top of page

Pumpkin Eater

You ever hear of the Peter Principle?

The shortest possible version is thus: "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." (Please excuse the sexim... it was written in the 60s.)

The slightly longer form is that if someone is good at their job, they will eventually gain more responsibilities of a promotion. If they're good at that... more responsibilities and/or promotion. Eventually, however, they will hit a point where they suck at their job and they will no longer rise in the organization. They won't get DE-moted back to the skill set where they were solid; they'll just sit at whatever that highest point is, quietly sucking and, presumably, annoying the hell out of their coworkers with how much they suck.

I can say, with reasonable confidence, that you see examples of this in your workplace.

I do.

Not my immediate workplace where it's just me and Nelly. The dive industry in general. It seems to be made up, primarily, of a whole lot of really passionate amateurs.

Many folks are in it part-time, teaching on nights or weekends. Perhaps they thought it would be a good way to supplement income (it isn't) or that they could work on eventually doing it full-time (way harder than you think). But most of these folks are in it simply because they love the sport and the community and act to the very best of their ability as its champion whenever they can.

Many folks have never had "real jobs," having discovered diving early on and just stuck with it believing, through lack of exposure other than the stories of their clients, that diving is the whole world.

The likely majority of full-time pros had, like me, been out there in the "real world" and determined that it wasn't for them. The sorts of misfits, waifs, strays, and vagabonds that share a peculiar psychology where dropping out and literally submerging themselves in their passion was a perfectly rational way to spend one's life.

The trouble with the entire demographic of dive professionals, is that it isn't like carpentry or banking or even something as abstract as the fine arts. For all the truth that there has been a recreational dive industry for the better part of a century, it is still new. It's only a few generations old and still finding itself in so many ways. And each of the last few generations passing on their accumulated knowledge to the young bucks has been exactly what this generation are: a bunch of passionate amateurs.

Professional training varies from agency to agency, from sub-discipline to sub-discipline, and from area to area. There isn't much in the way of cohesion across the industry.

This person isn't talking to that person because of some photo they took in 1996. This group refuses to adopt the better practices of that that group because they don't want to be seen as copying. People who sometimes shouldn't even have qualified at a diver level are actually qualified to that level as an instructor trainer. Every emigree from a different field thinks that they can apply their previous (frequently irrelevant) professional training to the dive industry. Manufacturers are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel to desperately try to stay competitive in a, frankly, shrinking market. And not one person in the whole bloody world can figure out how to stop the market from shrinking.

Sometimes it's like watching a bunch of monkeys try to fuck a doorknob.

I suppose I bring this all up after seeing a bunch of fakakta Facebook product launches at DEMA, and after years of listening to instructors tell their students just outright wrong and daffy shite. Watching so many people locked into their own, unwavering ways that are neither progressive, constructive, or (on some occasions) ethical or even arguably legal. Watching people having been raised to their own level of incompetence.

I certainly don't presume nor claim to be the one sane man in the middle of thunderdome, the one man who has escaped incompetence. But, to paraphrase Jules Winfield, "I'm trying. I'm trying real hard."

Try with me.


Don't believe the hype. Just because someone is a divemaster doesn't necessarily mean they know everything there is to know about the sport. (A person can become a divemaster with 60 career dives, honestly, they shouldn't be allowed to consult on what color snorkel you should buy at that point.)

There are some amazing instructors/mentors out there and some terrible instructors/mentors out there. Try and navigate your way through the propaganda and bullshit to determine which is which. Work with several instructors/mentors and learn different ways of doing things so you can grow more comprehensively as a diver.


Don't believe your own hype. It's diving: we're not curing cancer, we're not feeding the hungry, we're not landing colonial crafts on Europa - we're floating around like somnolent manatees and looking at pretty shit.

And however good you think you are at it... there is someone better than you in some way. Go learn something from them; go remember what it's like to be a student again. Put yourself out there to continue growing, so you don't wind up pacing the same circles like Rilke's panther behind the bars of your own insecurities.


I dunno. Whatever. Stop building helmets that can blow your head up.

Recent Posts

See All


Some people know how to fly fighter jets. Some people know how to cure diseases. Some know how to maintain hydroelectric dams. Some know how to grow food or build houses or run organizations that deli

When Zero to Hero is OK

I've done what I've said I won't do. What I don't ever do. For the first time ever I've taught a Zero to Hero cave class. Someone non-overhead trained all the way through Full Cave. When people even a


bottom of page