I call BS on you, Jean-Luc Picard

I had opportuntiy to go to a social event a few days ago that I’d learned about at the last minute. To Boldly go….

Except I didn’t go in. I got there and didn’t step through the threshold into the room. I just….couldn’t. I wasn’t feeling up to it. My introverted and/or shy/anxious self just couldn’t go in

Picard face palm.

Face palm indeed. Picard’s an introvert too & I failed to boldly go…

As I was walking back to my car, I got to thinking about a browser tab from Susan Cain’s website about how introverts can better push their comfort zones, better get their work out there.

Despite the progress I’ve made, it’s hard for me to overcome my introverted tendencies still. I keep to myself, I try to laugh about my aloneness, but at the same time I’ve taken it as a prime directive in my life to do something. Particularly in science or another creative field or exploring the galaxy, putting yourself out there is at the core of those pursuits.

Introverts especially seem to have trouble putting our ideas out there…we take our time to think things through and slowly create them on our own before seeking feedback. Uncertainty is something we seek to quash.

And yet, there’s Picard, introvert Captain of Starfleet’s Flagship.


Exploring the galaxy in a starship, even a fancy one like The Enterprise D (&E) must be enervating, dealing with all those people, all the time not to mention the aliens you run across every week.

There has to be more than just the event.

Of course, Picard is a great Captain because he has a very strong sense of purpose about what he’s doing, namely exploring the final frontier, seeking out new life and new civilizations, etc. And I think that that is a huge thing for introverts. If there’s a strong purpose behind doing something, a larger driver, we’ll put up with nearly anything to explore, uncover, create, whatever, even deal with other people. As Susan Cain points out, introverts can be more effective leaders of groups of self-motivated teams; like people who crew The Enterprise and have The Captain’s back (though to be sure, he’s not really friends with his crew).

So I skipped that event last week because I didn’t feel a strong sense of larger purpose in being there. I’m not sure what my larger driver for being alive is right now, I guess my major driver is to find that think I’d be willing to go through the level of travails traipsing around the galaxy would take. I know I’m old to not have found my thing, or at least given myself permission to find my thing. But I think I’d add that to my list from Susan Cain’s blog; a project you care about will help an introvert get it done, no matter what the problems with the warp coils might be, you’ll find a solution.

An introvert without a deep interest they feel free to explore may be more vulnerable to depression and feeling like their introversion is a setback, not an asset (at least that rings true for me; I realize introverts are on a spectrum and quite diverse as a population). I do have a better sense of humor about myself and the world as this interview with Jonathan Rauch points out; after all, generally speaking, being human is kind of ridiculous. I am at least a lot better about finding time to recharge my batteries even if I wish I were able to boldly go* more often than I do presently. That said,

Even Captain Picard needs his down time.

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot. In my Ready Room. Alone.

As a scientist, I want to boldly go into the undiscovered country…what larger driver motivates you to keep going despite obstacles?





*For any grammar nazis out there, it’s 100% OK to split infinitives. Some dude 300 years ago got all uptigtht and said that English should be more like latin where split infinitives are verboten. English ≠ latin.




Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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