• Sarah

Startup trek episode 11: The Big Goodbye

Updated: Jan 6, 2019



Season 1, episode 11, “The Big Goodbye


Lesson: take entertainment breaks from work to be more productive


This post is part of my ongoing quest to watch every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and pull one startup, entrepreneurship, tech, or investing lesson from each.


Captain Picard has to recite an alien greeting 100% perfectly or the species will be offended and refuse to meet (or get violent). He's been practicing for hours and is drained and demotivated. Troi suggests he take a break to play with a new holodeck simulation called Dixon Hill where he roleplays a private investigator who's kind of the Sherlock Holmes of the 1940's.


Even though a few things go wrong, as they always do--getting trapped in the simulation and having a crew member get shot; minor details--Picard has an awesome time and gets re-energized by it. He steps out of the holodeck in full 1940's garb just in time to make the greeting while everyone holds their breath...and does it flawlessly.


I love that no one gives the captain shit for taking time during the work day to go immerse himself in what's essentially a game. Only Data, the only non-human on the crew, seems initially worried about the pressure that Picard has on his shoulders to perform. The other crew simply listen to Picard rave about how fun the holodeck simulation is, and some of them come into it with him. Even Data gets into it later with a zoot suit.


It seems that in this idealized version of the future humans have accepted that play isn't counterproductive to work. That's something we know today but seem to have trouble internalizing. Of course you'll be a miserable, unproductive, one-dimensional person if all you do is work yourself into the ground. You need hobbies and breaks and diversions. Yet there's still immense pressure--often from VCs to founders, and founders to their employees, and so on--to be "on" 24/7. Reddit founder turned VC Alexis Ohanian calls this concept "hustle porn" and said that it's "one of the most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now...this idea that unless you are suffering, grinding working every hour of every day, you're not working hard enough." There's a difference between being productive and being busy, as people like Tim Ferriss have pointed out. Focus on what matters, eliminate the constant noise and distractions, and take breaks to be a human being outside of work.


Fred Wilson recently blogged about how Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey has gotten crap about a tweetstorm he made about taking a 10-day meditation retreat in Myanmar for his birthday. People thought it looked elitist and lazy for a CEO of two major companies to go off the radar like that, let alone to advocate visiting a country with a history of human rights abuses. Plus it feels pretty lame to do a blowout, public activity for your birthday once you're past, like, 21. Yes, it's just about the most Silicon Valley thing ever, and perhaps announcing it wasn't Dorsey's smartest move. But Wilson defended Dorsey by pointing to both companies' successes and that it's generally better for their organizations when leaders take care of themselves.


Wilson writes, "here are some things that I recommend to the leaders I work with (in no particular order):

  • Vacations

  • Sabbaticals

  • Eating healthy

  • Drinking less

  • Exercise

  • Meditation

  • Coaching

  • Working on your marriage

  • Spending quality time with your family

And yet, for some reason, we criticize our leaders for doing these things. Like taking a vacation, or doing a workout, or going on a meditation retreat is some abandonment of their duties."


I'd add "play" to that list. Not everything has to have immediately clear payoffs to be valuable. Simply playing video games or throwing a ball to your dog or reading a guilty pleasure book can clear your mind and make you content.


All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy. All work and no play makes Picard a dull boy.

©2020 by Sarah Downey