Here is a question for you: “When was the last time you did something for the first time”?

If you have never experienced Scuba-Diving, you really are missing out on an ocean (literally!) of adventure and the associated treasure-trove of knowledge therein. And if you have just one opportunity to do something for the last time, I would firmly advocate you spending your last penny on Scuba-Diving without the slightest iota of hesitation. Yes, it’s the same activity where you sport an extra pair of ‘lungs’, you cannot talk (for obvious reasons!), you are thrust in a completely foreign environment with life-support equipment, you might feel claustrophobic…. And yes, we are still talking about a recreational activity!

Some of the memorable and insightful lessons that this marvelous activity can offer are:

1.Live life in every breath
Diving is not just a journey out into the ocean, but also a deep journey within. You are alone with your thoughts and that space is not very naturally comfortable. It’s a wonderful reminder to be conscious of each breath, each thought and needless to add, every action at all times. Imagine a breathtaking journey where you’re only capable of exclaiming “Ahh” or “Wow” and catching yourself just-in-time to avoid losing the mouthpiece-regulator and missing a few breaths! The therapeutic feeling that a diver often experiences post-dive is absolutely incredible. It’s like coming out of a dreamless sleep wherein you are completely rejuvenated but when asked to describe it, you are stumped. Sift your thoughts and you might deduce that “you” got out of the way and truly lived the dive experience – being 100% present in the present in that period helped you to empty out any mental baggage of the past or possible anxieties of the future. One feels liberated and at peace with oneself.

As Leaders, how can we help our team-members experience life in every breath? Are we leading the way and being 100% present in the present during our team interactions – or are we constantly distracted? Being present to the moment, is perhaps the biggest “present” a leader can give his team members.

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2.Gratitude & Humility
Almost every diver reports a profound sense of gratitude at having witnessed the grand spectacle of life underneath —umpteen varieties of multi-hued fish, sharks, barracuda, sea urchins, turtles and so on. Even more humbling is the thought that there exists a mind-boggling universe below the vast oceans that together cover a ‘humble’ 70% of the earth’s surface area! And we human beings nurse grudges, raise fences and wage wars over a few square kilometres of land above –some perspective that!

Before the dive, the instructor invariably makes one special request –please do not disturb the reef structures down there –one learns that these masterpieces of architecture have been painstakingly built by nature over hundreds of years and our few unconscious movements can demolish these in a matter of seconds! Again, a humbling thought –how easily we trample upon others’ creations without a pang of regret!
Gratitude towards your community, being humble, a willingness to serve –these are timeless attributes but even more relevant for today’s Leader. This is only reinforced through the concept of “Servant Leadership” (coined by Robert Greenleaf in “the Servant as Leader”) which encourages servant-first attitude, focuses on growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.

3.Get your Balance Right
Unlike swimming, scuba-diving involves very controlled yet minimal efforts. Get your head in the right position – a few kicks thereon can easily propel you at the desired pace. One can actually bob up or down with few inhalations or exhalations of your lungs, as simple as that. And yet, if you are not careful of these movements, you can easily stray away from your diving buddy or group. Imagine creating your own gravity with minimal efforts and horribly losing your way by actually throwing your weight around! Come to think of it, isn’t it the other way ‘round when it comes to what we practice back at home or at our workplace?

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Steve Jobs, for instance, had to marry his brilliant zen-like creativity and passion for perfection with his highly controlling personality; this often meant rubbing people the wrong way, and yet he inspired Apple to build and retain an amazing talent-pool.

4.See beyond the colours –they disappear and how!
Unlike popular belief that we get to see greater variety of life-forms when we dive deeper, the fact is that the colours actually start disappearing after a few feet below the surface and they disappear in the reverse VIBGYOR sequence; so after about 25-30 metres below the surface you will mostly see only blue and shades of other blues all around you (there was a reason they called it the ‘deep blue’ after all!).

How often do we operate from our ‘colored’ biases? The key insight here is for a leader to scratch the surface, go deeper, see beyond the ‘colors’ to arrive at the correct decision.

If any of you have scuba dived too – we would love to hear your perspectives! Do share.

PS: the author was high on nitrogen in the immediate aftermath of the dive,
so any high-spirited comments are required to be consumed in that vein 😉

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