Reading List 2020 (February) — The Infinite Game
1. What is The Infinite Game?
In February, I read The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. The book is an reintroduction, revitalization, and application of James P. Carse’s book, Finite and Infinite Games. Particularly, The Infinite Game seeks to break traditional beliefs of “winning” and “losing” in a “finite” game and implores us all to adopt an “infinite” mindset. Put another way, he defines a “finite” game as one where we know all the players, the rules are fixed, and the endpoint is clear, e.g., any sporting event. Football, for example, has two teams, a rule book everyone agrees to abide by, fixed ways to score, fixed duration, and a clear sense of who the winner is.
On the other hand, an “infinite” game is defined as having known and unknown players, no set or agreed-upon rules everyone follows, no defined endpoint, and, most importantly, no agreed-upon winners or way to win for that matter. Instead of a finite game, players of an infinite game can never “win”. Instead, they seek to stay in the game as long as possible before they lose the will or resources to continue. Once willpower or resources are gone, that player simply drops out. But, the game doesn’t end — it continues in perpetuity, with new players.
Business and life is an infinite game. So, The Infinite Game seeks to tell you to switch your mindset to an “infinite” mindset. If so, you will be happier, build lasting success, and be a positive impact on your community. After all, you are no longer trying to make it to a finish line. Instead, you are trying to have something worth continuing beyond you — something to hand down to the next generation. And, hopefully, the next generation will have the resources and willpower to keep playing.
2. Why did I read this book?
First, Simon Sinek is one of my favorite authors. He is an idealist and an optimist. In fact, he markets himself as “an unshakable optimist who believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together.” He proposes ideas that seem common sense. But, reading his books, listening to his anecdotes, and viewing the world through his lens, you realize that we, as humans, are missing a way to connect with one another. We are stuck in a rat race based on “winners” and “losers” and “team ideologue”. We choose to be unhappy in our work instead of finding work that fulfills us. We focus only on the short term instead of building for tomorrow. In short, we live life with myopic vision of ourselves and our future. We establish artificial markers to indicate our “success” — house, car, boat, etc. — instead of focusing truly on what is important: are we living a life of steady joy? Or, put another way, are we so addicted to being “happy” that we have confused “happiness” with a joyful, fulfilling life?
I read The Infinite Game because I want a different perspective. I want to be the same internal optimist that enjoys the sunshine instead of complaining of the heat, to “enjoy the mow” instead of complaining about the work, to read a book without looking at page length. Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is simply a chemical response your body rewards you to ensure your survival. At its most rudimentary, “happiness” is simply your body’s way of saying “food good” or “clothes good” or “new shiny object good”. It has to be constantly fed (and fed more frequently) to keep that “high” going. Happiness, in the end, equates to selfishness. On the other hand, joy is everlasting.
3. Themes I gleaned from this book.
The main theme to take away is do not limit yourself to a finite mindset. Avoid comparing short term successes. We are not all running the same race. Remember, the rules are different and ever changing. It is hard to play Poker with a deck of Uno cards. So, quit playing Poker. Play your game. Moderate your resources. Maintain your Will. Remember, its not about “beating” your opponent. You will never “win”. Instead, you simply have to “outlast” your opponent. You do this by playing to your strengths. You do this by remembering that life is long. Don’t destroy tomorrow for today.
4. My next reading adventure?
Resources and will. Those two words stuck with me. I was reminded about the Western expansion of the United States. Particularly, the Plains Indian Wars. The Plains Tribes outlasted several competitors during their centuries-long stranglehold on the Great Plains. In fact, few periods of history can fully illustrate the “infinite” mindset. After all, most tribes of the Great Plains succumbed not through military might but the lack of resources and will to continue the fight. So, maybe a book about the Indian Wars in the Southern Plains or the Southwest will suffice.