Bringing Modern Day Philosophy to Military Human Factors Training

I’ve been using a lot of philosophy in our courses of late.

Before you doze off though, I’m not talking about Aristotle, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche or any of the others you can name from the Monty Python Philosophers’ song. That’s all a bit old hat so I am going for more modern day philosophers. Folks like Bruce Lee, Bruce Springsteen, Vince Lombardi and SpongeBob Squarepants.

Bruce Lee could kick ass like you read about, but underneath it all he was an extremely enlightened man. His “Tao of Jeet Kune Do,” is a manual of how to train yourself in his own unique Martial Art. Jeet Kune Do is an amalgamation of lots of other fighting styles that Bruce practiced and then manipulated to suit his own needs, using his mantra of “Absorb what is useful and discard what is irrelevant,” I think that is a great way to approach Human Factors and Safety training/advice. Take what works for you and ignore the rest of it – so long as it makes you better. The manual is also chock full of philosophical observations that we use in our courseware. For example, “A man who does not know he is walking in darkness will never seek the light.” This is about tolerance and helping people to come to a better place of understanding rather than just reprimanding them for being ignorant of their situation. Or how about, “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you will never get it done.” This perfectly describes the paralysis by analysis attitude we sometimes get into when making decisions – probably through fear of getting it wrong. Sooner or later we have to grasp the nettle and just get on with it.


Now that’s something Bruce Springsteen could have learnt while making Darkness on the Edge of Town. This was the follow up to Born to Run and almost ripped his band apart. Springsteen is such a perfectionist that he spent almost 2 years trying to put together and record the perfect album. Sometimes we set the bar way too high and can’t understand why others don’t have the same commitment as us. Whenever I train up and assess a new facilitator, the programme they go through can be pretty brutal as I strive to have the best facilitators on our books. They are all fantastic, but probably horribly scarred by the process!! (sorry guys, but as Vince Lombardi once said – “if you aim for perfection, you will achieve excellence” – and that is exactly what all of our facilitators do). Lombardi was the Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers. They were the first real American Football Dynasty and were all but unbeatable in their heyday. He was so good they named the Superbowl trophy after him. He was a true exponent of philosophy and well known for his inspirational leadership style.

Back to Bruce Springsteen though. The reason I like him and use his stuff is that he tells stories, and our courses are all about story telling. His songs perfectly showcase my unerring belief that real life is so much more evocative, joyous, frustrating and heartbreaking than anything you could ever make up. If you don’t believe me, just listen to “Jungleland” and work out the story there. Lines like “Man there’s an opera out on the turnpike; there’s a ballet being fought out in the alley,” sing out that the real world holds much more drama and beauty than any fictional story out there. So much so that “the poets down here don’t write nothing at all; they just stand back and let it all be.” All of us are writing poetry with our own lives is what he is saying there – that’s the Poet Laureate out of a job then. Most of Springsteen’s songs come directly from his own experiences and he sings what is in his heart, be it light or black. His honest commentary on life puts him right up there with the likes of Socrates and Confucious.


That’s enough of Bruce Springsteen for now. I know you have just scrolled down to see what on earth SpongeBob has to do with all of this. For those of you with children, you will sympathise with me when I tell you the sorry tale of how much SpongeBob Squarepants I have had to sit through at 0600 on a Saturday morning with my then 8-year old daughter. At first it was a mind blowing storm of gaudy colours, horrific music and oddball characters that didn’t seem to have any sort of direction or function. But then, slowly but surely that Absorbent and Yellow and Porous cartoon character and his dysfunctional friends started to mean something to me and the philosophical lessons leapt out of the screen and punched me in the face. Force yourself to watch it a few times and you will see accurate and meaningful comment on such things as Good versus Evil; Friendship; Public Service; Self-Sacrifice; Diversity; Openness and Honesty; and even Love. The final hook is that the theme tune is really catchy too!

So let me ask you this – where else are you going to get a bespoke focused training course that includes Philosophy, Martial Arts, Rock History, American Football and a loveable cartoon character other than with Inzpire???

Altogether now – “Ohhhhhhhhh! Who lives in a pineapple under the sea…?”

Image: Entertainment Weekly


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