What The DrownProofing Test Teaches Our Naval Divers

My friend, Samy Rajoo, shared this post on Facebook and I found it so good that I just had to share it with you. Here’s the original post uploaded by Liow Zhong Fa:


“One of the skills acquired during my NS stint as a Naval Diver is this – drown proofing. It is a test still practised by the US navy seals whereby we are thrown into 3m deep water with our hands bound behind our back and legs tied at the ankle. With that, we are to take a breath, release it completely such that we would sink to the bottom of the pool, and then kick ourselves up to the surface to catch another breath – and then repeat it for about 10 times.

Following which, we are to use our lungs as “floats” and trap water for about the same number of breaths, following which, we would have to swim a distance “dolphin style” – and yes, with hands and legs still bound.

Last but not least, we have to sink to the bottom of the pool after the swim, perform a front somersault underwater followed by another back somersault, pick up a dive mask from the bottom of the pool with our teeth and bring it back to the surface.

Upon completion, that’s when we are considered to have passed the test.

Bringing it into context with real life, I think some important lessons I have picked up through this training:

1. Reacting vs responding – When we are caught up in an unfavourable situation, our first instinct is always to react. Singaporeans just love to complain over the most minute thing – just look at FB, Instagram and Twitter.
Always choose to respond – ask yourself how you can tackle the problem, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. More often than not, when we react, we think the worst of others – which reflects a lot about ourselves.

2. Stop, think, breathe – One of the things that caused divers to fail the drown proofing test is that we tense up. When you are tensed, you tend to sink.
That’s the fact of life too.
Always stop, think and take a breather. Being tensed will not diffuse an already tensed situation.

3. You have it within you to resolve an issue – This drown proofing test taught us to use our lungs to help keep us afloat, without the use of flotation devices.
Some of us think that we don’t have it within us to resolve certain issues. More often than not, there’s always a silver lining – and our perspective matters. When we are too single minded towards a certain bias, we take on a passive posture of “Nah, nothing I do will matter”.
That’s not true – how we deal with failure matters!

4. Which brings me to my last point – For most of us, we usually take more than 2 tries before we could pass the test.
Failure doesn’t define us. Identifying what went wrong and then trying again can be a fearful thing – but the important thing is to keep trying. Making improvement is as important, if not, more important than succeeding – for some of us stop trying to improve once we have succeeded.

That said, after having passed the test, the water confidence we have has rocketed a few notches. And I’m sure in life, that’s the case too – we become more resilient.

So the next time when something unfavourable happens or you are at the end of some criticism or you are shrouded with negativity –

Stop. Think. Breathe
Respond, instead of react”