Your Oxygen Mask First: 17 Habits to Help High Achievers Survive & Thrive in Leadership & Life

Johnny O’Sullivan, our Senior Manager – Corporate Finance recently read Your Oxygen Mask First, the book written to help guide high-level leaders to achieve the successful balance of a great business, and a great life. Here are his thoughts.

“A good half of the art of living is resilience.” – Kevin N. Lawrence

The author, Kevin Lawrence, describes the Myth of Martyrdom as ‘the belief that you don’t have enough time to do the things you want to do, the time to take proper care of yourself, nor take part in activities that are specifically for you’. The role you play, be it work or family, is more important than your personal needs–if you buy into this myth, you could be crushed by your own success. You need to put yourself first. Follow the instructions delivered by your in-flight attendant and apply your oxygen mask first, before attending to those beside you. If you don’t invest in your own interests, you won’t be able to effectively contribute to your business or family.

Made up of 17 chapters, one for each habit, Lawrence cuts through the nonsense to deliver the best information and tools he has discovered in two decades of coaching CEOs and executive teams. His pragmatic approach is laudable and fully researched–Lawrence studied and tested most every leadership theory known to humankind before putting a pen to paper. He believes there is no in-between with leadership; either it slowly destroys your life or forces you to get stronger.

Johnny’s Main Takeaways:

1. Forget work-life balance

      Balance is not for driven people. Accept who you are–you are not a 9-5’er. Your focus should turn to work-self-life passion instead, and find enthusiasm in all aspects of your life. Think of it like you have 100 tokens to spend per week. If you spend 90 of them at work, you won’t be happy. Invest passion units into yourself first, and this will then make you effective in other areas too. Work out the weighting that works for you, it doesn’t need to be equally balanced.

      2. Success is achieved by developing our strengths

      Not by eliminating our weaknesses. Figure out your true sweet spot, where you are at your best, and concentrate on this area. Work should be enjoyable, let go of what you have no passion for. Get your nastiest tasks, (referred to as ‘toads’ in the book), out of the way first thing in the day, so you have the bandwidth to focus on the important stuff. Aim to spend 80% of your energy on what you love doing; your sweet spot.

      3. You can handle stress….until you can’t

      Managing mental health is crucial for leaders. Silence the stigma of mental health issues with your team and the people around you. If you get too busy to look after yourself, you will crash or break down. It is important to get regular exercise, at least seven hours of sleep per night, time to clear your mind, (meditation or journaling), reading/writing time, and time with family and friends. Keep reading and learning and putting this knowledge into practice. Things change at such a pace, you will be left behind if you don’t.

      4. Seek people who will give you honest feedback

      Make others feel comfortable providing feedback. Do post-mortems on projects, discussing the following three items: What went well? What didn’t go well? What did you learn?

      5. Plan to make yourself obsolete

      Hire the absolute best people you can, and also assess the ability of the current team. Invest in helping people grow in confidence and skills so you can turn them into a high-performing, low-maintenance team of A players. Get prospective hires to do some work beforehand to see if they are up to standard. Henry Ford said that the job was not to have all of the answers but to know the people who did.

      Final thoughts.

      “No superstar operates alone–that’s something that Lawrence emphasises over and over again in Your Oxygen Mask First,” Johnny O’Sullivan says. “Get advisors in place before you need them. There is nothing more expensive than cheap advice–you need an advisory board composed of members who have dealt with challenges at least 14 times.

      “As well as this, he repeatedly stresses that planning and replanning are two of leadership’s most under-utilised skills,” O’Sullivan concludes. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there. You need a single master plan for your entire reality including self, work and life; one project per quarter in each of self, work and life. Standing still kills great leaders. You can only move forward or regress.”

      Financial advisor to the Irish community pharmacy sector, food & beverage, SME and retail. If you’re looking for advice from some of the very best accountants in Ireland on how to deal with your ‘toads’, we’re here to help. No two cases are the same, and we like to focus on getting to know our clients so that we can tailor our services to meet your specific needs. Find out more about how our team can help by getting in touch.

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