How do you win at an infinite game?
Vince Lombardi once said “We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.” If you’re already reading this and wondering who he is, just remember that the trophy awarded to the team that wins the Superbowl is called the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Inevitably this begs that question, how do you win if the game never ends? Or how could you lose?
There are a few things that come into play when the game is infinite, but one of the most important things is that sometimes we don’t realize the game is indeed infinite or at least long enough to seem infinite. Time seems to loop around in sequences around us, making it seem like everything is limited, yet infinite at the same time.
However there’s an easy way to win at an infinite game. Win every important battle. Notice I said every important battle, not every battle. There might be small battles that are worth losing in order to win the battle in the long run. Here are a few steps to make sure you’re focusing on the right things.
- Pick your battles. Rather than trying to control every little detail and pick every battle, try to prioritize which battles are worth fighting for and winning. One of my friends who is an avid runner schedules short races about a month before a marathon where he’s pushing for a good time. The short races are just about him calibrating his pace and getting into the spirit of running with a group of people around, the marathon however is where his pace, his time, his mindset, his performance actually matters, especially when he’s looking for that under 3hrs time.
- Figure out what you need to set in motion to win those battles. Do you need to learn more things? Do you need people in your corner? Do you need to distance yourself from certain people or certain activities? Whatever it is, make sure you set it in motion.
- Stop daydreaming, Start taking action. Sometimes we become so in love with our battles that we end up dreaming about them more than actioning on them. But dreaming about winning battles is not the same as actually winning them. Yes, positive thinking is important, but what’s more important is a good dose of reality that tells us to focus more on getting things done rather than imagining getting things done.
- Forget the Law of Minimum Effort. There’s a law that’s been taking over the world in the past years. I call it the Law of Minimum Effort — basically doing as little as possible to barely meet the requirements. Don’t be that person! Instead be the person who does the best possible job in every situation, whether that’s the job you have in your company, in your family, your community or the world. Just give your best (however that looks) every day.
- Don’t get defeated! Remember losing a battle here and there might just be part of the process, but using it to come back stronger for the next battle is where you become a warrior at the infinite game.
- Learn the rules! Then change them! In order to change the rules, to be able to break boundaries, you need to first learn the rules. And once you learn them, look for ways to move past them, to push the boundaries of excellence in pursuit of the impossible. While rules make perfect sense in finite games, in infinite ones, rules are fluid, malleable, changeable and breakable so don’t be afraid to bend them.
- Remember that winners and losers only really exist in finite games. The magic about infinite games is that there are no winner or losers, there are just players who keep on pushing, who keep striving for the best possible outcome and their best possible self.
- No matter the current situation, remember the cause. The actual goal, the mission matters way more than any particular moment. Stay grounded in the action, yet focused on the mission. That way you can adapt the action steps as needed to keep your intention on the mission.
Winning at the infinite game means building a legacy, a legacy that lives through your every action, in your every memory and most importantly outlives every little fallback.