In today’s world there are many different types of mindsets people use to get through everyday life. Some call it a lifestyle or a mantra while others might call it philosophy or guiding principles, but each person lives by their own code. Sometimes they are culturally based and other times they are due to traumas we have dealt with in our lives. Even as an individual grows, enters the workforce, and maybe even works for people they loathe, those people’s style may leave a lasting impression of how not to handle your own career. This article will be my attempt to share with you some of my personal mindset.
In the military, it seems like everyone gets a nickname – eventually. It’s usually something you earn when you’re not at your finest. In some cases, it’s the time you royally messed up (“Skidmark” and “Crash” come to mind) or when some very conventional and very senior NCO loses their mind at you in front of a crowd. These nicknames serve as an extension of your reputation and travel with you no matter where you move in the community. You can try to shake one, but when someone from your old unit crosses paths and finds out you did it, it will come back with a vengeance.
Sometimes these nicknames reflect your demeanor, and while sounding cool, they’re actually a lesson in humility. Someone with the nickname “Bull” or “Shark” is probably not quite the predator badass they are puffing up to be. Don’t get me wrong, some guys are straight smooth and get a cool one for a reason, but the majority are lessons to be learned. A guy named “Bull”, for instance, may rush head long into situations with little regard for the safety of themselves which puts everyone in danger. “Shark,” may always be trying to take a bite out of others to prove to themselves how badass they are.
As we age, we tend to mellow. Our life lessons and training scars come into better view with our own eyes. We may see those mistakes that were invisible to us before now as clearly as a bright neon sign in a dark bar. I for one was a horrible conventional soldier. Pair that with poor leadership and you have a recipe for disaster. Luckily, sometimes people understand you better than you know yourself and can give you guidance when you need it most. Sometimes you don’t see it until you mellow with age, and have subordinates of your very own.
I like to encourage people to use more of a fox mindset rather than a bull or a shark. Why attack anything head on when you can take on superior numbers with coordinated and well thought out attacks? Special Operations is effective because rather than lining up one-to-one against a foe, they recruit indigenous personnel to be trained and fight for themselves. Sometimes they engage in acts of sabotage and deception to weaken an opponent before engaging in battle. It only stands to reason a person who sends in twelve people to turn over a country in conventional warfare would be a fool. To engage in head on battle this way would only mean certain death of your team and your mission. This would be a bulls way of fighting a war and the cost would be high.
Now enter the fox. The fox analyzes the information and uses many of the same principles Sun Tzu espoused in his ancient writings. Sun Tzu wrote about the value of using intelligence to shape a battle. As time has gone on, wars have been fought with mixed results by students of his teachings, but there is a lot to be learned from it. Each person takes what they value most and applies it to their own personal battles. Within those personal battles, we each come away with wounds, scars, and victories.
My personal battles have instilled a desire to learn how to make a battle count for my team, while costing the enemy every bit I can. You must take yourself outside the conventional thinking pattern to achieve victory. The fox doesn’t attack head on, nor does it go straight for its prey. The idea is being able to utilize the enemy’s weakness to make your own path to victory. Why assault the hen-house when you can wait till the farmer leaves to make your way in? Go in while its dark and take your prey before anyone realizes you were even there. Focus on outthinking your opposition or problem in all things – business, war, and even your personal life.
Find what motivates those you seek to influence. Learn their patterns. In time, you’ll understand how to react. In all things, act yourself, “How I can think like a fox?” Remove yourself from the confined thinking of the mundane, seek to eliminate your instinctual responses, and remove your ego from the equation. Be the unseen in the battle that drives the victory without seeking to bask in the spotlight. As you work on your own thinking, the path to understanding will always become more clear.
One thing you will see as you progress toward thinking more like a fox is something I’m still exploring now. It seems that foxes attract other foxes. As you expand your thinking, you will have others that help expand it even further. The important thing is to surround yourself with those you wish to be like, rather than those who are not. If you are constantly motivated to do better and strive to be more, you will grow more than you can realize.