Hustler’s Mantra: Be prepared to face an infinite battle
"There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play."- James Carse's , Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility.
Too often, we look at life with a finite mindset. We treat everything in life as if it were a sport. We are obsessed over quarterly figures or becoming a top performer or getting promoted or successfully completing a project that was assigned. But this mindset leads to measures that can be extremely costly in the long run.
The concept of finite and infinite mindset was first introduced by Dr. James P.Carse, Professor Emeritus of history and literature of religion at New York University, in his 1986 book, Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. This book explores difference between looking at life as a game with an end, or a game that goes on forever. A finite game is all about winning and becoming the number one. When you beat a competition, you win, and that's the end of the game. Sure, this works in games like chess and others that have specific rules but that’s not how life works. Today we might have the best product but tomorrow somebody else might develop a product that’s better than ours so there is no such thing as winning or being the best.
When Apple launched the iPod, Microsoft responded by releasing the aesthetically designed, feature packed Zune to capture Apple's market share. While Microsoft was obsessed with beating Apple, Apple, under the leadership of infinite-minded Steve Jobs, was not competing with Microsoft. Apple was very much focused on outdoing itself. Within a year after Zune's launch, Apple released the iPhone that was a revolutionary product in the smartphones industry and made both the Zune and the iPod obsolete. So our goal shouldn't be beating a competition; it should be outlasting ourselves to keep going in the game.
What do we do after we win the top performer of the year? We have to get ready for the next game, i.e., to prove ourselves in the coming year as well. In 2021, we cannot parade around telling people that I was the top performer of the year 2020. Nobody would care because it's old story. Same goes for our all our winnings, it's in the past. So let's all remember that a single win doesn't mean the end of the game. If we have a win, let's appreciate ourselves for a minute and move on to the future, focusing less on what happened and put more efforts into figuring out what is possible next. Let's be more concerned with positioning ourselves to deal effectively whatever challenges that may come on our way next.
Author and inspirational speaker, Simon Sinek says in his book, The Infinite Game: "Infinite-minded leaders understand that "best" is not a permanent state. Instead, they strive to be "better." "Better" suggests a journey of constant improvement and makes us feel like we are being invited to contribute our talents and energies to make progress in that journey." Developing an infinite mindset helps us understand that we play to grow and become better version of ourselves. There is nothing to win, every experience that we undergo helps us grow, evolve and level up. The failures that we face are necessary and it contributes to the experience of the game that we are playing.
While stepping into this New Year, let's understand that the game that we are playing is not a game with a final clock; it's an infinite game. Our goal is not just to outperform our previous year or competition but to build a legacy. We should strive to build something bigger than ourselves which requires a great deal of courage, effort and innovation but the experience is going to be joyous and rewarding for us.
I would like to end quoting the words of Simon Sinek: "As for us, those who choose to embrace the infinite mind-set, our journey is to feel inspired every morning, safe when we’re at work and fulfilled at the end of each day. And when it's our time to leave the game, we will look back at our lives and our careers and say, 'I lived a life worth living', but even more importantly, when imagining what the future holds, we'll see how many people we inspired, to carry on the journey without us."