Career Development

When Oxygen is Flowing… Six Invisible Life Skills

As we claw our way out of recession, almost nothing is allowed to remain a mystery.  At work every action needs to have purpose.  Employees wanting to try something new must give proof of a return on investment before management will entertain the idea.  It seems to me that at a time when people should be getting more creative, many are frozen in fear.  It makes me think of a of something that happened to me in 2010:

I was flying at 37,000 feet on a 757 that suddenly became a convertible.  A chunk of the roof on the plane peeled open like a tin can and I could feel the oxygen suck out of the cabin.  There was a loud bang, the lights went out (it was a night flight), and the temperature went from 75 to 45 almost immediately.

As seen in the safety video, masks dropped down from the ceiling and we put them on.  The bag did not inflate fully, but oxygen was flowing.  It was a life-giving, invisible sign of hope.  We survived and most people went on with their lives.  I however keep going back to that mask and how we all counted on bits of plastic and air to continue with life’s journey.

Now I am in business for myself (in large part due to that night) and realize just how important it is to believe in the things we cannot see outright.

  • Intuition– It was not perfect, but if my gut-instinct told me something was wrong and I ignored that feeling, I usually wished I hadn’t.

  • Trust– Belief in my ability and others allows me to try new things with confidence.  When someone says, “You were brave to go into business for yourself.” I say thanks to be polite, but I think it is not bravery but faith in what is possible.

  • Experience– An examined life is rich in opportunities.  I have traveled, worked, and laughed within many cultures.  Having a retrospective awareness makes it easy to draw parallels with the past and to apply that knowledge to the present.

  • Passion– I love what I do and attack each project until it is the best it can be.  I help people enjoy their jobs and see how important they are for the company’s success.  Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to hear that people I worked with look at their job differently now.

  • Creativity– This means looking at challenges from different angles and keeping an open mind to change.  It requires intuition, trust, experience, and passion for the work and life I am building.

If you want proof of: results, that I am good at what I do, or if a specific ROI calculation based on my work at other companies, it is usually possible.  There is however one last invisible factor to consider –

  • Collaboration– I am not a solo act.  I work with teams around the world and share what I believe would work for their situation.  Most companies take this information, act on it, and are thrilled with the results.  Some groups nod politely to what I suggest and then go on with their old habits, they might still see improvements, but without support their efforts weaken over time.

These six life skills might be intangible, but what they bring to companies and people is easy to measure.

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