Oxygen Mask Business

by Emily Jasper on August 9, 2011

If you have ever flown, you know that you must put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others. You can’t help someone if you’re about to keel over yourself.

I’ve broadened that concept and begun to piece together a personal philosophy called Oxygen Mask Business. This shouldn’t be considered a new approach to business, and it actually is pretty similar to the teachings of Ayn Rand. I just put my own twist on it.

Understand you are the one who must slip on the mask. There are many opportunties for people avoid seeing the exact situation that might be presenting a challenge. There are other people who believe that the locus of control is beyond themselves, that things just happen to them. It is critical to understand when you have personal responsibility to impact your world, let alone the world for others. Don’t wait for change to happen and bring you something you want, you need to make change yourself.

Use the oxygen now that you have it. Competence is key in business. You must take it upon yourself to get what you need to function. It won’t always be as easy as slipping on a mask, but I’m sure when you’re panicking, getting that mask on isn’t as easy as it seems. We know there can be a lot of other things going on in our business that are constantly causing fire drills. They seem like perfect excuses to put off training so you can learn new skills. What if during all those fire drills you became obsolete?

Businesses are investing in providing multiple resources to employees to help with training and professional development. If you’re without business-sponsored training, there are many volunteer organizations that can help you get the skills you need. However, if you don’t take advantage of what is available, you’re the one missing out. You’re the one who has to do the work, right?

Breathe in, then you can help. One of the reasons I personally feel that many people who are in the non-profit world struggle is because there is a desire to help the world without wanting to worry about how you make it possible to provide that help. Administrative responsibilities can feel like handcuffs when in reality, they’re what keep you running. You can alleviate that by taking on those responsibilities yourself, or you can even hire talent to take on that part. Outsourcing is a form of oxygen than can breathe life into your organization. All businesses can be subject to this, so take time to make sure you are at the best capacity possible before trying to serve others.

It’s perfectly fine to perform the selfish act of putting on the oxygen mask. You cannot be at your best if you are denying yourself critical elements to help you perform. Serving customers or helping others is a fine ambition, but know that those customers want you to be at your best. That’s why they chose you.

So be selfish and breathe.

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