How The Human Diver Helped Stop a Bar Fight

By Ryan Meyer

Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” That line hung in my mind as the guy in front of me gripped the mouth of his beer bottle, turned back towards me on his swivel chair and asked if I had anything else to say. He was old, but he had more than a few pounds on me — enough to intimidate.

It was as though the bar went silent as his lips parted to speak. “Open your mouth about scuba diving again and this bottle might just go over your head.”

Not quite as eloquent as Socrates but his point was dramatic enough

As our eyes met in a mutual stare, the aged quote faded to the background and I realized the Human Factors in Diving class I’d attended over the weekend was really, really good. So good in fact, it was about to start a bar fight.

A well-known attorney and rebreather advocate turned the staff of First Dive Insurance on to Gareth Lock and The Human Diver classes. This happened just as the June/July insurance rush was in full swing. It was a course touted to apply human factors to help divers master the dive.

Award-winning, globally unique, mindset changing, all with the aim to improve diving safety. Sounded intriguing. As an insurance guy, I’m all about cutting down claims. But I and the rest of the staff at First Dive Insurance were still finishing the June/July rush, and as many know, it was really a rush!

Gareth Lock, who runs the class, told us he was finding it interesting reading some of the commentary appearing on social media. According to Gareth, some instructors were frustrated because First Dive was starting to crack down on lack of performance. More questions were being asked and more premium was being charged.

He could understand why instructors would be upset, yet at the same time supported efficient quality control. We agreed with his comments and, after partaking in several online micro classes, ended up traveling to a great little dive shop in Seattle. Here we joined Gareth’s classroom sessions to develop some core cognitive and teamwork skills over a weekend in October.

I don’t want to tell you a lot about the class. It would be like spoiling the ending of a great movie. I thoroughly believe the class is most effective if you don’t entirely know what’s coming.

What I can tell you is that its messages apply well beyond diving. It logically takes you from 100 m/330 ft under water into the farthest reaches of space. I’ve applied it to general business practice already, into corporate accounting, into my commute, because it all really just makes a lot of sense.

Why does it make sense?

At its core, the course asks: “What exactly are you trying to do? What is your goal and how do your actions help you achieve it?” We immediately applied this to scuba diving. However, if you think about the concepts logically, they actually apply to everything you do.

We can all agree that the primary goal of any dive is to go under water and then ultimately come back to the surface, unharmed. The class provides evidence that most people don’t think this simply. In fact, most people don’t even realize how close they are to having an accident regularly. Nobody sets out to die… yet it happens.

What has been even more striking is how few people actually contemplate what the goal of their dive is.

This line of thinking nearly started the bar fight

While attending Gareth’s class, I missed a Saturday night hockey game played by our local NHL team. Wouldn’t you know, my Canucks lost their best player to a dirty hit with about ten minutes left in the match. Fighting is allowed in the NHL (although penalized), and after Vancouver’s key player was injured on that hit, the fan base was screaming for vengeance.

The hockey team, however, didn’t start a fight to get their revenge. They went out on the next shift, scored a goal and won the game.

Suffice it to say, the city of Vancouver was less enthralled with victory than their want for vengeance. Hurt our guy, we hurt your guy! In the past, I may have agreed. This time, Gareth had me thinking differently.

I wandered to the local pub to get dinner after a long day. That’s when the guy beside me looked up from his bottle of Bud, pulled his reading glasses down with a thud, turned his head to me and said: “I can’t believe, they didn’t bloody well clobber the guy. What a bunch of babies!”

Sports talk

He was referring to the game I missed. Realizing he was talking to me, I asked, ‘What do you think a fight would achieve in preventing an injury to the player?”

“Teach them all a lesson if you punch them in the nose,” he said. “You gotta teach the other team they can’t hit your players.”

“Not sure I agree,” I said. I actually vehemently disagreed. “When a scuba diver starts a dive, their goal is to come back up again, unharmed. Agreed?”

He nodded.

“When a hockey team steps on the ice, their goal is to win the game, right?”

He nodded again.

“There were ten minutes left in the third period. A fight would have drawn a penalty. Statistically, taking a penalty leads to your opponent scoring. They score more, you lose. Would you suggest a diver swim over and fight the shark that bit his buddy, rather than getting his buddy out of the water safely?”

They’re a bunch of babies and you don’t know jack. A group of men would have dropped the gloves,” he responded.

“You can boil a lot of success down into statistics that are simpler than emotions,” I said. “You’re suggesting a team of professionals should lose control and abandon the game plan.”

That’s when the older guy grabbed his bottle by the neck. Pointing the base at me, he said, “Open your mouth about scuba diving again and this bottle might just go over your head.”

The last thing I asked Gareth at Human Diver was why everyone in the dive industry wasn’t lined up to take a class like his. Not specifically his class, but any class that could help increase safety and reduces accidents. This would then reduce insurance premiums. I mean, let’s be real, the sport has more accidents than it should and scuba divers die when they don’t intend to.

The sentiment shared by the class was that:

  • People don’t know what they don’t know.
  • Old habits die hard.

Does the industry run for safety or does it run for profit? Some crave learning and some presume they know the world. Gareth politely understands why his message isn’t yet more widespread and I’m sure the irony isn’t lost.

Human factors keep people from taking a class on human factors

If human factors nearly led to a bar fight, they would need to end it too.

I looked away from the old man with the beer bottle. Putting some cash on the bar, I got up and left. Simple as that.

I was there to relax. A physical altercation was not the mission.

I don’t think anyone can be mad at someone trying to reduce their risk of failure, whatever that might be. As an insurance provider for the industry, my primary objective is to insure enough premium to cover the claims. However, I’d be better off to have no policies than to have all of them but pay more claims than premium.

Fighting is not prudent when it reduces your odds of success. Looking at dive accident reports all day, I can say there are lots of things that divers do to reduce their odds of success too.

Are you aware of what your mission is in diving situations? Better yet, are you aware that you are aware?

That’s The Human Diver by Gareth Lock, who spoke at DEMA. Gareth put’s these talks and courses on all around the world. It focuses on building the new, not fighting the old.

It applies to diving

Human factors applies to diving and to sports of all kinds.

It applies to bar fights and it applies to life. It was well worth joining in for a weekend. It might have saved some stitches, one day it might prevent a death in the scuba community. That’s not a half bad way to spend a weekend.

If you’re curious about the Human Diver class, you can find more info here:

If you’re curious about First Dive, or scuba diving insurance in general (and really, who the heck isn’t?), you can learn more here.

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