The Game of Life
The Game of Life (which is my personal way of calling this concept) is an idea I have observed in many popular talks from Simon Sinek. Simon is an author of many extremely successful books, such as Start With Why, a motivational speaker, and a marketing consultant. In his book and later a talk called the infinite game, he looks into the decision-making of the modern companies. He talks about their vision and the way they prioritize their goals. He differentiates their perspectives through the use of two core concepts – a finite game and an infinite game. In my personal view, this is a very useful theory we can also apply to our personal lives, which will be my major focus in this article.
A Finite Game
As you can see in the lovely diagram above, a finite game is a state where there are known players, defined rules and objectives of the game upon which everyone agrees. A very good example that is also represented above is baseball. In baseball, teams (check) compete based on fixed rules (check) and aim to win the game by beating the other team through reaching the objectives of the game first (check). Taking this concept and applying it in real life, we are all brought up in the environment of a finite game. In school, we perform in a very defined environment, with defined rules (you can’t cheat) and we aim to achieve a very specific objective we all agree upon (get an A, get into uni, etc.). This then reflects into our adult lives, where we all aim to look at everything around us as a defined environment, we develop a sense of tunnel vision. The tradition is very clear – get a good education, find a stable job, have a family, bring up kids, keep working the job, retire, done. Very defined rules, very defined outcomes, very obvious players. We are lead to perceive our life as a finite game. But is that really the right way to look at life?
An Infinite Game
As opposed to the finite game, an infinite game has both known and unknown players, its rules change and the objective is to keep playing the game as long as possible. An example that is used above is a business that focuses on the long game. Their aim is continuous improvement. This is an example that very few businesses understand, which is also the reason why Simon’s work is so famous. More and more business owners and executives understand that the business framework from the 80s or 90s where you want to outcompete other players (businesses) and be the first does not make much sense in the present world. You want to be the leading business in the world – based on what rules? What objectives? How is it measurable? Who agreed to these rules? According to Simon, the business game is clearly an infinite game. I would argue that this is also the case for our lives. Although we are brought up to perceive the world as a finite game, does real life really fit that description? What are the rules? What agreed-upon objectives really are there? If we really look at our lives, do we all define success in the same way? Yes, we are told that there is a very defined way which we should all follow. But is that really the correct way of seeing how things are? Do you think Steve Jobs played the same game as the general population does? No, he clearly understood that he was building a legacy. The goal of Apple was never to beat Microsoft, it has always been to help its customers (more specifically students, teachers, and professionals) to bring efficiency into their lives through the convenience and simplicity of the Apple products. Now think for yourself, are you playing the finite or the infinite game? Are you trying to achieve a specific objective in your life? If you achieve it, what happens then? Are you trying to build something (a family, an asset …) that will outlast you? Give it a thought and adjust your actions accordingly.
Here is another diagram that might help you undestand the difference bewteen a finite and an infinite player.