I first publicly admitted to being a “geek” during a keynote address on the concept of change. My speech served as an introduction to a presentation by LeVar Burton, who played the character of Geordi La Forge, Chief Engineer on the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also directed about 30 television episodes for the various Star Trek series.
A geek and Trekkie like myself has watched all 703 episodes of all six television series dating back to the '60s (multiple times), watched all 12 motion pictures (multiple times), read books like The Making of Star Trek and the Star Fleet Technical Manual, and even visited the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton back when it was a permanent exhibit.
Like a good Trekkie, I bought my ticket to Comic Con with only one purpose in mind: to meet William Shatner, the original Captain Kirk. I really wanted a nice picture with him. I wore a sport coat and a nice white button-down shirt––and I really stood out. In fact, I was asked eight different times if I was a security officer. I also realized I was surrounded by nerds.
Now, the difference between a “geek” and a “nerd” is that as a geek, I’m willing to dip my big toe or perhaps even sit poolside with my legs dangling in the water, but a nerd jumps in doing a full-on cannon ball. So while nerds have also done all things Star Trek, they do it while speaking Klingon and wearing a Star Fleet uniform.
A large percentage of Comic Con participants were deeply involved in cosplay (costume play). I saw one entire family dressed as crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation––the grandparents were admirals, dad was a captain, mom was a commander and the kids were lieutenants (the fact that I even know these rank insignias adds to my geekness). Bright colors abounded, merchandise changed hands at a furious pace, comic book illustrators had their works on full, brightly-lit display while they spontaneously created some of the most incredible “doodles” I’ve ever seen, active gaming was in play everywhere, and most of all…people were genuinely happy.
Like many people, I spend the bulk of my life in some very unproductive locations. Whether it’s my office at work, my office at home, or home in general, these locations tend to be ground zero for dealing with a constant stream of distractions. When I speak and write about the concept of focus, I discuss the need to work at a “sweet spot,” a secondary place where you can feel completely at ease, creative and energized in order to effectively focus on the task at hand. Attending Comic Con helped me see the same is also true when it comes to being inspired and allowing our imaginations to run wild.
While I typically prefer spending hours at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum studying and observing the artifacts from actual spaceflight and talking to real astronauts, I’ve come to realize that regardless of personal taste, the key to imagination is the ability to allow yourself to be absorbed into the essence of the moment, to be engaged with the context of your surroundings.
I began the weekend as an outsider to this world who had only ever engaged on its outer fringe. But I got a taste of what it’s like to completely immerse myself in a unique experience and subculture; one where the primary focus is imagination and the willingness to completely saturate yourself in worlds that don’t really exist anywhere except in the minds of the people who created them for comic books, television and movies. The event was so full of energy, motivation and excitement that by the end, I was sold. Imaginations did, in fact, run wild, and I, too, wanted to be a nerd.
I truly believe that people need to “get out of normal” in order to see things differently, and Comic Con was anything but normal. It was a giant playground of fantasy where you could become anyone you wanted to be, whether it was a superhero, Star Fleet officer, or even a security guard.
We all need a special place to “escape” to in order to open our minds to new things and inspire us to greater levels of imagination and creativity––whether it’s heading to Comic Con as a Klingon, jumping on a Harley and heading to Sturgis, or just allowing yourself to get lost in a good book.
Practice Challenge: Where and when do you feel most at ease and relaxed? Where and when do you feel most energized and motivated? Wherever those places are, whether real or not, go there and often. Whether you need to focus on a project, come up with new ideas, or solve a problem, the best place to do it is away from “normal.”