I spend a lot of time on airplanes, and every time I am on a plane I hear the flight attendants give their speech. Time after time I listen to their instructions, and one day it occurred to me that there’s more to these instructions then maybe I had believed. In fact, there are life lessons that can be found in flight attendant instructions. Today, I want to share with you just three of these life lessons. After you hear these, I’m sure that the next time you’re on a flight and you listen to the instructions from the flight attendant, you will think of more life lessons. When you do, be sure to email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let me know your ideas.

Today, I have three lessons I learned from the airplane.

Life Lesson #1 – Learn to Listen
You have all heard the flight attendant say, “Now we request your full attention as the flight attendants demonstrate the safety features of this aircraft.” What they are really saying is, “Stop what you’re doing, and listen.”

You can’t do two things at once and do them both well. So stop and listen to what they have to say, because what they have to say could be critically important to you. To me, this life lesson is about simply pausing in life and taking the time to truly listen. There are people all around you who have something to teach you, something to share with you, or something that will help you know more about them, but you must first be quiet – take the focus off of yourself – and listen to them. Really listen to them. If you can master of this ability, the ability to listen, as a life skill, you will become a much better friend, spouse, employee, and leader.

The problem with most people is they just cannot master the art of listening. Oh, they can remain quiet for a bit, but when they are no longer talking, they disengage. They’re looking elsewhere, maybe even picking up their phone, or staring into space. Have you ever talked to someone and felt like they were just waiting for you to finish so they could offer their two cents? What about the person who is in front of you, but not truly present? This person even maintains eye contact, but you know that they are not engaged. They probably couldn’t even tell you what you just said.

Listening is a skill. It is developed. It must be practiced, and it is critical. Learn to listen. The more you listen, the more you learn. Dalia Lama XIV said, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Or, you may like this quote from Plato better. He said, “Wise man speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” Life lesson number one - learn to listen.

Back to the airplane.
Life Lesson #2 – Put Your Mask on First

The flight attendant says, “Oxygen and air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask toward you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.

We’ve all heard the flight attendant give those instructions. Many of us have even heard them say, “If you are traveling with a child or someone who is acting like a child secure your mask first, and then assist the other person!” But that is really the part of the instructions that caught my attention. If you are traveling with someone who requires assistance, or a small child, the instructions says to put on your mask first and then assist the other person.

One reason that the instructions say for the adults to put on their mask first, is that children learn by example. If you are the parent and you put this funny looking mask over your face, then your child will be much more inclined to let you put the mask on them. But there’s something else that struck me, and here is where I believe the life lesson occurs. Put your mask on first, before you start helping others. Why? Because the only way that you can help, and continue to help, is if you are healthy. If you lose oxygen, you will not be any good to the people around you. So the very logical instruction is put your mask on first.

In life, this is also critical. Take care of yourself. This is not selfish, rather it is self care. If you are not whole, if you are not healthy, if you are burned out and burned up and have nothing left to give, you will not be able to help those around you. Instead, you will be the one requiring assistance. We all must rest. As busy, driven people, we rarely get enough rest. When is the last time you didn’t feel tired? When is the last time you had a day with nothing on the agenda that required your immediate attention? When is the last time you sat outside in the evening and just watched the stars come out? We go, go, go, and somewhere in our busyness we’ve created the idea that being busy equals being important. Been busy equals fulfilling our mission. Being busy equals being valuable. That just isn’t so.

Yes, it takes a lot of work in life to be successful and to realize your dreams. But you are not called to wear yourself out and become so tired that you lose your joy. I challenge you to take a look at the remainder of your week, and review your calendar. Find at least two hours in the next three days to just sit peacefully and enjoy your surroundings - and maybe to watch the stars come out. You will get a brand new perspective on what it means to put your mask on first.

Life Lesson #3 – Be kind always.

When the air plane is taxiing to the terminal, the flight attendant says, “If you require deplaning
assistance, please remain in your seat until all of the passengers have deplaned. One of our crew members will then be pleased to assist you. On behalf of this airline and the entire crew, I’l like to thank you for joining us on this trip and we are looking forward to seeing you again in the near future. Have a nice stay.
” (Now, many of you may not have heard that announcement, because like me, you are probably gathering your items and preparing to move off the plane. You are checking to make sure that you have your earbuds and your iPad and your book and water and briefcase or purse.) But next time you hear this announcement, listen to the middle sentence. “One of our crew members will then be pleased to assist you.” The great thing about this statement is, the crew member will indeed be happy to assist. The crew members also will be standing at the door of the plane telling you “Thank you for flying with us.” “We look forward to seeing you again.” “Have a great time here.” The flight attendants are trained to be positive and to be gracious.

The goal of every flight is to have satisfied customers so they become repeat customers. These employees are building relationships. In your one hour and 55 minute flight, they have brought you Coke and pretzels, picked up your trash, given you instructions in case of emergencies, provided your connecting gate information, and wished you well. You don’t know them, but they have made your flight experience pleasant. And this is the life lesson.

Be kind always. Think about the people you encounter each day. If your goal was to have them as a repeat customer, your attitude toward them would be one of politeness and graciousness, I’m sure. Most of us aren’t out to get repeat customers, but should our interactions be any less? In truth, our lives are all about relationships. Business is about relationships. Family is about relationships. Everything we do involves other people. So when the flight attendant says “our crew members will be pleased to assist you”, the life lesson is to simply be kind. As we encounter other people, we should be pleased to see them, to smile at them, and perhaps to assist them. It’s what makes us human. I recently saw a quote that said, “Be kind to unkind people. They need it most.”

So these three life lessons are simple connections that I made from the flight attendant’s instructions. But I believe they are critical to life. Listen. Rest. And be kind. If you can do those three things, you are well on your way to making the rest of your life the best of your life.

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