Startup trek episode 19: Heart of Glory
Season 1, episode 19: "Heart of Glory"
Lesson: your co-workers might be kinda weird outside work and that's fine
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.
The Enterprise picks up three surviving Klingon warriors from a damaged ship, one of whom is mortally wounded. Worf was fostered as a child and is the only Klingon in Starfleet, so he hasn't spent much time with his own species. He has an illuminating conversation with the two warriors about their warlike nature. When Dr. Crusher alerts the Klingons that their fellow warrior isn't going to survive, they all head down to sick bay and execute the Klingon death ritual: they watch him die, hold his eyes open, and scream into the sky. Picard, Riker, and Data witness it.
Data: I believe, sir, that was the first time outsiders have witnessed the Klingon death ritual.
Picard: I can understand them looking into the dying man's eyes. But the howling?
Data: It was a warning.
Picard: To whom?
Data: They are warning the dead, sir: "Beware, a Klingon warrior is about to arrive."
Things get complicated as it's revealed that the Klingons intentionally attacked the damaged ship where they were found. They try to convince Worf to hijack part of the Enterprise and leave with them to go on adventures and conquer the galaxy. Obviously Worf stays, but you can tell part of him longs for more excitement and contact with his own kind. The episode highlights conversations about what it means to be Klingon and a warrior: is it stronger to resist and control the inner aggression, like Worf does every day, or to let go and live a life that feeds adrenaline and rage, like the other Klingons want to do?
Although Worf's been a constant presence throughout season 1 thus far, this episode showed us how little we--and also his crew--really know about him and the Klingons. The moment where he participates in the death ritual captures Picard's interest. He reflects on it later with Riker and Data, saying "And as I watched Worf, it was like looking at a man that I had never known."
Despite Worf being a Lieutenant in the bridge crew of the ship that Picard captains, they hardly know each other as people. It's not uncommon for co-workers who spend most of each day together, sometimes for years, to limit their interactions to work only. Maybe there's some water cooler small talk about past weekends or upcoming weekends or kids or hobbies, but for many people there's a sense that it's more professional to keep it at surface-level. There can be social pressure not to stand out and to stick to tried-and-true (AKA boring) topics--like the weather or sports or a big news item--rather than venture into anything personal.
Every company's culture is different, and every individual's comfort level with personal details is different, but the assumption that work life and personal life need strict separation is both somewhat dated and not as applicable to startups as to more traditional workplaces. Most people are working insane hours for far less than market salary rates because they believe in the vision. They're spending the majority of their waking hours trying to accomplish impossible things, all while sharing hilarious GIFs and desk salads and cheap plane rides and tense partner meetings and weird customer chat logs and sensitive hiring feedback and living in company logo hoodies. It can be hard to stay arms' length. And you don't need to, unless that's your style.
Some of my best friends today are people I worked with at startups. We went through a lot in a relatively short time period, and it was easy to get a fast and full view of who we were. That said, I don't tend to hold much back between my work and personal lives, and neither do the people who became my closest friends. I still don't as a VC. I mean, I'm writing a Star Trek blog right now. I invest in people I like and want to spend time with, and in technology I'm personally interested in. And yes, all my co-workers at Accomplice know that I go to nerd conventions and am more comfortable talking about the Pokemon Go raid I'm trying to hit during lunch than, say, who won some sports thing. Frankly I can't contribute to any conversation about any sports thing, and if I tried it'd just be awkward for everyone involved. Better to own who you are.
Picard ended up respecting Worf more after glimpsing parts of his true nature during this episode: he saw that it must be difficult for Worf to stay as controlled as he does in his role, and how empathetic and successful he was as a negotiator between the Enterprise crew and angry Klingons. Yes, Worf screams at the sky when one of his kind dies. It's weird. But it's authentic and revealing. I'm a firm believer that good things come from putting yourself and your likes and interests out into the universe. You attract the right people (and repel the wrong ones). Unless you're a serial killer or something, your interests might seem weird at most. But who cares if your co-workers think you're weird? Weirdness and respectability aren't mutually exclusive.