Foxhole mentality

中国日报网 2014-11-25 14:00



Foxhole mentality

Reader question:

Please explain “foxhole mentality” in this sentence: “In my opinion Jimmy and Gregory have the foxhole mentality.”

My comments:

Here, the speaker likens Jimmy and Gregory to soldiers in battle and commends them for having the fighting spirit that’s needed for success.

Put another way, Jimmy and Gregory have the mindset of soldiers fighting in a foxhole. They trust each other and have each other’s back.

All you need do is understand what a foxhole is.

A foxhole is the hole in ground where a fox lives. During the First World War of 1914-18, the holes soldiers dug in the ground to fire shots and hide from enemy fire also became known as foxholes, and this is where we get the foxhole mentality from.

When soldiers get in the foxhole, therefore, they know what they’re doing, fighting a life and death battle with an enemy.

Hence, in business and sports, when people borrow that expression and say so-and-so has that foxhole mentality, it means this person takes the situation seriously and is willing to give their all, risking everything.

Well, risking everything is a bit far, perhaps. I get that from the fact that soldiers in a foxhole are risking their lives but in everyday life, people are not usually risking their lives while they go about their daily business. Therefore, don’t take it literally when I say they’re risking everything.

But anyways, you get the idea. People who take a foxhole approach to things are people who take things seriously. They tend to work hard and will never shirk or slack.

Or they mean business, as they say. And if you’re in the same foxhole with them, you know you’re in the same boat and will live and die together.

Again, in the business or sports world, it’s never life and death – but people like to treat it that way just to show that they’re serious or single-minded – to succeed.

People who have a foxhole mentality also are also alert, I may add as a fox is constantly aware of dangers lurking around. Soldiers in the foxhole, you see, hide themselves before they have a chance to fire their own shots.

All right, here are media examples of people who take that type of fox-in-a-hole attitude:

1. He smiled. He sort of laughed. Heck, I think he even made a joke. For him, Saturday's Orange and Blue game was Urban Meyer at his best. He used words like excited, pumped up and even looking forward.

Is this weird? Not really. But it's a little odd considering he quit a few months ago. I don't want to harp on the subject, but I don't think I should ignore it either. When he made that decision it felt like the Earth trembled. How is it possible that he righted the ship without patching any holes?

It’s simple really. He wins. So we forgive. But moving on, I thought it was interesting to here him address the subject on Saturday. We all know his “leave of absence” lasted about 12 minutes. There was a time, after all, when his very presence at this game was in doubt. So it's worth noting that it turned out to be a non story really. How quickly we all forget.

A few people did ask Meyer about this. Here’s what he said when asked about cutting back on stress.

“To say everything is going to be a smooth ride, it’s never smooth. You get close with you who’re close with and you can really trust them,” he said. “We call that a foxhole mentality and if you got that it's fine. Everything’s gonna be worked out.”

- Urban Meyer looks just fine these days,, April 10, 2010.

2. Overall, 41 percent of small business owners say that government regulations will be the biggest impediment to growing the gross domestic product in 2013. That number is up from 32 percent of small business owners who said so in 2012.

“The sentiment among business owners is that government regulations are putting a stranglehold on businesses,” said Jeff Stibel, chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., who conducted the research with the Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management. “We are nearing an economic recovery and the last thing businesses need is government headwind.”

Needless to say, those issues have caused small business owners to feel a bit pessimistic. Overall, just 45 percent of small business owners were confident about their growth prospects in 2013, but that number was down from 54 percent who were optimistic about growth in 2012. However, certain areas of the economy are bright spots for small business owners. Chief among them are the improving housing market and declining unemployment rate.

“Small business owners, who are optimistic by nature, are still taking a highly cautious view of the economy and their personal business prospects,” said John Paglia, associate professor of finance and founding director of the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project. “The ‘foxhole mentality’ among small business owners to dig in and stay low has the potential to slow the still - fragile recovery.”

The research was based on the responses of 2,713 small business owners.

- What Recovery? Small Biz Owners Pessimistic About the Future,, March 27, 2013.

3. Cavaliers coach David Blatt got right to business Saturday in his first NBA practice after two decades working overseas.

“I’m a basketball coach, and I do it with passion and with pleasure,” Blatt said. “This isn’t intimidating to me at all. It’s an honor to coach such a great group of players.”

It helped, of course, that four-time MVP LeBron James, All-Star power forward Kevin Love and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving were on the court as Cleveland opened training camp.

Instead of running a rebuilding project like most first-time NBA coaches, Blatt is leading a team with legitimate championship hopes.

“It beats the alternative of not having me, Kevin and Kyrie,” James pointed out. “It’s going to be tough no matter what, but Coach is very efficient and he’s going to see how we come together.”

James spoke to the team before practice, hoping to set the tone for the day and make the adjustment easier for the former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach.

James delivered a simple message, saying, “We’ve got to build our habits and character now, and we've always got to protect each other.”

Love also spoke to his new teammates on the eve of camp, stressing the need to keep all outside influences as far away as possible.

“I told them we’re in this thing together and we can’t let anybody else in our circle,” Love said. “It has to be a fox-hole mentality where we take care of one another at all times.”

- Cavaliers coach David Blatt gets right to business, AP, September 27, 2014.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


Learning it the hard way

Big hat, no cattle

Fighting chance

Kangaroo court

Keep them on side

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)

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