The Pre-Flight Safety Demonstration

During the flight if the cabin pressure changes, an oxygen mask will drop automatically from the panel above you. Remain seated. Pull the mask toward you. Use the support strap to hold the mask over your mouth and nose. Adjust your mask. Breathe normally.

Air Canada Safety Video

My mom always gives good advice. She is a very thoughtful and intelligent woman. She has also worked incredibly hard her entire life and, having moved to Canada from Hong Kong during her teenage years, she learned at a young age how best to take care of herself and her loved ones, even as she faced adversity as a woman, a woman of color, and a newcomer. Not surprisingly, she trained as a social worker and has spent her life supporting and counseling others in need of help. I love talking to her because she has the ability to be amazingly compassionate while being completely honest and up front with me. She can always cut through what I call the “fluffy bull****” (getting too entangled and debilitated by emotions) and just get straight to the point.

I have always turned to my mom for advice on love, life and relationships. And more recently, I reached a point at which several seemingly unrelated and rather problematic issues in my life became entangled with one another into a gigantic, messy knot. I was burnt out, overwhelmed, and felt powerless to create any change in my life. In other words, I wasn’t at my healthiest, physically, mentally, or emotionally. It wasn’t good. Despite this, I had deadlines to meet, work to finish, and projects I wanted to press forward with. I tried to find distractions and things I could work on, but I couldn’t find my focus…or motivation. But then I remembered some valuable words that my mom once shared with me a while ago when I was in a similar situation.

She gave me the analogy of flying on an airplane. As in the quote above, when the cabin pressure drops in mid-air, oxygen masks will drop from the upper panel and you’d better put one on. Most importantly though,

Always secure your own mask before assisting another person.

That last point was key: If you aren’t minding your own health and safety first, you are not going to be in a position where you can help others.

I was at a training with Anima Leadership last week on conflict resolution and brought up this point. It became a useful and logical reminder to myself and other participants to make sure that we are in position to be ready and as healthy as possible to approach conflict. Otherwise, it may turn into this sort of situation. It’s also a point that came to mind when I was at a Conference last week listening to Robin Sharma speak. He was talking to an entrepreneurial-minded crowd, and reminded us that we had to take care of ourselves first: Our state of health and wellbeing would translate into our work, our relationships, our start-ups and/or our companies. If we are a reflection of our business and vice versa, how could we expect people to engage with either if we are unwell? I think this is true for design too. If we neglect our health and identity within the design process and we forget to breathe (something so very basic and essential to our survival), we cannot produce “good” design.

This advice has helped me get through murky waters time and time again. I’ve learned that sometimes I need to be a little selfish and take care of me first, but that in the end, this is to the benefit of the work that I do and the people around me.

The next time I’m sitting through the pre-flight safety demonstration, rather than roll my eyes and think “I’ve seen this a million times before!”, perhaps getting a reminder won’t be so bad. After all, turns out it’s pretty useful advice.

Thanks mom.

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