“YOU ARE SO LUCKY, How do I get a job like yours and do what you do?” That is something I am always asked. I get emails like that every week. I am always hesitant as to how I answer that, because the truth is, “I just don't know?” I am not really sure how I got here and do what I do for a living. The only thing I can say for sure is…LUCK, had nothing to do with it.
When I step back and look at what I do and what I get to do. I admit, it is pretty exciting and fun. But what people don't see is the years and countless hours put into it all to make it work. The emails I get all the time from people are asking to intern or work for me. I think its cool that they are asking, but most of them really don’t know what it is we do. Most are under the illusion that I spend all my time in and on the water.
They always ask to shadow me, so they can learn about shark behavior and more specifically, want to learn to feed sharks. Little do people realize that I spend about 75% of my time at a desk, behind a computer, writing, and editing, and marketing and returning emails. It goes on and on. Sometimes 10-12 hours a day…everyday.
When I think about it, why would anyone ever know that part? It’s not like I share that side of what we do. What ends up on our website and on social is the excitement of life as a professional Shark Diver. We are out there, playing with sharks, or swimming with orcas, or photographing polar bears. Thats what everyone sees. And that is what you are supposed to see. Not the boring shit with me sitting behind a computer for 12 hours straight, editing a video, or updating social stuff.
So how did I get here? Again, I am not really sure, it is kind of blurred into one great big adventure. I’ve never really had an official job title either. I guess if I had to think about it or write it down it would be; Professional Shark Diver / TV host / Photographer / Dive guide / Teacher / magazine editor / Story teller / marketing rep / toilet scrubber and mail boy. I wear a lot of hats here at SDM. and I love every part of what I do. Except the toilets, don't really like that crap (no pun intended).
We have been in business for 13 years and it took a very long time to get where we are today. There were so many nights I would lay there trying to figure out how to keep things going because we just were not making it. I would ask myself why am I doing this?, Why do I keep trying to publish this magazine?, How am I going to pay for this boat charter? But we did it... it worked. Somehow it worked. And quitting was never an option. Even though I questioned it, I could never quit, because I don't really know how.
That part stems from my bull riding days. When I was riding bulls, I wanted to be great, so I trained hard, like really hard. Because I had no natural talent and I was my own coach. I had to dig deep and gut it out. To be a great bull rider means you have to have your feet in the fire all the time.
A story I remember; I was at a practice buck out. I was riding a bull and was bucked off after a few seconds. I ended up landing face first in the dirt. Seconds later the bull stepped on the back of my neck, shoving my face deep into the dirt. Thankfully they had just plowed the arena, so it was softer than normal and when the bull stepped on me, the dirt acted kind of like an airbag. Only with bullshit mixed into it.
I got up and assessed the damage; my neck hurt like hell, red with some missing skin and my face was sore and completely covered in dirt. I had a little bit of blood in my nose, but nothing was broken. I was raging mad for bucking off the bull. I grabbed my rope, dusted some of the dirt off my face and threw my rope on the next bull in the shoot to try and ride again. Everyone was telling me to take a break and catch my breath. They wanted to make sure I was ok, but I didn't want to. I was fine, other than my spirit, because I had bucked off. I was more determined than ever and I wanted to take that negative energy and throw it into my ride. And that’s what I did and continue to do to this day. I take that negative energy from failure and throw it into everything I try to do.
That grit inside me is what drives me. It has kept me on this journey, and allowed me to live this life and do what I do. It took a lot of work to get here and I guess if I can do it, anyone can. Anyone can become…whatever it is that I am?
It does come with a price though; long hours, bad seas, freezing oceans, shitty travel days and a lot of missed family moments you will never get back.
The highs of course, are those magical moments that you will carry with you forever; magical sunsets, great new friends from around the world, beautiful landscapes and sharing time with some of nature’s most amazing animals, both big and small.
I’ll finish this rant with this; This life is amazing and worth everything you’re willing to put into it. If you want to work with sharks, then chase your dream and find a way to make them your life. But you have to be willing to put in the work and make all the sacrifices. You can’t give up when things get hard, because they will - you just need to find your own kind of grit.
Wishing you the best of luck…even though, luck has nothing to do with it.