Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Games We Play

When we do anything in life, we are in a sense playing a game. Each game can be either infinite or finite. Infinite games are games where there is no ending. Finite games are games where there is an ending. A finite game might be a basketball game: when the 48 minutes are up, the game is over. An infinite game would be family. We are not trying to win each encounter with friends and family, instead we do it for the sake of playing the game and expect it to go on forever. There are some cases, going to work for example, where the game we are playing is not predetermined and we can play them as a finite game or infinite game.

Simon Sinek has done some great research on finite vs. infinite games within companies. He recalls that an Apple exec was shown Microsoft's new Zune and didn't worry about if it was better than the current iPod. He knew that Apple was playing the infinite game and continually make better products. Sometimes they'd have the best product, other times not. But it didn't change what they were trying to do. Google spends much of its resources building infrastructure for the internet and gives out much of it for fee. It knows that the more people who have access to the internet, the more tools there are for small business owners, the more customers Google will have down the line. They are playing the long game. Not surprisingly, companies that play infinite game tend to stay successful and outlast their opponents.

A lot of the difference in results is due to purpose. Finite games are played with the purpose of winning. This means short term thinking, seeking predictability, playing within the bounds. Finite games tend to be more serious. Infinite games are the opposite. The purpose is to keep on playing. That means keeping the game fun, long term thinking, and changing the rules when needed. Unpredictability is embraced. Success looks and feels much different between the two play styles. Success from infinite games is deeper and more meaningful and more likely to succeed.

So its worth while to think about our own games in our personal lives.

Are you going on a diet? That's a finite game. Is your current diet a healthy one and one you want to stick with for your life? That's an infinite game.

Are you working out so you can get that beach body this summer? That's a finite game. Are you working out a couple times a week to maintain your health forever? That's an infinite game.

Are you putting in extra hours to earn that promotion at your new job? That's a finite game. Are you committed learning and improvement, putting in extra time every single day to learn something new? That's an infinite game.

Are you an entrepreneur who has spent the last 6 months building a product, betting everything on your one idea being successful? That's a finite game. Are you an entrepreneur who is willing to consistently put things out there and get feedback and learn from mistakes, getting smarter and better each time? That's an infinite game.

Are you a blogger who will write 10 articles and give up when noone is following you? That's a finite game. Are you a blogger who will write an article a day, forever, in order to improve your writing and help you focus your thoughts? That's an infinite game.

Games seem the same if we just look at a small slice of time. However the way we play them and the length we play them can make a world of difference.