Today’s guest Simon Sinek is an unshakable optimist who believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. A bestselling author, Simon has recently written a new book, The Infinite Game. Described as “a visionary thinker with a rare intellect,” Simon is also a speaker and business leader. On today’s show, he’ll be drawing on his experience teaching leaders and organizations how to inspire people to explain how learning to apply an infinite mindset will change our careers and lives.
In today’s conversation, we’ll explain the difference between a finite and infinite game, and how choosing an infinite mindset will change your working life. Simon will tell us about the journey that led him to write his bestselling books, explain why an infinite mindset will lead to better results in your career, and tell us about visionary thinkers who had an infinite mindset. We’ll leave you with some quick tips on how you can learn to apply an infinite mindset in your everyday life.
WHAT IS AN INFINITE GAME?
- Book mentioned: The Infinite Game
- Finite game: the players are known, the rules are fixed, and there is an agreed-upon objective: to win.
- Infinite game: the players are known and unknown players, the rules are changeable, and the objective is to perpetuate the game.
- We are players in infinite games whether we know it or not. There is no such thing as winning in our marriages, careers, or parenting, business, or life.
- People don’t know the game that they’re in. They talk about being number one or beating their competition. But what is this based on—what agreed-upon objectives, timeframes, and metrics are it based on when there is no finish line?
- When we play an infinite game (no finish line) with a finite mindset (play to win), there are consistent and predictable outcomes including the decline of trust, the decline of cooperation and decline of innovation. In time this can lead to the demise of relationships and businesses.
CHOOSING HOW TO PLAY
- As individuals, we don’t get to choose the game we are in or the rules. Things like education, business and life are infinite games, so mostly we are born into them as players.
- In some cases, we can choose whether we want to play or not e.g. whether to start a business or not.
- We can choose how we want to play: do we want to play with an infinite mindset or a finite mindset? The choices we make will determine the outcome and how we feel about the journey.
- If you have a 9-5 job, you can still play the game with an infinite mindset.
- The journey you have at work is vastly more fulfilling when you play with an infinite mindset.
- Consider: Are you going to work to get promoted faster than everybody else and be number one? Or are you going to work to contribute to something bigger than yourself, to be of value to the people to the left and right of you? Are you there to continuously improve and grow, and be better than you were yesterday?
- Books mentioned: Start With Why | Leaders Eat Last | Infinite Game
- Start With Why was about Simon’s loss of passion for his work, and how he found it again.
- Leaders Eat Last is about trust, how we form teams built on trust and what happens when we have trusting teams.
- Infinite Game is about what happens when you have a purpose, you have trusting teams, and you need to operate in the world.
- Simon talks about idealized work environments and an ideal world. He has been told by people in power that he doesn’t understand the business, that his theories won’t work in the real world.
- Many of us experience discomfort when we go to work because we think there has to be a better way to run the business—especially if the work environment is based on fear and intimidation. But we get told by people with more power, experience, and income than us that they know better, so we sit quietly and do what we are told.
- When Simon discovered the concept of infinite games, he realized that the uncomfortable feeling we have is because the people who tell us we are wrong to have been playing with a finite mindset.
- Being an idealist doesn’t make you crazy, it means that other people aren’t playing with the right mindset appropriate to the game they are in, to the detriment of their own organizations and enjoyment of their jobs.
HOW TO ADOPT AN INFINITE MINDSET
- Have a just cause
- Build trusting teams
- Studying your worthy rivals
- Have a capacity for existential flexibility
- Maintain the courage to lead
- Just start! You’re going to have to do them all eventually, so just pick one and start from there.
- The Dash poem is mentioned on our tombstones between the day we are born and the day we die—it’s what we do with the dash.
- You have to decide every day to have an infinite mindset, just as we have to make decisions about sleeping, eating, relationships and so on. It takes discipline and focus and hard work.
- Sports and war analogies get overused to try and motivate people in businesses and other spaces with no finish lines—we are told to “win”, but they are the wrong analogies that direct the wrong behaviors.
- You can have goals in the infinite game—there are finite games within the infinite game. It is the infinite game that provides the context for that finite game.
- For example: if you want to be healthy, you can have health goals and lose x pounds by x date. This will help you to feel like you are making progress.
- If you miss your goal, you haven’t failed. You are still healthier than when you started, and the goal was important to drive and motivate you. Even if you do hit the goal, you still have to work out for the rest of your life.
- You can’t run a marathon without mile distance—we still need to measure how fast we are going and how far we have moved towards our just cause and vision, and have to know we are going in the right direction.
- There are always finite games, but to what end is the question the infinite game will ask. An infinite mindset is something you can maintain every day, it’s not the absence of finite games, it’s the context within which those finite games exist.
- Over time, the results from an infinite mindset are better. There are so many finite strategies that can create short-term bumps, but it doesn’t last.
- The finite game is about achievement. The infinite game is about advancing something bigger than ourselves and advancing towards something.
- Metrics matter, but in an infinite mindset, we do things with the hope that others will take the torch and carry the idea on, and that we will inspire others to take on a cause bigger than themselves.
- Leader mentioned: Kip Tindell of The Container Store, Sam Walton of Walmart
- Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to advance a cause larger than himself, and his torch is still being carried on without him today. We haven’t fully achieved the dream, but we are closer than we were—keep moving the needle as best we can towards that vision.
- The visionary is the one that looks at the ocean and imagines what lies beneath the ocean: the iceberg. Then, they talk about it with clarity, as if it exists. This is why they get called visionaries: they can see things we can’t see.
- The visionary starts working, and a little bit of iceberg pops up. Someone else says “I can see it too” and start working on the same vision, then others join, and so on. Before you know it there’s enough iceberg for others to see it clearly.
- Walt Disney was another visionary thinker. His idealized vision of leaving our stress behind as we walked into Disneyland for escape is still living today, being updated and modernized as new innovations occur.
- Instead of hating them and trying to best them, start viewing other competitors in the game as rivals you can learn from, who are worthy of comparison.
- Try to avoid focusing on unhelpful metric comparisons e.g. getting more gigs than your rival.
- Their strengths reveal to us our weaknesses, so we can then work on our weaknesses and grow.
- Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us (@jimkwik and @simonsinek) and tell us your favorite aha! moment. We’ll repost some of our favorites!