Fighter Pilot Ideals in Business Settings: The Origin of Afterburner


The year is 1996. It’s a time of transition. The internet is becoming commonplace, and will soon revolutionize the way people live and work. It’s the relative calm before the storm of economic turbulence, which will arrive in several waves over the coming decade-plus.

Amid all this change, Jim Murphy – call sign “Murph” – is undergoing a transition of his own. Recent years have seen him build a successful career in the private sector before joining the military and achieving the rare honor of becoming an elite fighter pilot. Now, Murph is ready to take on a project that will represent the culmination of the long arc of his career.

1996 is the year Murph founded Afterburner. Since then, millions of professionals on teams at all kinds of businesses have leveraged Afterburner’s seminars, keynotes, workshops, and other events to strengthen their team bonds and execute on their goals with military precision. The story of how we got here is a story of elite performance, passion, and the ideals that inspire execution everywhere, from the Air Force to the office.

From farm boy to fighter pilot

The story of Afterburner begins in rural Kentucky, on the family farm where Murph grew up. After college, Murph worked in sales, swiftly working his way up to a leadership position. That’s when he met an Air Force general, and felt a higher calling to serve his country. He joined the Air Force and, after completing a rigorous and highly competitive training program, made it behind the controls of a fighter jet in an elite squadron.

In the Air Force, Murph experienced firsthand how military training programs inspire teams with a set of ideals that empower them to execute at an elite level: accountability, teamwork, dedication, and focus. Fighter pilots routinely fly at the speed of sound, in tight formations, with just inches between jets – and that’s not possible unless each pilot is bought into the mission, takes pride in their contributions, and sees their own individual success and the team’s success as one and the same.

An epiphany takes hold, and Afterburner is born

That’s when Murph had an epiphany that changed the course of his life: The same ideals that make it possible for fighter pilots to fly in tight formations and succeed in their missions have applications in myriad settings – not just the military. What if business leaders built their teams around accountability, teamwork, dedication, and focus as well?

Inspired by this idea, Murph founded Afterburner on one core principle:

What makes the ideals of elite squadrons special is that they’re universal. Teams of all kinds can perform at a higher level by tapping into them.
Today, Afterburner trains teams across the business world in the fighter pilot ideals, empowering them to execute at the same level that elite military teams achieve in high-stakes missions every day. This is how Murph passes these ideals to leaders across the globe. This is how Murph gives back.

In just a short time, Murph went from farm boy to fighter pilot. The lesson: If he can achieve a transformation like that, then any team can reach the elite level they aspire to.