With the cinematic release of Star Trek Into Darkness, it seems a good time to recall the conversation from JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek which turns the life of the delinquent young James T Kirk.
Captain Pike’s short chat with a beaten-up Kirk following a bar brawl, shown below, is a masterpiece of probing someone’s in-built motivations in order to inspire them to greater heights.
Having looked up his file and studied the mission where Kirk’s father heroically lost his life, Pike knows that Kirk has huge potential. But it’s potential that is currently going to waste, as Kirk struggles to come to terms with the absence of a father who gave his life to save him.
Pike explores Kirk’s motivations, trying to find the buttons that will strike a chord:
Do you like being the only genius-level re-offender in the mid-west? So your Dad dies, you can settle for a less than ordinary life. But you feel like you were born for something better. Something special.
At one point he hits the wrong note. When Pike starts to talk about what the Federation is and why it’s important, Kirk switches off. Authority and the greater good doesn’t motivate him in the slightest, and Pike recognises his mistake and backs off immediately.
But then he realises what does motivate Kirk – challenge. And he ends with a brilliant call to action, telling Kirk when the shuttle leaves for the Academy, and ending with this:
Your father was captain of a starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives, including your mother’s, and yours. I dare you to do better.