Philosophy Development – Don’t Bring a Knife to a Missile Fight

Let me ask you a question…what’s the better weapon, a knife or a missile?

In the world of consulting, coaching, teaching, and training the answer is – “it depends.” 

The choice between the two weapons is a matter of reference point.  Fighting at 3 feet is better suited for the knife, a fight at 3 miles tends to be better served by the missile.

I ask this question because I believe it to be worthwhile when we consider the philosophy or philosophies that we subscribe to and also when we undergo the process of examining the philosophical practices of others.

The development of an operating philosophy is vital to consistency in results, managing yourself, and influencing others.

Where philosophies go wrong is in adherence to using knives in place of missiles and missiles in place of knives.  The former principle leads to lackluster results whereas the latter often causes great destruction.

In short the takeaway that I’m attempting to illustrate here is this:

  1. When all you have is a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail.  Are you treating all situations with the same remedy?


  1. Has your current philosophy provided you with a “fixed mindset?” Have you become hardened to the idea of opposing ideas and how the underpinning principles of those ideas might be adapted to your current philosophy?  As part of my own general philosophy toward just about anything, I like to quote Bruce Lee, “ Absorb what is useful, reject was is useless and add what is specifically your own.”   The makeup of my bookshelf reflects this concept as on the surface it would appear that there are 6-7 different people that contribute to my library, there is not.


bruce lee


  1. When viewing another’s philosophy I feel it is important to remember the knife and the missile     Philosophies are developed from perspective/reference points, experiences, and study.  It is nearly impossible to see a situation the same way as another simply due to our interpretation of the “facts” being skewed due to our history, our own personality types, and our ultimate end objectives.  You can’t say “that’s wrong” unless you have the same exact experiences and intentions, anything less and you are attempting to “fight” from a different reference point.   As the saying goes, “seek first to understand AND then be understood.” 


  1. A note toward developing a philosophy – Consider the average. Let me see if I can put this into perspective and then tie it all together.  What an elite level athlete needs to provide adequate training has little to do with how you or I should workout.  Finding and/or developing a philosophy that is suited for these types of individuals is likely to provide little in return of results and is very likely to result in injury.  Going a step further, advanced training principles that increase performance in  Olympic weightlifters will yield little for elite level ballet dancers.

What this means for you is, focusing on training and developing practices that                    are suited to the majority and not the “few” will grant far greater results.


  1. Lastly, a tool is not a philosophy. “We are a Myers-Briggs organization.”  Or  “We are a financial peace university home.”  Or  “I am a Kettlebell trainer.”

         These are not philosophies, these are tools.  Personality assessments, financial                    programs, or even exercise equipment are not things you do, they are things that                you buy.  You can’t build an entire training or developmental protocol, or even a                way of living around a tool or equipment.  You can only build those elements                      around the human component.


In closing I’ll leave you with the words of the great philosopher Plato, “Philosophy begins in wonder.”


Sean Z. Callahan


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