Star Trek Lessons: Are You Mr. Spock or Captain Kirk?

Star Trek Lessons: Are You Mr. Spock or Captain Kirk?

Aug 24, 2014

Last weekend we watched the latest installment on the movie Star Trek. This used to be a popular TV series back in the day and what I distinctly remember from those rotary dial TV days (pre-remote control era) were the pointed ears and eyebrows of Mr. Spock and his signature Vulcan salute, a hand gesture with fingers parted between the middle and ring finger and thumb extended. I was so proud then because I could do it so easily with both my left and right hands! Well, I still can.

Now as a much older viewer what strikes me is the big message that the two main characters portray. Mr. Spock is the super rational and almost always emotionless character. If you ask him a question he will give you an answer based on facts and probabilities. On the other hand, Captain Kirk is the ship’s leader who always uses his gut feel in his decision-making.

So which one are you? The truth is each one of us has a Mr. Spock side as well as a Captain Kirk side. Although we may think that we use our logical brain when it comes to our decisions concerning matters such as planning for our future, business, etc., studies show otherwise. In Behavioral Economics they use the terms “cold state” and “hot state.” We are able to make rational decisions when we are in the cold state. For instance we decide that we want to be financially free and we will set aside money regularly as soon we as start working. However, when we get our first pay check and we are asked by our family and friends to treat us, and then we we pass by the mall and we see a big sale with “Up to 70% Off” screaming in our face, we are now in our “hot state” and the Mr. Spock in us is unable to overcome the temptation to spend.

Then we try to rationalize things by postponing what we promised to ourselves when we were in our cold state. This is why it is important to automate our saving and investing. Once you’ve committed, sign up with your bank for an automatic debit of your payroll account to an investment vehicle of your choice. This way you avoid getting in trouble when you find yourself in the hot state during your decision-making.

Other situations that we should avoid are going to the grocery or a party on an empty stomach. When we are hungry while inside the grocery we tend to buy more. When we go to a party on an empty stomach we tend to overeat. And guess what? When we go to the mall on an empty “love tank” it has the same effect. So retail therapy is really a bad idea for the consumer but a brilliant one for the merchandisers.

This awareness of our Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk sides is one of the reasons why we in our family declare our goals to each other. We want to be accountable come assessment period. It is also for this reason that we would come up with some family rules/agreements even while the boys were still very young. An example that comes to mind is this: Once you get married, you have to leave the house for the sake of your future wife. (The underlying reason: There can only be one queen in the house. J) Even if you’re not yet married you still have to leave the house once you reach the age of 35. (The underlying reason: There is an expiry to obeying other people’s house rules.) These rules may appear a bit harsh to the typical Filipino family and may picture us as unfeeling/”Spock-y” parents but the truth is we are aware that when the time comes, we (the parents) might even be the ones who would feel bad if the boys leave us just when our first apo (grandchild) is born, or just when we’re getting old and weak. So we state these rules now because we feel that they’re for the best of our children. By the way, a Western-bred cousin laughed at me when he heard the age 35 because he feels that’s too old. Well, I guess I have to introduce him to a lot of Filipino men living with their parents way beyond that age.

So far, I’ve discussed how to protect the Mr. Spock (rational) side of our decision-making. But here’s the thing. The Captain Kirk in us is just as important in our day-to-day decision-making. We should also unleash our “Kirk-y” side when the situation calls for it.

Back in 1989 when Marvin asked me to marry him in a romantic dinner at Au Bon Vivant arranged by his good friend Nina Daza-Puyat, I was caught by surprise because I thought it was too soon. I was only 24 years old and marriage to me was still at least a couple of years down the road. In fact, because of this mindset, I didn’t say yes right away. But he was very certain that it would work. I had never seen such a strong conviction packaged not in a stern manner but in such a happy and optimistic way. And if you ask him now what made him so sure about his decision despite his experience with me as a not so easy to please girlfriend, he’d answer, “My very strong gut feel.” And so, after a week of playing hard to get I sent him three white roses with a card that said, “Yes!” It was the best decision I ever made.

When we had our second son and we were building our house but was feeling conflicted inside about not spending enough time with my babies, I also did a “Kirk-y” thing. Had I allowed my Mr. Spock to rule over, I wouldn’t have said goodbye to a promising investment banking career. Looking back it was one of my most audacious decisions to give up half of the family income in the middle of our house construction. What made me do that? It was a strong gut feel. Looking at my grown up sons now, I say it was the right thing for me to do at that time!

The Captain Kirk in us is the human spirit that drives us to take that sometimes crazy leap of faith. It’s what makes our life challenging, exciting and most of the time, truly successful.

For now, I leave you to reflect on your own Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk decisions with a Vulcan salute and a sincere wish, “Live long and prosper!”




(Image Attribution: Images from and put together by the author to deliver the message.

This article was published in and on May 29, 2013)