Mermaids and the Depth of Professionalism

We recently took our daughter to see the Weeki Wachee mermaids, one of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions.  Our daughter watched in amazement as the curtains pulled back in the underwater theater to reveal three live mermaids.  The show was fun but I couldn’t watch the mermaids with childlike wonder.  I was amazed by the technical skills required to pull it all off.  Here were three real mermaids, real people dancing effortlessly holding only an air hose in their hand 16 feet underwater. No mask. No air tank.   True professionalism.

Four Years for Science to Become Art

I was once a dive master so when it comes to people underwater I focus on the science and the skill.  It’s incredible to think that scuba diving was created 75 years ago (1943)  and only four years later the mermaid shows began.

Watching the mermaids, I quickly noticed the level of buoyancy control they have.  Their ability to simply rise or sink within the water by varying the amount of air in their lungs is incredible.  If you’ve ever tried snorkeling in twenty feet of water, you’ve seen how difficult this can be.  Yet these women are able to perform acrobatic moves in a 30 minute show.

Even the breathing, something we take for granted, was amazing.  There was just an air hose and no regulator.  (For non-divers, a regulator is a device that automatically opens the airflow when you breathe in and closes afterwards.)  Most people can’t use air while diving without a full mask.  Something about the human body makes you want to breathe in from both your nose and your mouth at the same time.  The mermaids would take a breath from their air hose as part of the show.  They were even able to drink soda from a bottle underwater.  Just think of the physics involved.

Some People Make Difficult Things Look Too Easy

The thirty minute show was fun but the skill it took was amazing.  I doubt many of us in that 400-seat underwater theater recognized that skill.  This made me realize that many of us do that in our everyday careers.  As consultants our job is to make the difficult look easy.  But sometimes things go beyond difficult into the impossible realm.

For example, I was once asked to bring a document repository with over (number)…….  Documents under control in three days.  This was something we did regularly.  But in this particular situation there had been no controls in place and there was no documentation.  The system had over three hundred different document types, some containing only one document.  Testing was done in the production system so  some document types were of no value.  Yet we were expected to totally organize their repository in three days.  Skill wouldn’t organize that repository in three days.  It would take magic.  That’s the challenge of making things look  too easy.  Some people think the impossible is easy.

We forget, or don’t realize, how much skill it takes to make something easy.  This can be summarized by a quote from one of the mermaids.  When asked, “What skills do you need to be a mermaid?”  A mermaid responded, “I guess you need to be a good swimmer.”  A good swimmer?  More like a very skilled professional diver.

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