I was new to the traveling experience of airport life and was en route to a conference with my boss. His elite airline status had him boarding first, eligible for upgrades, and assured a free item from the flight menu regardless of where he sat. My non-existent status put me squarely at the end of every line and promised inflight amenities restricted to pretzels, a complementary drink, and close proximity to the lavatories. Being newly promoted to a leadership role, I was grappling with a lot of “new” so these things were okay with me. My boss gave me a knowing smile and went to the service counter while I watched the luggage. He returned with a new ticket for me and simply said, “stay close.” After that, not only was I automatically welcomed at the front of every line, but the gift my boss gave of an upgrade using his well-earned points opened a whole new world.
My comfort zone dramatically expanded that day, and as a result it was no longer okay to sit by the lavatories. I became driven to collect my own points and gain my own access so that travel extras, such as access to lounges and priority boarding, would be a consistent experience. While I will likely never reach the elite status of my boss, I definitely enjoy some perks when I travel, and it almost feels like I’ve earned it. I guess you can say I feel as though I deserve it.
That’s the problem. I feel like I deserve it. After all, I’ve traveled enough to earn these perks, I’m a leader with direct and indirect reports, I run a key office for an internationally known institution, I present on behalf of my institution at national conferences, and that must mean I am an important person and therefore deserve these perks, right? Wrong. Very wrong. As soon as the feeling of “deserve” creeps onto the scene there is a perception of better, and what should be a level playing field becomes stratified. With this feeling I allow my psyche to consider myself better than those who do not share the same enjoyments. When I started to feel I deserved the perks, I had created a higher level and pompously placed myself on it, while leaving others below.
You can never be “with” if you perceive yourself on a different level. If you feel that you deserve different or better things because of who you are, then you have just placed importance on you as a person and denigrated the importance of others. This is a dangerous mindset. The fact is no one person is intrinsically worth more than another. Life is valuable regardless of position, title, rank, birth place, address, or airline status.
The reality is that I’ve been called to produce something that may allow for extras. If I weren’t in my role, someone else would fill it, do just fine, and be eligible for the perks. There is nothing essentially better about me. Here is a reality check: It’s never about you - it’s about what you’ve been called to do.