by Jeff Bozanic:
We all do what we do for the same reasons. We love the ocean. We love being underwater. We love the fish, the coral, the lobsters, the magical life that could be from another planet. We love exploring. And we love sharing our passions with others, opening a door for them to experience the same joys and delights that we do. So why do we fight so much?
Very few of us became dive instructors to become rich. As if that ever happens! Something else drives us. Usually it is a personal addiction… a love of the underwater environment that we cannot satisfy, a love we feel so deeply we have to open the door for others, revealing the same mysteries that motivate us.
We choose different paths to accomplish this, some choose SDI, some opt for PADI, others NAUI, or IANTD, or SSI, or NACD, or any of the other myriad of acronyms that serve the same function – providing opportunity to follow the same dreams. Most of us fell into these pathways by chance, introduced by a mentor or friend, or an instructor randomly stumbled across. But these same agencies also differentiate us from one another. I believe these barriers to be false, harmful, and often hurtful. We don’t need them.
There is nothing wrong with having different educational organizations. Healthy communities grow by having differing characteristics, different manners of competing and approaching life. Difference is good. But a successful community still works together, improving all in the community by laboring together.
We work in a very small industry. We want to succeed, to make a little money while we satisfy our need to spend time appreciating the underwater world with which we are all enthralled. And yet we spend most of our time bickering, fighting amongst each other, trying to steal business and market share from each other. In many ways, we act like a dysfunctional family, siblings fighting with each other. Often family members fight not because they are so very different, but because they are so similar. I believe we are acting the same way.
There is a much larger world out there. A world full of prospective customers… no, a world full of people who have never visited the watery world we inhabit. A world full of souls who have dipped their toes in the water, maybe having gotten certified, but have never spent enough time to become sufficiently skilled and comfortable enough to truly enjoy their experience. Instead, they ski, or paddle, or climb, or cycle, or jump out of perfectly good airplanes. We need those people.
Instead of infighting, we should be working together. We should be supporting each other, helping each other to the best of our abilities. If we grow our community, then we all have more to share. We all win.
How do we accomplish this? It is different for everyone. I do it by offering my experience and knowledge to multiple agencies. My goal is not to promote one group so they succeed at the expense of another. My goal is to improve our community for everyone, making it a better and safer place for all. Not everyone agrees with the way I think or the methods I feel work best, but I do what I can to share ideas and foster an environment in which we all learn, improve, and grow.
Someone else might do it by jointly offering introductory programs with other instructors; a combined effort to attract a broader audience of interested folks who can be shared to improve everyone’s lot.
We need to become more creative… not in developing more ways to steal from each other, but in developing more ways to help each other. Every time you badmouth another instructor, or another dive store or instructional agency, you hurt us all. We need to learn to work together more effectively. That is your challenge. Help us learn to help each other. Help us learn to grow together. Develop new ideas… forge new alliances… tear down old walls and prejudices.
For some, teaching scuba is a short term adventure. A summer spent in the Caribbean, a few years traveling the planet, seeing the best that our oceans have to offer, an adventure in life that provides opportunity to indulge in our obsession. For many of us reaching out to others is a lifelong commitment, a way to justify our existence, to continue living immersed in the waters of life. We need to remember that despite minor differences, at heart we are all the same. We are family. Let’s do our best to make it a functional family. Let’s work together to make our surroundings better for all.