Complete Immersion: How Learning to Scuba Dive Can Help Your Professional Life

by Nick Waterhouse

On my recent travels through Thailand I promised myself I’de take on a “No Saying No” attitude – but let’s be real – anyone who has been to Thailand is aware that saying “No” is necessary every once in a while (think Bangkok nightlife). Rather, my goal with this ‘try anything’ mindset was to overcome old fears and fight laziness.

Scuba diving was one of those old fears that it was time to face.

The lessons that I learned when becoming a certified diver have stuck with me and have helped me immensely in my personal and professional life. Here are the takeaways:

1) Don’t be afraid of classroom work

No matter what type of scuba certification you are interested in, classroom work is mandatory. At first, I dreaded this section and wanted to skip straight to swimming with whale sharks and starfish. Looking back, I realize how vitally important this classroom work was to my understanding of scuba. It may have even saved my life (more on that later).

As with anything, learning facilitates growth and sometimes a “learn as you go” philosophy is not enough to stay afloat in any endeavor (pun intended). There is a reason why all scuba certification requires this classroom time. It is essential in the learning process.  Being placed in a dedicated learning setting, free of distractions, I was able to quickly understand the technical side of diving before ever entering the water.

In my professional life, there are always new things to learn about industry, market, competitors or technology. This dedicated classroom time reminded me that learning about new things away from my typical work station can be a productive ‘break’ from my workday and can give me that competitive edge. Just like this portion of my scuba learning was done outside of the water and in a classroom, I realized learning should be done away from my desk and in a different, yet comfortable setting.

There are countless reputable (and cheap) videos and tutorials on just about any subject matter imaginable. Before you start that next project, take some time to learn about the subject matter the old-school way. Take notes, ask questions and test yourself. Who knows? This ‘classroom work’ could mean the difference between a failed campaign and that promotion you’ve been wanting.

2) Take things step-by-step

Tackling a new project always seems daunting in the beginning. Surely learning what a ‘BCD’ was and sizing my scuba mask seemed leagues away from swimming with schools of barracuda. To understand how to enjoy being 30ft+ underwater, I was forced to take the learning step-by-step and only focus on the current task at hand. I wasn’t able to start diving until I learned the ins-and-outs of all my equipment. There was a set series of steps that I had to follow in order to reach my end goal. By not being allowed (or allowing myself) to try things out of order, it was much easier to focus and excel in each small step of the process.

The same technique should be introduced when starting a new business or project. Break it down into a series of small, attainable steps and only focus on one step at a time. If possible, try to break the project down into parts where only when finishing one will make starting the next one possible. This strategy will make any project seem less intimidating and will make sure that each portion is completely finished before moving on. The quality of work will be higher and stress levels will be lower than before. This step-by-step approach will also make you happier and more dedicated to your project by giving cause to celebrate many small victories while you work your way to the larger one.

3) Be Present and Focus on the Now

I found that during my time under water, I had a clear head and acted in an almost meditative state. There was little opportunity for a wandering mind and I always had to breathe and pay attention to my immediate surroundings at that present moment. For the first time in a while, I was actually able to think about only one thing and really take-in the sites around me. This enabled me to feel truly accomplished when finishing each dive.

This present-thinking mindset has had a tremendous impact on my professional and personal life. I notice that if I really dedicate myself to whatever I am currently working on and take my mind away from future deadlines or ‘next steps’, my quality of work is better and I am able to appreciate the work I do more. Just as work can benefit from thinking presently so can traveling, spending time with family, listening to music, etc… It’s hard to truly enjoy something if you are always thinking about something else.

4) Don’t Panic

As you can imagine, scuba diving can be quite dangerous if you catch yourself in an unlucky situation. My unlucky situation came on my 2nd attempt in the water when I almost met a boat propeller head on. I was still getting used to being submerged for 40+ minutes but thought I was starting to get the hang of it. Suddenly, without having knowingly done anything, I began shooting towards the surface. Little did I know was that a lung-full of air and a few kicks in the wrong direction would send me shooting upwards. From my depth, this experience wouldn’t have been an issue… if it weren’t for the fishing boat propeller spinning directly above me!

As my life flashed before my eyes (quite literally), I didn’t panic my way into oblivion but instead took a second to think and remember my training. I let any air out of my lungs and vest and tried to calm my body. Thankfully, I am still here today to write this and got a good laugh/lesson from the experience.

Fear is the mind killer – Frank Herbert

Panic is basically an intense episode of fear that overrides rational thinking. In my boat propeller story, panic would have surely meant death. In the real world, panicking and making irrational decisions based on fear can mean the end of a business or relationship. If you feel your emotions getting the better of you in any situation, cool down and try to think clearly. Cutting through the panic could make a positive outcome out of a terrible situation.

Next time you are out of your element and learning new things, see if the lessons learned can be translated to real-life situations.

Have you had similar takeaways? What are some lessons you learned from an unusual activity that help you in your everyday life? Let me know in the comment section below. 

Nick Waterhouse is the founder of AirBuds, Ltd. and When not starting new projects, he is exploring far-off lands or making music with his friends. Feel free to contact him at

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