Part III “Huge difference between knowledge and understanding.”- Chatterton

Life Principles and the Deep Sea: A Written Series based on interviews with Elite Diver John Chatterton 

 A series by Phylinda Moore

Notice: This interview series contains strong language.

Part III “Huge difference between knowledge and understanding.”- Chatterton 

People who study decision making say good decisions are a function of three things: 1. Training

  1. Rules (based on your training, establish some rules for circumstances. but not a lot of rules.)
  2. Rehearsal 

John says, “It isn’t rocket science. That’s the way to make good decisions.” 

In all cases it is crucial to know how to apply knowledge to understanding. “Consistently.” says John. “Observe, collect data, process that data in our mind, then we make a decision.”Again, the lessons come back to the fact that this is up to you, your training, your preparedness and your psychology. 

John says, “modern solutions to dive problems are to be welcomed on the condition that they don’t distract you from the white, hot core of something that you can never learn enough in the water: you must be more self aware, learn to modify your behavior, move differently with less effort and more control. This is what you have to do. You cannot rely on external solutions.”

“Once I found myself in a situation where I thought I was out of gas in 270 ft depth of water. My isolation valve was closed, but I did not realize it. The problem was perception as opposed to a real problem.”

“Breathing helium will not make you smarter than you are. You’re not going to have time to unfuck anything” during the short deco stops. “You may need to focus.” but don’t focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything else. Ask yourself, am I making the dive so safe it’s hurting me?” One guy almost died because his depth gauge was stuck at 385ft. but he didn’t check his other depth gauge or look around him for the dive team all of whom stopped at 400 ft. He was “so focused on the goal to the exclusion of everything else.” Look for the “Big picture fix.”

The lessons are peppered with warning stories of people that experienced a fixable problem under stress yet didn’t “unfuck themselves.” Instead, they thought the situation was is a red flashing emergency of a problem; panicked, made the wrong decision and ended up dying a horrible death either in the deeps or on the surface. He emphasizes that the majority of these deaths happen because people are “making bad decisions at a position of weakness.”

“We have good luck and bad luck. It just exists. It is. We don’t rely on good luck. We prepare for bad luck.” “If your main buoyancy method fails, your alternative buoyancy method is important.” So when you encounter a problem. “Stop. Think. Respond.” and look for the “big picture fix.”

When faced with these contingencies, and there are always contingencies, you must assess, “it is an event but is it an emergency? How do we respond to events like that that are not life threatening? How do we prepare? We stay in a “calm, secure, and in a position of strength. Anything will be better than responding from a position of stress. We need to be capable of self adjustments not just from dive to dive but during the dive itself. We can’t be so rigid that we can’t make some adjustments.”

“What works, works.” Bill Hamilton. calls this one “brilliant” and “ultimate pragmatism.” 

“Let’s get to an answer. Let’s find an answer.”

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