March 14, 2011

Temperance: moderation or self-restraint in action, statement, etc.; self-control.  Dictionary.com

Agnes' service.

I flew down from Sydney to Melbourne today to attend the service for my friend Agnes Milowka who died cave diving a few weeks ago.  She had been one of the up and coming stars of the sport.  She was very accomplished in a short time.  She was one of the more enthusiastic and driven divers I have known.  You can visit her site here.

Sunset at Agnes' service.

Agnes, or Ag as many of us knew her, I met in passing at some show or conference a few years ago.  It was two years ago at OZTek 2009 where I really got a chance to meet her.  We were both speaking, her about her latest cave diving adventures in Florida (I enjoyed that she would present on her diving in Florida or the Bahamas in Australia and on her diving in Australia in the US) and me on freediving and lessons from technical diving for recreational divers.  Neither of us had our presentations completed.  Not such a surprise for me as I tend to get these things together late.  I can speak on really anything, so it is easy for me to wait so I can decide what directions I want to go for the audience I have.  For Ag it seemed kind of the same.

We happened to be sitting next to each other in the speakers room that day.  Each of us wanting to make a dent in our slides.  We would get bored and begin to chat.  Any distraction is a good distraction when it comes to these things.  She had seemed a bit nervous when she sat down next to me.  Tough not to notice the energy from that girl and it was clear the nerves were related to her talk.  Me being me, I asked her what she was nervous about.  She wanted to get her talk just right for her adopted homeland audience.

When divers get together there are always stories.  It is pat of what makes diving so cool.  Generally, when divers are around cave divers the conversation relates heavily to what can possibly have us desire to do this or have you ever been scared and the like.  The conversation is different when both divers are cave divers.  There is an understanding of all that already.  So, in a strange way that mutual understanding leads to picking up conversations more immediately and generally go places with those conversation more rapidly than you would with others.

The day progressed, one of us would pop out to see a speaker or grab some food while still working away on our presentations.  Throughout the day we discussed many topics and how we dealt with many of the things faced while diving.  I will save the details of the conversation to myself.  But, I found she was a deeply driven and motivated woman with a strong desire to learn as much as she could at every chance she could.  She was good.  Perhaps almost too good.

Ironically, my last conversation with her was over lunch at another meeting last year.  She had told me about the cave she was working in Australia and what she had been finding there.  This would turn out to be the same cave she died in.  Also at this meeting, I spent a lot of time speaking with Wes Skiles.  He was a mentor to Ag.  Both are now dead.  Perhaps I need to check my karma.

I am not going to try to judge her actions on the day of her death nor do I really even have that right.  She knew what she was doing and was experienced.  I will defend the right of anyone to make almost any decision for themselves, especially if they are qualified and experienced to do so.  How her life ended is not what matters, the life that was lived is what is important and what should be remembered.

But, I am going to use her memory to drive home a very important aspect of Precision Diving.  That of temperance.  Temperance of time.  It is not for me to try to figure out if Ag went too far too fast.  She was driven and wanted to have an impact.  She did have impact on everyone she met or knew.  That was very clear from everyone at the service.  What her psychology was on that eventful day is only known to her.

Psychological aspects of Precision Diving are for a future post.

Trying to relate exploration diving to the average recreational diving is like trying to compare Formula One racing to a drive to your corner store.  The experiences and the risks are completely different and the necessary components to make either possible just cannot be related to each other.  But, it is not to say that we do not learn a lot from Formula One racing that helps car manufacturers make better cars for us to drive everyday.  So it goes for diving as well.

Wanting to get better or go a bit deeper or take the next course in recreational diving is not likely to end poorly as training and experience are great things.  Diving is a milage game.  You have to actually get out and do it to be better.  Improvement comes with time and respecting that time is critical to being a precision diver.  Temperance to know you need to walk before you run and get the dives in, in a progressive and thought out way is a corner stone of our efforts.  Milage matters.  We just want to make sure they are good miles.

The great thing about diving is you cannot hide form yourself in the water.  So, you learn to face your anxiety and fears as you go.  You also find your greatest passions and joys in the experiences along the way.

Temperance is also about respecting that you need to work on the mindset of a precision diver for it to become an automated thing.  When we train for diving in the beginning, we are spending a lot of time on skills, but we are also retraining the brain in new default responses.  If something were to happen while we dive, we stop, breathe, think and act.  This is in contrast to the engrained response most of us are born with when faced with a problem while underwater.  The engrained response is hold your breathe and fight for the surface.  That old response is replaced with a new one of not panicking and not bolting for the surface while we hold our breath.

It is very important that we respect that it takes time to achieve this change in our default responses.

Precision Diving has its origins in technical diving, but applies to all diving.  It is much easier to approach diving in the best way possible from the first opportunity than to wait only to have to fix bad habits.  It is a system that can be introduced at any level in diving because its foundations are universal and apply to all levels of diving.

I like to say that if you want it to become habitual, you must create a ritual.  Or create a ritual for it to become habitual.  This also takes time.  A habit, good or bad, is just a behavior we have repeated over and over again.  These patterns lead us to our habits or what we tend to do.  It also helps us become automated in our motor responses.  Like driving that car or like being able to use diving for other things.  Perhaps have a camera in your hands and still be able to dive with ideal performance.  Time and repeated experiences are what do this.

Precision Diving requires temperance and patience to make sure that the correct rituals and pattern are established early to ensure good performance.  The nice thing is, even if you have no agenda on the bottom, it is always more fun to be better.  It is why we say be better this dive than the last, better the next dive than this one.  Practice temperance while you dive and evolve as a diver.  Gain experience in measured steps and when you change something, work up those changes from the pool to the ocean and then and only then take them deeper or further.  The pool is your best friend and is the playground where we work up any significant changes to our diving or kit, not something that is only for new divers at all.

Execution is always more important than ambition.  In the end, we dive to have fun and it is more fun to be better and feel confident in our diving.  Precision Diving will take time to take hold in you and it could be a year or two before you “fully get it”.  But, you will if you stick with it and pretty quickly you will not need to actively think about all of it.  Respect that it takes time for us to reach unconscious competency and for new responses to become automated.  Temperance.

One Comment on “Temperance”

  1. Lorri Thanos says:

    Love the Precision factor in every aspect of life. I assume it’s a First Born and Capricorn Trait. The Assertive woman and sprinter in me traits in me finds temperance much more difficult to achieve. Thanks for the words of wisdom….

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