Don’t forget the basics

I have logged 215 scuba dives.

None occurred in the past 24 months.

Me…2006 diving in Bonaire.

And, then…there was today.

Today, by the grace of visiting parents who agreed (with enthusiasm) to supervise the 9-year-old in the family, my husband and I donned our gear and headed to open water.

It was glorious.

Fish proliferated in one of our favorite regular spots.

Site seeing in Indonesia…2008.

The water was warmer than I expected.

It felt easy and comfortable.

Entering the water yesterday.


Until the end.

At the end, we swam towards shore and the natural grade of the sand slowly nudged me closer to the surface.

I became more buoyant and popped up above waterline.

Once this happens, a scuba diver needs to fill the boyancy controller (BC) to stay afloat.

A typical BC – hoses from the tank inflate the bladder and provide a secondary air source.

Mine wouldn’t fill.

I went through the procedures I’d learned in my certification course 18 years ago…recalling that I needed to fill the BC by blowing into the secondary regulator.

It wouldn’t fill.

Meanwhile, I was close enough to the beach that I knew I wasn’t going to drown. And, close enough to see languishing beach-goers looking on with mild concern at a what appeared to be a novice scuba diver who seemed incapable of getting herself out of the water.

I was having a mild future-panic-attack. The kind you get when you worry into the future…’what would’ve happened if we’d been on a deep dive? I would have needed that BC to help me surface from 80 feet. What if it hadn’t worked???’

Grateful that this had occurred on a shore dive at 6 feet water depth, my husband and I prepared (mentally) to have the BC serviced first thing next week.

We went home and started cleaning the gear.

15 minutes later, he came back from the truck where the tanks were waiting to be cleaned.

“Did you touch anything on your set-up? Your equipment?”


“Then, come…take a look.”

He led me to where the tanks with the BCs still in place stood outside the truck.

“Do you see anything that looks strange?”

I scanned the tanks.

I saw it.

One crucial hose had never been connected from the tank to the secondary air source.

In scuba diving, there are about four things to pay attention to under water, and about five to prepare.

For 215 dives…I’d never missed one.

I’d never deviated from the basics.

But today…

Today, a rusty memory or the paradox of routine kept me and my scuba buddy from completing the basics.

A buddy check.

A buddy check is fundamental. It ensures a second set of eyes makes sure that haste or incompetence never causes a diver to be at risk.

Fundamentals exist in every area of life: friendship, professional life, parenting, exercise, marriage.

Yet, at a certain point of experience, the fundamentals become subconscious. We stop needing to be so intentional.

Or, so we think.

The truth of the matter is that even though our brains shift into a more automatic mode once we’ve done things for a while with good success, the fundamentals never stop being the most important pieces of our foundation.

Fundamentals never stop being the most important pieces of our foundation.
Photo credit: Viktor Kiryanov on Unsplash

The fundamentals look different for every one of us, but they are bricks in our foundation. They are what gives meaning to our way of doing things and they are what we built our relationships upon.

Friendship: Returning a phone call in a short period of time.

Professionally: Preparing for a meeting.

Parenting: Giving time.

Exercise: Good form.

Marriage: Time together doing something you enjoy together (…like scuba diving!)

Flailing around on the beach blaming my equipment for my failure, I couldn’t fathom that I was actually the root of the problem.

It’s all-too-easy to spot problems in others rather than ourselves. It’s too easy to blame our circumstances rather than look within.


But, the first place to look for the root cause of an issue is the foundation.

And, when in doubt, think like a beginner, act like a beginner, and pay attention like a beginner.

Beginners never neglect The Basics.

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