Thursday, January 22, 2015

Maslow revisited

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael LombardiSome 15 years ago I was entrenched in studies to become a diving instructor when introduced to 'Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs' by the individual teaching my course. Having just been ever so briefly introduced to this theory, its implications didn't quite register. I did get the take home message of the day, which was that diving requires high performance, and we cannot perform to our highest potential if our basic human needs are challenged. Further to that, while diving, we are dependent on an artificial means to breathe, challenging the most fundamental human need right off the bat.

Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Conquer the compromise that artificial life support imposes and then further realize self-actualization, and we're really on to something...

We all face this in similar ways each and every day. Rather than grinding through the stress to just make the most of the situation, I've found that making a conscious effort to mitigate fundamental stressors over the long term has provided for a consistently elevated level of performance. As I've been able to take better care of myself, I've been able to better perform and be consistently more productive, and at what seems to be far higher cognitive and intellectual levels. All critically important as we maneuver to advance this life aquatic.

For instance, during some of the deeper dives I've done, I've made months worth of preparations - perhaps not entirely because the dives were that complex, but rather I had to prepare myself to perform with acute clarity and focus while my basic needs (breathing) are challenged, and at the same time psychologically accepting that I was almost 15 atmospheres away from home. Operating anywhere on the pyramid but the top would have been recipe for disaster.

So, who was this Maslow guy?

Maslow is best known for his proposed Hierarchy of Needs, suggesting that people are motivated to fulfill certain needs, which can be broken into five principle layers (per above pyramid).

The fundamental concept is that lower level basic needs must be met before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. Once these needs have been reasonably met, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization. Every person is capable and has the desire to move towards realizing self-actualization. Life experiences, both in short and long timescales can disrupt progress.

Maslow noted that one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized because our society rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs which are mid-way up the pyramid.

So why reach for the top?

I tend to believe that people have far greater capabilities than we live up to on a day to day basis. Being given the opportunity to realize these capabilities comes from both the desire to get there, and in many cases, perhaps some serendipitous alignment. In my opinion anyway, the most important piece is keeping in tune with the world as it turns - the path will reveal itself.

Well, enough of my motivational speaking for one night. What's all this have to do with human exploration? Well to sum it up - there are entirely new dimensions of space right here on Earth that we just don't yet have routine access to. To get there, we need to perform at our best, which means operating at an elevated capacity, and that means taking care of oneself, and perhaps most importantly - one another.

Time to get back at it.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"the poor have it easy"

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael Lombardi
I've had my nose to the ground for all of 2014, and no sooner do I look up to check my direction when 2015 makes its splash. Where did the year go?

As I reflect back on what my peers have suggested was an incredibly successful 2014, despite my being a bit hypercritical of 'progress', I think I've finally come to terms with how to make the most of this passage of time that we are reminded of this time of year...the bottom line - treat life as the journey that it is rather than get hung up on the rather small steps we take in meeting short term goals or ambitions.

So, what will 2015 bring? Well, I just don't know - but the journey is sure to continue.

Amidst what one may call a holiday season 'funk' (probably due to being somewhat stuck indoors given the cold), I've taken a short break from creative writing here on 'a New Life' to rethink and re-purpose. As I've pondered here a very many times, it all comes back to the quest to better understand 'why are we here?'. Ahh, what's it all mean, and why bother?

That revolving thought brought me to pause after reading a recent CNN article that discusses the bit of a rift that we have arrived at between the wealthy and the poor, with the punchline being "the poor have it easy" in referring to their dependence on government subsidy to get by. As easy as it is to criticize from my middle class ring side seat, the rift, as I see it, is due almost exclusively to a very westernized philosophy of 'more is better'. The land of the free, home of the brave, and closet full of toys (for both the big one and wee ones). Somewhere along the way our society decided that more was better, as if it is some sort of game to attain wealth, belongings, and some perception of power that comes with that.

In reality, short of completely reworking our monetary system to level the playing field, what needs to be recognized is that its not power that comes with 'more'; it is responsibility.

Do I believe in hand-outs? No, not necessarily. But I do believe in making the world turn, ideally in a positive direction, which means change, and making progress. Progress towards what? Well, therein lies the big question yet again, why are we here?

To me, progress can only be made by closing up the rift. Those with the 'power' to make progress also very much have the responsibility to make progress. That doesn't mean hand-outs and giving it all away, but it does mean making socially responsible investments.

Enter the era of social enterprise.

As I've accepted the journey moreso than some grandiose end-game, I've found a very humble place here in the middle of the road. I am by no means wealthy, but do well enough to provide for my family, and plan for the future. Ever since my time living in the islands, I've embraced a degree of minimalism, which means every sliver of 'excess' makes me cringe...it has also lead me down a road of philanthropy, where I find much more enjoyment out of doing something constructive with both my time and money that helps make progress (not necessarily generate individual wealth).

I was once asked by what I would do with a million dollars (by someone with the ability to write the check if so desired). In the journey that I'm on, I could do a little with a little, or a lot with a lot. My answer today - I'd reinvest it all in a socially responsible manner, help close that rift in at least my little corner of the world, and make progress. Ideally that would inspire others to do the same, as that is exactly what it will take to realize a peaceful, non-violent, and more utopian world to live in.

After all, what else do we really have to work for?

To all, I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year, and remember that the journey we're all on is the gift that keeps us ever evolving, and making waves for 'a new life in the sea'.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Now here's some news...

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael LombardiThis excites me and gives me hope for a future life aquatic - Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain just recently surfaced from a record-breaking 73 day stay underwater at Jules Undersea Lodge in the Florida Keys. The mission marked an ambitious effort to reach out, engage, and educate, all from an alien world that rests literally in our backyard. More on the project can be found here: https://www.roanestate.edu/classroomunderthesea/project.asp.

Interestingly, the project comes on the heels of Fabien Cousteau's recent Mission 31, a 31 day stay at the Aquarius Reef Base Habitat, also in the Florida Keys. The Cousteau project was lined with controversy within the professional community given claims to 'records' and the underlying motives and value in the project. Nevertheless, the effort did shed some new light on underwater living.

I've been partial to Bruce and Jessica's effort, coming in at a fraction of the cost of Mission 31, carried out in a very grassroots manner, and stands to substantiate that we all have the capacity to make a splash in ocean science and exploration in our own and very important ways. Congrats again Jessica and Bruce!


Are we at the cusp of another push in undersea habitation? Well, perhaps not necessarily. There are still numerous outstanding issues in saturation diving, not the least of which is human physiology and related health, both long and short term. There also remain questions of the of remaining at one single study site for any length of time, when today's scientist often wants to be mobile and versatile, responding quickly to new geographical interests. By contrast to permanent habitat are mobile sat systems used more typically in deep commercial diving. Both technologies come at an expense that is not sustainable for the masses.

There are indeed alternatives - we'll just have to keep fighting the uphill battle :)

In the meantime, 74 days anyone?

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