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Training isn’t about finding, it’s about understanding

Dear Reader,scrabble tiles spelling out listen, understand, act

I get a lot of offers for training, mostly in the areas of  marketing and programming, two things that are passions of mine.  I pass over most of them with the attitude of “I’m not paying $99 for something I can find in a couple of online videos or blogs.

Contrast that with scuba diving – regular readers are tired of doing this – where I spend on average two weekends a month helping train people to “swim with the fishes and live to tell the tale”. Each of these people I’ve helped train have paid at a minimum $500 to be there and some paid much more.

As a programmer, I have taught myself much of what I know. A lot of it through trial and error. Yes, it’s easy to find things on the internet that will show me how to do something, but that’s not what training is for. Training helps me understand what I am doing. It’s only when I understand what I’m doing that I can apply that knowledge to other problems.

Trail and error is not only an inefficient way to learn scuba diving principals, it’s a deadly way to do it. I literally need to understand not only how but why.

I need to spend more time in professional training courses for software development. It’s a much faster way to learn how to do something and it has the added benefit of  helping me understand why I need to do it.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

 

 

Photo Credit Steven Shorrock
Listen, Understand, Act

Dive with 3 computers

Dear Reader,

Free advice is worth every penny you you pay for it.

I recently had a good friend of mine run an idea by me. It sounded solid so I told him so. I thought it was a great idea.

He ran it by another friend and they told him it was a worthless idea. This friend had nothing good to say about the idea. This discouraged friend 1 to the point where he was seriously considering giving up on it totally. Hearing this from friend 2 was demoralizing.

 

Dive with 3 computers

In scuba diving, many professional divers carry three dive computers on each dive, their primary and two backups. Part of this is because you never want to be underwater at depth and have your computer fail. Trust me, it’s happened twice to me. No, the main reason they do it is because If, when they get back to the surface, their primary gives them a reading they don’t expect, they have  backup. Having one backup though doesn’t really help. At that point you have to decide which one you want to go with. In some cases that might make the difference of being able to dive again today and not. That can be dangerous on the life-n-death level. That’s where the third computer comes in. Now you have 3 “opinions”. You can take a consensus and go with the majority. If your primary was giving you a reading you didn’t like (e.g. you went into Deco) but the other two did not, you can feel safe about diving the next dive.

However, if two of the three computers tell you you went Deco, listen to them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to hear that. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe them. You bought the computers – you sought their advice – so heed the advice. 

 

Applying the rule of 3 to free advice

  • Don’t just ask one person, they may lie to you to not hurt your feelings.
  • Don’t just ask two because then you don’t know which one to believe and you end up going with the one that you agree with.
  • Ask three people. And even if you don’t like the answer, listen to them.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

There IS a right way

Dear Reader,

  1. Fins in FIRST
  2. BCD next with the jacket open
  3. Place your regulator in the jacket and then close the jacket over it.
  4. Wet suit goes on top
  5. Zip it up

I was taught this mantra by one of the greatest dive instructors I know, Donna A. of ScubaWorks.com, and I run through it about once a month with fresh new minds learning how to scuba dive. See, there is a right way to pack a wet bag, this way.

At the lunch break, I am always happy to discuss the why with the students, but during class, the why is because I said so. I’ve got 350+ dives. I have made every non-fatal mistake that a diver can make. Additionally, there are thousands of divers all over the world that have tried every new idea you think you have for how to pack a wet bag and guess what, we all have standardized on this way because it is the best way. That is why we teach it as the right way.

For the past few years in tech, the prevailing attitude is “everyone should learn to code”. (that’s a whine for a different day) I believe that everyone interested should learn to code, but if you are going to learn, accept that there are right ways to do things and wrong ways to do things. In scuba diving, doing things the wrong way usually has pretty immediate and sometimes disastrous results. In software development, your ‘new way’ might work well for years. But doing things the wrong way will  eventually lead to a failure.

Please, on your own personal project, experiment all you want. Do things any way you want as long as you are the only person who will ever have to use or maintain the code. If there are other developers involved though, do things the right way. Do things the standard way, follow the community standards for the code you ware writing. If we all do this, everyone wins.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

 

p.s. We pack a wet bag that way to protect the regulator and console.  That is the most sensitive and usually the most expensive piece of dive gear. Fins are sturdy and cheap, they go on on bottom to protect everything from drops. Wet suits are soft and spongy. If something gets dropped on your bag, the wet suit helps absorb the blow. There is a reason we call it the right way.

I earned my rope!

Dear Reader,

A picture of a short length of nylon rope

That is MY rope. I EARNED my rope.  As part of my PADI Dive Master Certification (yes, the same training that almost kicked my butt) I had to learn to tie several knots and to successfully tie them underwater. My instructor handed each of us a piece of rope as he cut it off of a much longer piece. When asked, he replied that he gives every student a piece of HIS rope so they can learn.

In tech, we don’t celebrate individual’s wins as much as we should. When I was running a team, at every quarterly team lunch, I would hand out custom made badges that were modeled after the old Texas Ranger badges. Texas Rangers motto is (or used to be) “One problem, one Ranger”, so when one of my developers tackled a problem and completed it, they earned their badge. This wasn’t a participation award, you had to earn it.

Managers, take time to celebrate an individual’s wins. Even if they give it the “Aw shucks, it was a team effort” they need to see that you recognized their efforts and appreciate it.

Let your developers earn THEIR rope.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

Humility: Part 2

Dear Reader,

In Humility: Part 1, I talked about a recent event that humbled me. In Part 2, I want to share another event that has shaken me and in this case, shaken a lot of arrogance out of me.

I am a Scuba Diver. In doing the work to earn my PADI Dive Master Certification, I was humbled yet again.

Part of the test is the “Dive Master Complex Problem”. I will not describe the problem, but a team of candidates have to solve a problem, underwater.

In 10 years of diving, I have always been comfortable with my skills. I’ve done things that pushed the rules before, but never anything that pushed me mentally and physically beyond my limits. The “Dive Master Complex Problem” pushed me past my limits. Even though I was in a pool and in less than 6 ft of water, I twice panicked and shot to the surface.

For someone who prides himself in his diving abilities, it was truly a humbling experience. It has fundamentally changed my outlook on diving and on my skill level.

Humility is a good thing. I’ve come through this test (Yes, I passed. No, not with flying colors)  and I am a better diver for it. If I decide to go for my Instructor’s Certification, I know that this lesson will shape how I teach people to dive. Yes, diving can literally be a life or death situation when things go wrong. Now, because I have been a panicked diver, I really understand that.

Until next time,
I <3 |<