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For a very long time I worked for shops that only just met the bare minimum standards to certify divers. And I would get castigated for trying to exceed them.

Shops that would do exactly the number of dives blueprinted in the courses, and not one more. Shops that would consider performance of a skill a single time demonstration of mastery, despite students clearly not understanding how this or that skill fit into the entire activity or was in any way important. Shops where the main interest was turnover of people who bought a groupon for lack of better shit to do, rather than a genuine desire to learn to dive.

It was soul-crushing. And I will always regret my participation in that flaw in the system.

But I don't have to participate anymore. Now Nelly and I can create the sort of vacations and the sorts of classes that we would have wanted ourselves.

To be dropped into the (already burgeoning) file of "Shit to be grateful for..."

And it isn't necessarily because I no longer have a boss -- unless you count the cats -- not exactly.

Nor is it only because it's our business and we, therefore, get to run it our way.

And this is certainly not to say that every other shop in the world is filled with fuckups while I am the one and only good instructor in existence. That's silly. There are a TON of excellent instructors all over the globe who will go above and beyond, placing their students' interests above their own financial gain.

The main reason I'm in such a position is our guests/students. That we seem to attract the sorts of people who want to learn to be better, rather than wanting to strut about flaunting all their c-cards.

I make abundantly clear, from day one, and revisited throughout the class that certifications are earned, not purchased. No, I am not the sort of instructor who is going to haze you and torment you and force you to do all sorts of ridiculous and unlikely-to-ever-manifest tasks simply to lord power over you. I don't insist on demonstration-quality performance the first, the third, or even the tenth time out of the gate. I favor understanding over obedience.

I go on to explain, however, our days together will be long and challenging; and that they will be grateful that their bed is at the end of the driveway and meals get delivered to their door. Hopefully each day will also end with some satisfaction at having risen to the challenge.

Each time we discuss this, on our first session together, I watch with my own gratitude and satisfaction that people are subtley nodding approval of this idea. That, once again, we've got guests who value the learning process and the new skills over the chip of plastic for their wallets.

So many people talk about/are critical of the quality of instructors in the dive world. That shops just barely reaching the goal-posts of doing the bare minimum, bending the standards to suit time and financial pressures, are what is bringing down the industry. And, to some extent, that is certainly true.

But I would propose that those shops are simply meeting a market demand as opposed to strictly defining it. That they are catering to what their clients want.

Ergo: it's just as accurate to say that it's the quality of students who create the damage.

One of the benefits of running a little place like ours is. Since we can only have a couple of people here at a time, we consistently wind up getting the good ones.

So my thanks to you all, students former and yet to come. For not putting me in the position of having to work like I once had to and letting me do my job my way now.

I hope I will keep deserving you.

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