That’s not a typo.
I’ve been reading a lot lately—I use reading to think about bigger things, like what I want to accomplish in the coming year.
But Simon Sinek, through his book The Infinite Game, has me thinking bigger.
Most of us, especially in the corporate world, play way too small.
Simon Sinek writes about James Carse and his idea that there are Finite Games and Infinite Games.
Finite Games and Infinite Games
Finite Games are games in which the rules are very clear. Finite Games have a clear beginning and a clear ending. They have a clear winner and a clear loser, too.
Sports are finite games. I can tell when the Denver Broncos or the Green Bay Packers win or lose. Even if there is disagreement, it is about how the rules apply, not whether there are rules and a winner and a loser.
The purpose of a Finite Game is to win the game.
Humans create finite games because they are a fun way to challenge ourselves. But they do not naturally occur. A tree is not a finite game.
Infinite Games are things that have no clear beginning or ending. They have no clear winner or loser.
The purpose of an Infinite Game is to continue playing. The joy is in the playing of the game rather than the destination.
Many things in our lives, especially in the corporate world, are Infinite Games that we have turned into Finite Games.
For example, the goal of a corporation, ultimately, is to continue. To provide a product or service that benefits society and to continue doing that as long as there is a benefit from that product or service.
Starting with Milton Friedman, many began thinking of corporations as a way to maximize shareholder wealth.
In other words, as a Finite Game, with clear winners and losers. The score was kept through stock prices and quarterly earnings reports.
But this can’t be right. Because companies interact with shareholders and suppliers and customers and employees and when a company is thriving, all of those things thrive. Even the environment can thrive when a successful corporation thrives.
To view the corporation as a Finite Game can actually create it as a finite entity. An entity that maximizes profit for a short time and then vanishes. Leaving customers and employees and even whole towns in its wake.
Is that what we really want?
Why This Matters
Why do we play Infinite Games? Why do we keep playing them?
Simon Sinek talks about what he calls a Just Cause.
I recently finished Elon Musk’s biography by Walter Isaacson. It’s not likely to change your opinion of Musk, a mixed bag of a human being if there ever was one.
But like him or not it is clear that Musk does not keep score with money. He has a bigger vision. He wants to save the world with renewable energy—including solar and electric cars. And if that fails he wants us to be able to colonize Mars, to be able to escape the Earth should we render it inhospitable.
That’s a Just Cause.
A Just Cause is something that you will likely not achieve. But you are willing to die in the attempt.
A Just Cause will inspire others to join you. It will motivate people beyond your lifetime.
A Just Cause is a reason people join companies. It is a reason people invest in companies. It is a reason people buy from companies.
A Just Cause may make money, but the money allows greater pursuit of the Just Cause. It isn’t an end in itself.
A Just Cause is about 2124 rather than 2024.
What’s Your Just Cause?
The irony is that I talk to a lot of people who are not willing to look for or own their Just Cause.
They are not willing to own and talk about that thing that motivates them. The reason they do what they do.
Instead they want to talk about the Finite Game of what they do. The business model, the profit margins.
It feels too audacious to have a Just Cause.
It can feel like bragging. But is it, to have a cause bigger than yourself? To do things for the sake of that cause rather than for your own sake (or your bank account’s)?
I want as many people to be impacted by transformative coaching as possible. Because I have seen, over and over again, that people who have had access to great coaching do amazing things in the world and become amazing human beings in the process.
The world needs more of that.
A. LOT. MORE.
I spend a lot of time coaching people and not getting paid for it. I spend a lot of time helping other coaches and not getting paid for it. I am sure I could make more money just building a coaching business. But I am helping other coaches, I am helping leadership organizations, I am on boards of nonprofits for a reason. Because it helps them be more effective in the world. It helps them with their Just Cause.
Yes, there is a small number of people who pay me handsomely. But even in that I know that I will have an impact not only on them but on every person who works for them. On every person who comes into contact with them.
I make enough money that I have time to devote to my Just Cause.
What about you?
How To Go Deeper
I am convinced that more and more people are coming out of the spiritual closet and seeing their work as a vital personal journey to both abundance and meaning.
This is what I write about. For founders, for original thinkers, at all stages of this journey.
The world needs YOU, in all your brilliance and imperfection.
If you are a founder wanting to scale and sell your company, there are three shifts in identity that can help you do so with twice the impact and half the stress. Take a look at this video.
If you want to build a coaching business where you get to be yourself, help amazing people, and replace your corporate income in the process, here’s a video where I share the top three mistakes I see coaches make when trying to build a sustainable business—
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