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The Goal Of The Game Is To Keep Playing: Infinite Game Vs. Finite Game

The one who wins is the one who plays with an infinite game mentality

One of the reasons the Vietnamese defeated the Americans was that they were playing a different game. Instead of having a finite goal in time and space, the Vietnamese game could go on indefinitely, despite the destruction and casualties on their side. Even if the Americans thought they had won the game, their opponents would continue to play since they were not operating under the same paradigms.

The Finite Game

Our minds are used to finite games. Since our earliest childhood, we have been taught to think in finite ways. Sports are a good example. Most of them are finite (soccer, rugby etc.). Those that are not, still have a point limit (tennis etc.), i.e. the one who wins is the one who has fulfilled a certain number of conditions (points, ippon in judo, etc.). The educational system is even based on this idea: education has a beginning, it starts in kindergarten and ends with the diploma (whether it is university or not). However, those who manage to dominate the world of knowledge are those who never stop learning, i.e. they play an endless game. The finite game mentality in the corporate world can take on the following attributes: the company seeks to achieve a certain revenue to feel it is “winning the game”, it aims to be sold at a certain point for start-ups in particular, etc. There is usually a time limit (limited duration of exercise) and a space limit (the money one accumulates) that are associated with the notion of a finite game.

Characteristics Of The Infinite Game

An infinite game has no clearly defined rules, and the number and nature of the participants are also unclear. The time horizon and the extent of the space where the game will be held are also not fixed. Essentially the infinite game operates without any real framework. The game ends when one or more players drop out for reasons of resources or morale. There are countless situations that constitute infinite games:
– career
– health
– happiness
– married life (there are no winners or losers in a couple)
– learning
– personal development
– etc.

How To Apply This Philosophy To Your Entrepreneurial Adventure?

If for you the very purpose of existence is to undertake, then you could potentially put yourself in the position of gambling indefinitely. There is of course the notion of sunk costs that can lead you to a dead end. But in reality, if you are looking for an ideal (often unattainable) goal you have the opportunity to gamble endlessly. Your competitors who might appear to be opponents are actually rivals, i.e. they help you to improve by their very presence. Your goal is not to beat them but to become a better player. The ecosystem of an infinite game is enriched by the mere presence of players who inspire each other.

Set An Infinite Goal To Think Like An Infinite Player

What will distinguish you as an infinite gamer or not is how you initially framed your question. Many people have the wrong goal, which is why they fail to achieve a sustainable outcome. So, to be healthy, you shouldn’t say to yourself, I want to lose 10 pounds, because once you’ve achieved that goal, you have no reason to gain it back. Instead, you should say to yourself, “My goal is to eat healthy and not drink sugary drinks anymore. By doing this, you will lay a solid foundation for losing weight and moving toward the infinite goal of being healthy.

Change Your Relationship With Time

A fundamental but difficult thing to do in this day and age is to not get caught up in the frenzy. When you look at the success of others, you can’t resist the urge to want to do what they do and achieve the same things in an unreasonably short time. The most enduring successes are the result of a lot of trial and error. Time is a crucial variable not to be neglected, it can be your adversary if you adopt a finite mindset but it can also be your greatest ally if you think like an infinite player. The speed of technology and media has nothing to do with human biology which is incredibly slower. Thinking with a time horizon of 10 to 20 years will help you acquire the infinite gamer mentality. This will give you both the necessary calm and perseverance and set you apart from most of your rivals. Change your relationship with time and you will become an infinite player. The goal is not to win but to keep playing the game.

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