Put your oxygen mask on first

Ryan James Spencer

Before the plane takes off you’re told to attach your own oxygen mask first before helping those around you. Putting the oxygen mask on first feels counterintuitive. Giving is about putting others first, is it not? The vision blurs, our senses numb, and we no longer clearly identify how to help others, let alone ourselves.

You are a unique individual, and a team is a stitching of the unique into the fabric of the whole, not some gooey-grey amalgam of paste that thought leaders purport under the guise of “carefully curated” cultures and communication processes.

Psychological safety can be disrupted externally by others as much as it can be internally by our own complications. Internal issues can be untangled, gently with a bit of patience. Untangling means engaging, despite it feeling paradoxical. After each engagement, take note and question any perceived threats. The more we dismantle these threats, the more confidence we build. Over time you’ll have developed enough confidence that you can spend it on others, too, encouraging similar engagement.

Be clear and vocal about what you want and need. No one can reach into you and pull this out. No one should be expected to fulfill needs and wants you can’t articulate yourself. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt for holding your opinions. Yes, they are not facts, and you may be shown to be in the wrong, but opinions, as of you holding them right now, are true to you. It is ok to be focused on the things that matter and make an impact to you. Why is a powerful word, unwavering in its might. Become relentless with asking why and you will become intentional in your actions. With why, we can take apart our own requirements and opinions and keep what’s left standing. Do this often enough and you will have built a feedback mechanism for your own narrative and values. Be a team player, and get your mask on first.