Simon Sinek, famous author and motivational speaker, has coined the term, ‘The Infinite Game’. He won the internet lottery a decade ago with this speech that went viral and his fame has only grown. I highly suggest joining 20+ million others, if you haven’t already, who have watched some version of it on YouTube.
While Simon’s work seems to center around leadership – particularly at a company level – the kernels of wisdom he shares can be applied to nearly every aspect of our lives.
The ‘Infinite Game’ involves leaving the world better than we found it, leaving companies that we work for in better shape than when we started, leaving our families stronger and more capable so they can do without us – that we can literally live beyond our own lives. His words, not mine.
I have found that nearly all my personal financial advice and writing is under this umbrella. That is to say, I try to tackle the challenges of making our money go beyond ourselves and leave a lasting impact – while escaping the finite thinking of our daily lives.
The pressures to live a ‘finite game’ are endless (how ironic). Peer pressure, our own fear and greed, pressure from a boss, customer demand, public image – it begins for everyone (rich/poor, young/old), to some degree, the moment you walk out the door to the moment you return home. And, then hopefully, you have a support system under your roof.
Where money is all around us – in so much that if you’re not sleeping – you’re likely either spending it or making it – the opportunities (or challenges) in playing the ‘Infinite Game’ with your money are always in your face. Living beyond the day to day pressures of what money represents is overwhelming and precisely why I believe it deserves so much attention.
Making your wealth Infinite – something that goes beyond you – is not just a rich person’s game. And it’s not a young or old person’s game. It’s a mindset for all of us.
Recently, I’ve been watching a Netflix series with our kids, called the Kindness Diaries. By accident, I started on Season 2 (without watching Season 1), so don’t spoil it for me. But, in Season 2, Leo travels from Alaska to Argentina by VW Bug relying solely on the kindness of strangers without a penny in his pocket. Gas, food, lodging all must come from asking strangers to give it to him for free.
What strikes me the most is the generosity of the poor and humble in poverty-stricken places like Tijuana and parts of Peru. In one episode, Leo went fishing with a man for dinner and also stayed the night with him in his 2-room shack that had no electricity or running water. That kind of generosity is playing the ‘Infinite Game’. One might think this man had nothing to give, but instead he’s quoted in the show, “When you’re happy, that’s better for me too”. Taking Leo fishing cost this poor person money in boat fuel, cost him time, and probably a day’s worth of food. But, he recognized not focusing on the finite concern of the day-to-day repays him abundantly later. His wealth lives beyond him.
And, yes, this is critically important for the wealthy as well.
If not apparent by the recent market downturn, thinking in decades is critical. If you had sold when people were most panicked (thinking finitely), you would have missed the recent market rally. See here and read point 1 for what this means for our long-term investment results.
If you’re a business owner that employs people, what might it mean to keep those people employed during these trying times? What kind of trust and goodwill could you build so that you’re stronger than ever on the other side? Truth be told, there are simply circumstances that haven’t allowed certain payrolls to continue, period. That said, there’s a great book, Leaders Eat Last (again, by Simon). Playing the Infinite Game might encourage us to go hungry for a while in exchange for a wonderful and lasting impact.
In a post last October, I wrote about $1,000 Decisions vs $100,000 Decisions. It’s so easy to focus on the $1,000 decisions (when thinking day-to-day) when $100,000 decisions are staring us in the face (Infinite thinking).
$100,000 decisions are choosing an investment strategy and process as opposed to stock picking and market timing. Focusing more on making a higher income than cutting expenses (there are higher income opportunities for everyone and only so many ways to cut costs). Taking the time to design your legacy plan for kids and grandkids. These actions take patience and courage – sacrificing uncertainty in the short-term for long-term optimism.
At a corporate level, I must give a hat tip to cloud-based software company, Salesforce.com, Inc. This is mostly anecdotal, but through several conversations with employees, I’ve gathered that nearly all major business development for them has ceased during this time. Instead, they’ve dumped profound time, money, and energy into the COVID-19 crisis. At one point, I even researched that they had sourced more medical equipment for the nation’s front-line medical professionals than New York City. They will take a short-term hit. Their bottom line will suffer and maybe even their stock price. But, not for long. Because as their CEO, Marc Benioff, says, “The business of business is not business. The business of business is improving the state of the world.” That is an Infinite mindset.
What a great time to challenge our finite tendencies and practice the courage required to be Infinite thinkers. Thinking Infinitely requires courage because it involves embracing the unknown and making decisions that may not jive on a spreadsheet. It challenges our comfort zone. But, it also offers calm and contentment since our actions now can be seeds for a better future.
You can be the poor man in the Kindness Diaries, you can be a wealthy investor, you can be the CEO of a fortune 500 company. Playing the Infinite Game is for everyone. It just takes courage.
Stay calm. Stay invested.
Thanks for reading,