An article on business, sustainability and helping others.
I’m sitting on a plane from Barcelona (Spain) to Rotterdam (The Netherlands) as I write this article —which I do every two months to meet with (new) clients and catch up with family and friends.
Since I moved to Barcelona almost a year and a half ago I’ve been flying back and forth between the two countries, so I’m quite familiar with the safety instructions by now. As a stick-with-the-rules kind of person, I always try to pay attention, but it’s just the same story every time.
This time, however, the phrase:
“Help yourself before helping others.”
—when the flight attendants talk about the oxygen mask, hit me like a ton of bricks. I always thought it weird to help myself first, when a child might need my help as well. And now that I’m a father myself, it feels even weirder.
WHY IS THAT EXACTLY?
After I asked the flight attendant for an explanation, it makes a lot more sense. She explained: “If you somehow pass out before you can help the other person in need [be it your child or someone else that needs your help], then they'll definitely be lost. But when you first put the mask on yourself, then you basically have all the time in the world to help the other person.”
I know it’s not rocket science, but instinctively I think I would have done it differently.
Now I’d like to suggest a little thought experiment. Bare with me.
Imagine we use this example as a metaphor for conscious entrepreneurship.
Like me —a lot of conscious entrepreneurs want to help others. This can range from helping a specific person to helping society as whole (People) or supporting the environment (Planet). Sometimes we want to help others so much, that we tend to forget about ourselves (Profit). We only give —and forget to take.
HOW SUSTAINABLE IS THIS?
When we put this in a context of sustainability —our ability to sustain, to endure and to be in balance with our surroundings— how sustainable would our efforts be?
—Not really sustainable, would it? Especially when we’re talking about the long-term.
Don’t get me wrong. Giving first is really important, but not to the extent of exhaustion or depletion. If you just keep on giving without taking something for yourself, you won’t be able to give for long. You would be broke, bankrupt, out-of-business before long. And you wouldn’t be able to give anymore.
So, my advice —for both you and as much for myself, would be:
“Help yourself before helping others.”
MAKE YOUR GLASS OVERFLOW
During a training I attended once, the trainer told us: “Think of your needs as a glass of water that you'll need to fill. Some of us have a big glass that is hard to fill up. Others have a smaller glass that fills up with a lot less effort.”
“If you have a small glass, it’ll tend to overflow a lot faster than a bigger glass. And when it overflows, you’ll be able to give away all the extra water you don’t need.”
In other words if you have a small glass to fill, you'll be able fill up your glass quickly. After that you’ll be in a much better position to help others and to keep helping others.
Cheers! And may your glass never cease to overflow!
How do you make sure you’ll be able to give and keep giving?
Please answer the question in the comments below. Your answer can really help others.
I designed a special poster (A3 and A4*) as a gentle reminder for you, if you forget to help yourself first before helping others. After your comment is placed, I’ll send you a printable PDF of the poster for you to print at home or at your local printer.
*If you’d like to print an even bigger poster for your office (e.g. A1 or A0), just send me an email and I’ll send you a printable PDF for that size.
Atelier Pan | Visual identities for Conscious Entrepreneurs
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