The Power of (Not) Yet

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Imagine you’re watching Extreme Dive Shop Makeover, a reality TV series in which a top dive retailer visits a faltering dive center and lashes the owner with harsh words. The goal is to save the foundering business with tough love, and in this episode the expert’s words cut deep.

“Your regulators need servicing!” screams the expert. “Is that what a professional dive center has? Regs so stiff your eardrums collapse when you inhale?”

“No,” the owner whimpers.

“And the restroom? That’s why I needed a regulator! When did someone clean it last? Has it ever been cleaned? Is that what you expect in a professional dive center?”


“Over here. What am I looking at?  Is this your class schedule for last year that you still have up? Are you kidding me? Does this look professional to you?”


“This is not even close to being a professional dive center. . .”

The owner looks down, defeated. Saving the business is beyond hope. Until, after an emphatic pause, the expert adds the word that changes dejection into potential, and failure into possibility.

“. . . yet!

The power of yet is just one example of how teaching concepts, cognitive theories, litigation issues and other trends inside and outside of diving make it important to continuously refine the PADI® System for the benefit of instructors, certified assistants and future divers everywhere.

Powerful Instruction

Researched by Carol Dweck, PhD, at Stanford University in California, USA, and popularized by a growing number of educators and authors such as Donna Pisani (The Power of Not Yet: Living a Life of Endless Possibilities), the not yet concept is simple but surprisingly potent. Dweck’s research found that telling students “they have not learned something yet” positions mistakes not as failures, but as part of an ongoing process. This often results in a mindset that encourages perseverance by helping students see themselves as growing; they have not reached their goals yet.

Learning struggles become steppingstones instead of obstacles. Compare “You don’t have dive planning with your computer down yet, so let’s practice some more,” to “You need to work on dive planning because you’re not very good at using your computer,” and the mindset difference is obvious.

Although Dweck’s work was conducted primarily with young people, education is increasingly embracing the “not yet” approach because anecdotally it works broadly. And, while Dweck and others acknowledge that some learners don’t respond to “not yet,” using it doesn’t hurt learning. Instructors are finding it works as well with adults struggling with mask clearing as with adolescents scratching their heads over square roots. Check out Dweck’s TED talks on YouTube.


A version of this article, written by Karl Shreeves and John Kinsella, originally appeared in the 4th Quarter 2018 edition of The Undersea Journal®.

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