Ways To Die While Scuba Diving

Explore how diving and leading companies require continuous data, preparation, situational awareness, emotional maturity and a willingness to adapt.

"Diver Down"​ flag used to mark where a diver has entered the water.

Originally published on LinkedIn on Oct. 26, 2019.

Years ago when I began diving, I had originally viewed diving as blue water with whales, dolphins and gorgeous coral reef. I quickly learned how diverse diving could really be.

I was trained in cold, brown water. Like all forms of diving, cold, brown water diving requires special attention to detail. Gear for staying warm, tools for extricating myself from unplanned situations such as fishing line, vines, branches and roots, multiple lights for seeing in the dark, murky waters and very good compass navigation skills.

As I expanded my learning and experience portfolio, I came to realize the preparation and skills necessary for warm, cold, caving, cavern, blue-water, brown-water, ocean, quarry, lake and river diving may seem the same, but each and every one of them have unique requirements within themselves. What I knew yesterday helped with today, but there was always more to learn. I realized a pattern of behaviors always required: plan, execute to plan, situational awareness and prepare for adversity, always. In all cases, be disciplined before, during, after and between dives.

Diving

I enjoyed compass-diving in brown water with 0-12 inches of visibility where many times I couldn’t see my hand when fully outstretched. I loved every minute of it because I never knew for sure what was coming and I needed to be ready for anything, at any time. Blue-water diving in the ocean offered infinite views in all directions. Nothing below, beside or above me other than sunlight coming down through the water – just blue infinity. Night diving meant that sometimes, were it not for my equipment, I could easily be upside down at 100 feet thinking I was right-side-up at 35. Like all forms of diving, all three of these experiences require many of the same skills.

Diving

And like all forms of diving, in all three of these experiences, one could become disoriented and make the decision to continue doing what you’re doing, make incremental and adaptive changes, or make poor, reactive and over-corrective decisions, which make things worse immediately. Over and over again diving – and living – came down to education, experience, discipline, planning, situational awareness and the need to make informed, responsive, level-headed decisions.

As I gained more experience, I made more diverse decisions increasing risk, complexity and potential return on decisions. Which then required more experience and more on-going education. To amplify learning diversity, I began to study how divers die and sought to understand how these deaths could have been prevented.

Reasons Divers Die (listed, not rank ordered):

- Failure to plan
- Failure to maintain and improve equipment
- Failure to maintain personal health and fitness
- Failure to keep themselves in check (emotions, ego, risk-taking)
- Failure to practice/improve/increase skills and knowledge

Diving is fun, adventurous, character-building and educational. It does not have to be deadly. The National Center for Biotechnology Information and the Diver’s Alert Network reported 59 diving-related deaths in the United States in 2016. That is a small number. Yet it is 59 too many. I encourage you to explore snorkeling and scuba diving for yourself. Get educated. Be disciplined. Have fun.

Why do you believe leaders and companies fail? It would seem that companies and diving have nothing in common until we compare the lists.

Reasons Leaders and Companies Fail (listed, not rank ordered):

- Failure to plan and adapt
- Failure to maintain and improve themselves, teams and systems
- Failure to maintain and improve personal health and fitness
- Failure to keep themselves and others in check (emotions, ego, risk)
- Failure to improve skills, knowledge and experience

How would you rank this list as it relates to you? Your boss? Your company?

Like diving, leading companies and teams require continuous data and decision-making. And in order to have continuous data that enables decision-making, there needs to exist a plan, situational awareness, a data feed, a pre-meditated, cool-headed ability to make decisions and the willingness to adapt.

Plan Your Dive or Plan For Failure

- Have a plan. Continually evaluate the plan. Be prepared to change.
- Know where you are in relation to the plan. Be prepared to change.
- Continue to purposefully improve yourself, your teams and your company. 
- Practice being thoughtfully responsive versus thoughtlessly reactive.

When you’re the only diver in the water, you are welcome to make any and all bad decisions available to you. You may (or may not) be the only one that will suffer from your mistakes.

However, when you’re in the water with others who rely upon your plan, your ability to see, hear, realize and adapt to incoming data, and they trust that you are capable of making the hard decisions in hard circumstances – your preparation, emotional maturity, adaptability and decisions matter.

Early on in my journey, an old, crusty diver made a dark comment to me that stuck with me permanently and heavily influenced my preparation, maintenance and overall discipline:

“When you’re down there doing what you do and you’ve failed to plan, failed to maintain your equipment, didn’t pay attention to the information in front of you or just plain didn’t keep a cool head, just remember, at 200 feet below the surface, no one can hear you scream.”

His point? Be disciplined. Plan. Be aware. Be adaptive. Keep your head screwed on correctly. Make context-driven decisions. Live to dive again. Make sure others with you have a good experience, learn and live to dive again.

The teams at Trility regularly help people create, modify and implement plans for successful dives, gain access to data in real-time so they can adapt, as well as, equip people with the solutions they need to keep cool heads at 200 feet.

Authors Note: We’re not really going to help you plan your dives. In fact, we may never dive together. You might be crazy. I just wanted to keep the analogy going. If you want to dive, join the military, attend a commercial diving school or reach out to diver training organizations like PADI.

If you want to learn how to digitally transform your company, influence your leaders, train your teams, plan and deliver some of the dirtiest, nastiest, most complex projects from the bottom of the deepest, darkest ocean that no one else wants to do – then do call or email us.

Author: Matthew D Edwards

President and CEO Trility Consulting