I can’t breathe….

Sometimes you don’t have to try it out first. You just know.


And that doesn’t mean you don’t get scared.

It can be terrifying and yet you know it’s right.

It was like that about 25 years ago when I signed up for a Scuba Diving Course. I knew I’d love it, that I’d feel at home under the water, sure I could swim before I could walk. And I was right.

I loved the weightless feeling like you’re flying or in space. I loved the quiet of the sound of breathing, like a Darth Vader meditation with a great view. I loved the fish and the coral, the rocks and the reefs. I loved it all, and it was the start of many, many adventures over the next few years.

A few days ago, I got back under the water. It had been my first dive in a long time and I was excited and a little scared.

As part of the the ‘refresh’ dive, we had to do exercises. We went down a few meters under the water and started by losing and retrieving our regulators (the piece you breathe through). So far so good.

Then we had to fill our masks with water and clear them. Also, fine. We did some ‘buddy breathing’, sharing our regulators in case you get into trouble and run out of air.

And then we had to take off our masks, keep them off for a few seconds and put them on again.

I went first. Something in the movement when I flicked the mask off pushed water up my nose. Of course, I’m a few meters under the water and can’t see a thing. Our instinct is to breathe through our nose, I knew I couldn’t do that and I realized that I had stopped breathing entirely.

That’s when the most dangerous thing a diver can experience happened. I began to panic.

I guess if I had been 10 or 15 meters under the water (instead of 2 meters), I might have acted differently, I’d like to think so.

I wanted to go up, I needed to breathe air on the surface. I felt sick. I made the sign that I was NOT okay, and wanted to go up. The dive instructor signed me, are you okay? what’s wrong? I just kept saying, no, I need to go up. He gave me the sign and we surfaced.
Some incredibly important things had happened in those precious moments and they are moments that are equally relevant to business success.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Sometimes you just know that what you are doing is right, actually more than right, it’s perfect, it’s what you were put here on this earth to do. You can’t run from that no matter how you try – so embrace it!
  2. It’s going to be scary – that’s fine – do it anyway.
  3. One day, what you think you know and have done a million times before, presents a big challenge. Don’t worry everyone stumbles, even over the things we think we’ve got sorted already.
  4. DON’T PANIC – keep your head, think it through, don’t do anything rash – panic can really hurt you.
  5. Ask for help. Admit you’re not okay.
  6. Breathe deeply.
  7. Try again.

Yes, after I’d taken a few breathes, cleared my nose and the nausea passed, we continued the dive. And it was gorgeous.

And as I surfaced through a school of a million little silver fish with huge eyes swimming in perfect harmony, I was calm and at peace.

Later, drinking a cup of tea and reflecting, I realized that this has happened to me so many times in my business – often I end up panicking. And it causes me harm.

Next time I stumble, as I know I will, I’m going to try to remember my ‘refresh’ dive – I hope you will too.

What do you do when you stumble?

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