- The diver who helped lead the 2018 Thailand cave rescue spoke to Insider about life since the rescue.
- John Volanthen just launched an online leadership course and is also the subject of Ron Howard’s new film, “Thirteen Lives.”
- Volanthen reflected on hard-won lessons and discussed details of his most famous dive.
It’s been a busy summer for John Volanthen.
The British cave diver who co-led the rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach out of the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave in July 2018, marked the four-year anniversary of the triumphant recovery last month.
Volanthen then had the singular experience of watching himself complete that mission once again, this time on the big screen, portrayed by Hollywood actor Colin Farrell in Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives,” a dramatic, yet accurate depiction, according to Volanthen, of the daring rescue mission that ultimately saved the lives of every person trapped in the cave.
To top it all off, Volanthen this week debuted a free, online course he created in partnership with EdApp by Safety Culture, a mobile training platform. The Leading Under Pressure course collects the most valuable lessons Volanthen has learned in his years of high-pressure underwater cave diving and aims to make them accessible and applicable for a wider audience.
In an interview with Insider this week, Volanthen reflected on the hard-won lessons he’s learned and discussed some of the details of his most famous dive.
Sharing his wisdom
In the aftermath of the Tham Luang cave rescue, Volanthen said he started reflecting on the knowledge he’s acquired throughout years of high-stakes cave diving and realized those lessons could easily be applied to other workplaces, as well as people’s daily lives.
The online course aims to help users build their leadership skills with lessons covering risk versus reward, high-pressure situations, and the importance of teamwork — all through the lens of Volanthen’s unique perspective and guided by his vivid imagery and teachings.
Throughout the course, Volanthen introduces and expands upon his self-created concepts, such as “the quiet voice” — an internal guide akin to gut instinct that can prove helpful in stressful situations; and the “library of plans” — a cache of previous lessons learned that can be relied upon in tense moments.
“Hopefully, it will give some people some inspiration or maybe just it will give them an insight into partly what they’re capable of,” Volanthen said.
Seeing himself on screen
Volanthen last month also made his cinematic debut, albeit played by someone else.
Due to COVID restrictions during the making of “Thirteen Lives,” Volanthen said he wasn’t able to travel to Australia where the production was filmed. But as one of the key subjects of the film, he was still able to influence the final product.
Volanthen told Insider that he spent a good deal of time working with both the scriptwriters and the sound department, to what he believes were effective returns.
“The underwater storytelling is absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “There’s certainly a sense of drama underwater, which is not an easy thing to achieve.”
But the most bizarre aspect of the filmmaking experience, he said, was undoubtedly watching an actor embody him on screen. Volanthen and Farrell met over Zoom several times, where the former attempted to teach the latter how to become him.
“It’s quite strange trying to teach someone to be you,” Volanthen said. “It’s not something I had ever expected to have to do, but what I found having seen the film is that a lot of the mannerisms he’s picked up are not the ones that I was perhaps expecting or trying to teach him.”
Volanthen credited Farrell with being very thorough and quipped that people in his personal life have told him the actor “does me better than I do.”
The film will be available on Amazon Prime streaming starting Friday.