Finite and Infinite Games
About a month ago, I finished reading Simon Sinek’s new book, Infinite Game. Just two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear Sinek give the keynote presentation on this same topic at a conference in Orlando. Following his keynote, I attended a private Q and A (a wonderful gift from the Discover Strength team) in which we went deeper on the principles. The next morning, as I was leaving the hotel fitness center after a run, I serendipitously bumped into Sinek in the corridors of the hotel and we had a chance to discuss further (I’m pretty convinced he thinks I’m stalking him).
Sinek’s thesis is compelling. In a nutshell, he suggests there are finite and infinite games.
Finite games: Have known players; we know the rules; we know how to keep score; there is a winner and a loser.
Infinite games: The players change and evolve; there is no universal way to keep score; the goal isn’t to win, but to continue to play… to stay in the game.
Sinek’s thesis is that too many business leaders play the game of business as if it is a finite game when in fact, it is an infinite game. I’ll let you read the book to decide if you agree.
Of course, businesses should have goals and these goals can and should be finite. The key, according to Sinek is that the finite goals we choose must serve the infinite game we are playing. This infinite game is usually rooted in what Sinek refers to as a “Just Cause” but other authors and academics have referred to it as “Core Purpose” or “Core Passion.” At Discover Strength, our Core Purpose is “Leading the movement in evidence based exercise.” We’ll never achieve this; it’s infinite. However, every business goal we commit to (and virtually every decision we make) should serve this infinite goal.
How does this apply to exercise? During his Q and A, Sinek actually uses exercise as a perfect example of an infinite game. Specifically, we can’t “win” at exercise and the game never ends. Every week, we need to focus on sleep, we need to be smart about what we eat, and we need to strength train. Sinek exclaimed, “I don’t know how long it will take, but if you do that, you will get in better shape! BUT, it never ends… You have to keep doing these things.” If our results ebb and flow, the game doesn’t end. We keep playing. Of course, we can and probably should play finite games that serve the infinite game; we try to do one more rep than last time in our strength workout; improve our Bod Pod by 2% by the end of the month; or run a faster 5k. All of these finite games serve the infinite game.
When you think about your strength training (and your fitness in general), I encourage you to play the infinite game. The goal is to stay in the game; to keep playing.