Learning from Failure: Strength from Weakness

By Steve Lewis

Our stance towards failure can have a large impact on how we progress as divers. Photo: Russell Clark

Nobody likes to screw up. None of us start marching along a pathway to a personal goal with the intention of losing our way and falling shortafailing. Failing has its full potential to ruin your day, or, at the other end of the spectrum of possible outcomes, it has the potential to change your life forever. Secondly, failing at something youave set your mind on, usually points outasometimes very graphically and with huge, powerful floodlights making it supremely obviousathat weare fallible, human , normal like everyone else. That can be an embarrassing buzz-kill. However, sooner or later, we all do it. Embarrassing, life-changing, or something in-between, everyone has a amomenta.

What fascinates me is how differently people react to these little doses of reality: their failings. Watching how a buddy or a colleague, or even a celebrity or politician, takes ownershipaor notaand how they digest the lessons on offer from these events is instructive. We can learn a lot about them, and ourselves, come to that.

Nowas the time when I could launch into a long list of my screw-ups. In the water on dives, on the surface before and after dives, and more generally only being. However, itas better we talk about you. Well, less embarrassing at least.

AA DoseA ofA Reality

Letas assume that at some point in the next 12 months, youare going to go diving. A safe presumption, yes? A percentage of you might even have some variety of scuba alessonsa planned. Thatas great. And a few of you might even be thinking about building the awesome and extravagantly scary jump into the pool inhabited by athe dive industry prosa: divemasters, open-water instructors, technical teachers, and so on.

And during that process, a few of you are going to fail.A

Sorry, but there it is: reality.

Someone once said, aIf failure isnat an option, youare not taking enough chances.a It was probably the same person who said, aIf at first you donat succeed, try, try, and try again! a But itas unlikely it was the wag who designed a prized T-shirt in the wardrobe upstairs, which is emblazoned across the front with, aIf at first you donat succeeded, Cave Diving probably isnat for youa | a

Whatever the case, if you try something and failaespecially in this diving gameatake heart. Itas guaranteed that all the aexpertsa and role-models and exceptional examples of underwater prowess that you read about in publications such as this one, have a string of failings behind them.

The difference between them and the not-so-prestigious is partly luck. They survived. Of course another change is they took ownership of their faux-pas and learned from those mistakes.

As an aside, if you get a chance, listen to any and all presentations you can, where these men and women share their tales. As you do so, and take note when they recall their acome to Jesusa moments, days during their escapades that things get decidedly dodgy. There will be one at least.

ItA CouldA beA Worse

Fortunately, most failings in diving come closer to losing face or being embarrassed than facing a life-threatening situation. Not being able to find the wreck rather than running out of gas, for instance. Or they are the little failures and mis-steps that we try to overlook. Jumping off the boat with no fins on, forgetting to wear your dive computer, or connect your drysuit inflator, and missing it during your pre-dive checks.

Some of these areaupon reflectionafunny and the sort of thing your buddies remind you of over a pint. These are all failings of a kind, and all potential life lessonsamostly solved by using a checklist A

However, some of the most critical failures and most dramatic alessons for divinga can happen long before we kit up for a dive. Take as an example , not passing a scuba-diving class. Letas say being a candidate to become a technical instructor and not making the grade. aSurely, a you might be thinking to yourself, aPeople signed up for this donat fail! a

Well, they do.

As an instructor-trainer when this happens, when you have to tell someone who has their heart set on becoming an instructor, you do a little soul-searching. You ask yourself if you done a good job of defining expectations. Did you give them enough coaching? Did you give them a chance to correct whatever it was that accounted for them not earning a pass? You think of the most productive way to break the news to them: diplomatically or frank and bare-bones.

The reactions are far from typical. There is no anormala in this situation and although you hope for everyoneas sake for the perfect reactionaa professional debrief, integrity, ownership, and a good feeling all round that at the next attempt will turn out differently.A

In most cases, the outcome follows something close to this. But in rare cases, there will be ego, hurt pride, lack of ownership, and over-confidence at play.( Precisely the same general factors that push open-water divers to swim into caves or semi-regular divers to see how deep they can get on a single aluminum 80.) A

A couple of my buddies admit to having similar experiences when they have transgressed the bad news to a student teacher. We have all been threatened physically, threatened legally, personally insulted, libelled, slandered, and been told we are washed up( that last one was all minea |. I am apparently well passed my due date ). It comes with the territory when you work at a level where certification is not guaranteed by payment. Certs are earned , not boughta | or should not be.

OpportunityA Knocks

Hopefully, you have your head bolt on properly and if you muck things up at some point in the near future and afaila at something dive-related, youall see that setback as an opportunity, and grab it with both hands. Sure, failing on a dive course comes as a letdown, but it may also construct you a better candidate for next time you try. Cave diving is a perfect example. Candidates for any level of cave certification afaila all the time. Some bureaux even have a special cert for students who fail their full cave program; there are other technological certs we call provisional passes that in truth signify the diver wasnat up to grade but made a good effort and should definitely try again after a little more practice.

So whatas the message? None of us is as good as we think we are, and diving isnat a right. We canat buy our way to success. Security and personal security is not a line item on our credit card statement. If we fail, we need to work harder. In diving that usually entails two thingsathink differently, practice more.A

Steve Lewis is a technological instructor, cave IT, and coach. His latest book Death in Number Two Shaft is available on Amazon or, for signed transcripts, from the author at volumes @techdivertraining. org

The post Learning from Failure: Strength from Weakness appeared first on DIVER magazine.

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