. It’s an… interesting choice. Put another way: Who thought this was a good idea? They make Picard sound like someone’s grandmother in a cozy mystery, for one thing, but also, who’s going to sit and read all this just to get some leadership lessons you could find basically anywhere? The funniest part of the whole book is the authors thinking they might have readers who’ve never seen Star Trek.

Quotable Star TrekQuotable Star Trek by Jill Sherwin (1999, republished 2010)

This one is the honorable mention, because it’s not really a self-help book, but ironically it’s the best book on this list. Sherwin went through the four Trek series and eight movies to collect the best quotes ever, sorting them into 32 categories (such as “The Human Condition,” “Humor,” “Technology,” and so on). I must’ve gotten my copy when the book had just been re-issued, and I actually picked it up on a regular basis to browse through and get a little inspired. I packed it in a box somewhere when I moved a couple of years ago, thinking I wouldn’t need it for a while, and I miss it ALL THE TIME, enough that I may just repurchase it if I don’t find it soon. Star Trek IS inspirational and motivational and philosophical, what better way to learn from it than in its own words?

What Would Captain Kirk DoWhat Would Captain Kirk Do? by Brandon T. Snider (2016)

I’m not actually super sure whether this is meant to be self-help, humor, or both. It’s nicely designed, full-page photographs with punchy typography on top, a different tip on each page. It’s mostly tongue-in-cheek, especially if you know some Trek background or you recognize the image Snider’s chosen as accompaniment to the advice. Some tips are very specific — “Have patience when a hostile Kelvan transforms your colleagues into porous cuboctahedron solids.” — and others are more general, as in “Boldly go, or don’t go at all.” Some things are more TOS tips than Kirk tips. But on the whole it’s oddly kind of inspiring? Not expensive, and a fun little book. The Picard version comes out in May!

So, it looks like Star Trek self-help books used to be kind of a thing, but not a very good one? Even so, if you know another title in this subgenre, let me know in the comments so I can read it! Um, for you…

4 Reasons Kirk is the Best Captain

Well friends, I’m finally exiting the original-series portion of my epic Star Trek rewatch. What better way to mark the occasion than a post on the great Captain James T. Kirk? If I’m still blogging by the time I get through the rest of the shows, then the other captains will get their turn in the spotlight too. But I’ve gotta say, Kirk is pretty darn awesome, and I struggled to find a format for this post that wasn’t a recap of every episode ever. I’ve got four reasons/categories, with three or four episode examples under each one.


Charisma & Leadership

I’ve gotta mention the Kobayashi Maru. An exercise meant to represent a no-win scenario has, thanks to Kirk, come to signify refusal to accept the conditions and parameters provided. This can mean cocky smarminess, as in Star Trek: Into Darkness, or it can mean the best kind of stubbornness, idealism. A good example from the original series is “Operation: Annihilate,” when he insists there must be a way to kill the infestation but save the civilians.

There’s daily activity too. “Balance of Terror” is one long case study of Kirk as military captain, and it shows him both taking advice and rejecting it, as a commander should. And, before the movies came along, you see him dealing with Romulan, Klingon, and other alien captains as equals despite being on opposite sides.

And another obvious one, “The Corbomite Maneuver,” with Kirk and Balok bluffing each other like pros. His repeated attempts to negotiate, and his speech to the Enterprise, are all perfectly done too. But this episode is especially important because it shows how Kirk deals with problems from his crew. Bailey is basically the most annoying character in the show, but Kirk handles him calmly and patiently, refuses to condone bigotry on the bridge, and relieves Bailey of duty without further comment when Bailey is clearly unable to handle his job. This is entirely typical — another example is “Space Seed,” when he deals with Lt. McGivers’ egregious away-team mistakes swiftly, but with firmness appropriate to the mistake and no more.


“The Corbomite Maneuver”


In “What Are Little Girls Made Of,” he asks Spock to beam down “two security men” — and when they arrive, he knows their names.

A paraphrase of events in “The Man Trap”:

Bones- *expresses curiosity at Nancy’s varying appearance*
Kirk- *snaps at Bones and storms out*
Kirk- *walks back in one scene later* I’m sorry Bones, you were totally right, let’s head down there and ask some questions!”

Kirk snaps-and-apologies happen a handful of times, but at no time are the snaps any more than what one might expect from a captain being bothered at a high-pressure moment, and they’re never personal. It’s the apologies which, although warranted, are out of the ordinary for a captain and a sign of respect for his crew. “Elaan of Troyius,” while problematic on several levels, give us a nice insight into Kirk’s approach: “Courtesy is for everyone.”

In “The Conscience of the King,” Kirk thanks a cocktail waiter, and I think we all know that how one treats waiters indicates how one behaves the rest of the time.


“The Conscience of the King”


Kirk uses his manly wiles to get of scrapes. That’s fair. But even then he treats the lady in question like a person. Under normal circumstances, he treats every crewmember like a professional and that’s that. My favorite moment is in “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” when 1960s pilot John Christopher expresses confusion about a woman being on the Enterprise. “A woman??” he asks. “A crewman,” says Kirk patiently. And if the situation allows him to reason with someone, male or female, he’ll do everything he can to create a peaceful, rational solution to a problem.

In “Charlie X,” when Charlie is harassing Yeoman Rand, she goes to Kirk to intercede and he does. He initially thought Charlie’s crush was cute, but when he hears how it’s going, he steps in and makes a clear statement that Charlie has to consider his crush’s needs, that it’s not going to happen with Rand, and that everyone struggles and things can’t always be the way you want. He doesn’t minimize Rand’s concerns, he doesn’t say “boys will be boys,” he listens and intervenes because Charlie’s being inappropriate.

There are any number of interactions showing Kirk’s opinion about bigotry in general, but these are often in Spock’s defense, so I wanted to find something that couldn’t be chalked up to friendship. There’s a lovely moment in “Plato’s Stepchildren” where they’re talking about telekinesis and Kirk describes the Federation:

Alexander: As far as I know it just comes to you sometime after you’re born. They say I’m a throwback, and I am, and so are you. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.
Kirk: Don’t worry about it. We’re happy without it.
Alexander: You know, I believe you are. Listen, where you come from, are there a lot of people without the power and my size?
Kirk: Alexander, where I come from, size, shape, or colour makes no difference, and nobody has the power.


“Plato’s Stepchildren”


Of course Kirk can create a rudimentary gun-cannon thing out of bamboo and rocks in “Arena,” he’s the captain! And he’s a nerd. I don’t know where people got the idea he was a big goof in his Academy days, because it wasn’t from the original series. His academy buddies make fun of him for being an overachiever — “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” “Shore Leave” — and he’s constantly recognizing public figures or old-fashioned machines from his studies.

“The Naked Time” and other episodes show Kirk can flick the necessary switch on anyone’s station at any time, when they’re distracted by alien parasites and whatnot, and in “Court Martial,” he fixes the engine sabotage right there and then by himself.

In summary, Captain Kirk is awesome, and I honestly don’t know where all the stereotypes about him being dumb/sexist/reckless/generally a goof came from, because he wasn’t like that. However, if you have another favorite captain, feel free to make your case in the comments!