Is This Life-Saving Advice Hurting Your Leadership?


Do you like to travel?

I love to travel.

Whether it’s for business or simply on a trip with my family, I truly enjoy getting out and seeing new places.

When I was in the paving business, I went to a lot of trade shows and conferences.

Now that my job is helping leaders reach their potential, I’ve been to places like South America and Rwanda.

You’ve probably done a lot of traveling, too.

You know what I always find interesting when I travel?

I’m always drawn to the safety announcements on the airplane.

No, really. It sounds kind of funny, but it’s true.

Most of those announcements are pretty boring…and if I asked you to give the safety demonstration you could probably do it yourself…but there’s one part I find really interesting.

Want to know what it is?

The part I find really interesting is when they talk about what happens if the cabin loses pressure.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

The flight attendant holds that little yellow oxygen mask up in one hand…

…and then drops it…letting it dangle there in the air.

Then then flight attendant explains what to do with the mask.

“Place the mask securely over your nose, pulling the strap over your head.”

And here’s the best part…the part that’s so fascinating.

If you’re traveling with kids, they tell you to take care of your own mask BEFORE fooling with the mask for your kids.

That seems backwards, doesn’t it?

It sure does!

But it makes perfect sense if you think about what would be happening in the aircraft in that type of situation.

When a plane loses cabin pressure, there’s very little oxygen in the air. It’s very, very hard to breathe. There’s a risk of losing consciousness.

They don’t want you to pass out while you’re trying to help your kids because you didn’t help yourself first.

Makes sense, right?

I’m a pilot, and I’ll tell you that’s the right thing to do…at 30,000 feet.

That’s the right thing to do on an aircraft.

But I think it’s bad advice for everyday life.

I’m not so sure it’s the right thing to do in your business. Or in your personal life.

You see, here’s what the “airplane” model of helping other people wants us to do: it wants us to wait until we’re okay before we begin helping other people.

It wants us to have all our “stuff” together before we start looking for chances to make a difference in the lives of the people around us.

There’s a big, big problem with that model.

Here’s the problem: in our lives, we don’t know if or when we’ll feel “okay” enough with ourselves to begin reaching out to help other people.

Having our “stuff” together is more of a feeling than a fact…and that feeling can be hard to find.

In the real world, it’s not as easy as just grabbing the little yellow oxygen mask that conveniently falls from the ceiling.

You know what I mean?

There are good times and bad times. Highs and lows. You win and lose.

So what I’m saying is: we can’t wait until everything’s perfect to go looking for opportunities to help other people.

Remember, we’re the leaders.

It’s not our job to judge everything by how it will help us get ahead, by the risk involved, or by how difficult the task might be.

We’re the leaders.

Our job is to help as many people as possible get from where they are right now to where they want to be in the future.

Next time you get discouraged…next time the stress feels like too much…next time it feels like the goal is too big…

…go take a look at the people you’re leading.

How can you help them?

And by helping them…how can they help even more people?

Remember this: when you help the people you lead get where they need to go, you won’t need to worry about ending up where you need to go.

The results will come.


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