First Contacts

Moments that direct your life


In the small town of Bozeman, Montana, Doctor Zefram Cochrane does the incredible. He launches a prototype warship, the Phoenix, from a rusted out missile silo. And his achievement doesn’t stop there. Once in space, he manages to make this primitive ship travel faster than the speed of light.

The warp signature generated by the Phoenix is noted in outer space. Impressed by mankind’s ability to travel at light speed, a trio of Vulcans travel down to Earth’s surface to introduce themselves. On this day—April 5th, 2063—mankind has its first encounter with an alien race.

For Star Trek fans out there, you will recognize this as the partial plot to Star Trek: First Contact. But to me it is more than that. It’s also a way to categorize all of the points in my life that have shaped its direction: my own First Contacts.

Humans and Vulcans meet for the first time. startrek.com

We all have them. They are the moments that help direct your path and ultimately define who you are. Sometimes they are obvious, like landing your dream job. Others may be less obvious, at least at first, like when you introduce yourself to a stranger and that relationship develops into something significant. All these moments share a throughline, though. They’re opportunities to take a next step.

Maybe my geeky side is showing through here, but I’m interested enough in this concept to ask both my friends—and a few strangers—about their own First Contacts. I find those who have had big wins in their careers and personal lives tend to have more of these moments. Doors open more doors; momentum builds. And those who are not as fortunate often have fewer Vulcan encounters. It’s not always fair.

But there is a way to tip things in your favor. First though, you need to understand the components of a First Contact.

Let’s start with luck. Sometimes you just need to be at the right place at the right time. Look at our anti-hero, Dr. Cochrane. The Vulcans just happened to be going on a routine mapping mission when he made that historic flight, which allowed them to to see his feat. Even if they hadn’t, Cochrane still would have been the first man to travel at warp speed. But his achievement became so much more because of some fortunate timing.

The second is environment. No doubt, the more resources you have—emotional, financial, educational—the more opportunities will come your way. That same privilege will likely make you more able to take advantage of any First Contacts you make.

“But,” you argue, “I don’t have any control over luck or circumstance.” That’s true, but you do have control over the last component: drive. You have the ability to push yourself. So try things you aren’t sure that you can do. Get uncomfortable. Go past the point of feeling safe. You will fail sometimes. But you will also win. And those wins will open more doors. More alien races will want to meet you.

So take a minute and reflect on all of your important First Contact moments. Then go try to make a new one. What’s the harm? After all, if you fail it‘s not like you‘ll be assimilated by the Borg.