Forget winning or losing. According to bestselling author Simon Sinek, the most important thing is to determine what type of game you’re playing. And in life, there are only two: finite and infinite.
In today’s episode, Dylan talks about the difference between finite and infinite games, how to recognize which game we’re playing, and how we can apply the concept of the infinite game mindset to the different aspects of our lives.
- [02:09] Finite and infinite games defined
- [03:08] Examples of finite games in sports and history
- [04:34] Examples of how finite and infinite games play out in daily life
- [05:31] Advice for young fathers
- [09:03] Why playing infinite games is key to raising children well
Links & Resources
🟢 “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek → https://simonsinek.com/books/the-infinite-game/
🟢 Fiscally Savage → https://fiscallysavage.com/
🟢 Fiscally Savage Tools → https://fiscallysavage.com/tools
🟢 Instagram → https://www.instagram.com/fiscallysavage/
🟢 Facebook → https://www.facebook.com/fiscallysavage
🟢 Twitter → https://twitter.com/FiscallySavage
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:16] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. And Happy Friday, everybody. If you’re new here on our Friday shows, we take something in the news and go one step deeper. And if I’m gonna be entirely honest, one of the my favorite parts about these Friday episodes is it indulges — I guess you can call it a hobby of mine, which is kind of explore all the weird corners of esoteric knowledge and to be continually trying to educate myself. I’ve always considered the idea of being a polymath or an autodidact, which means, you know, a polymath is somebody who’s well-versed in a lot of different topics, and an autodidact is someone who’s very self-taught. I’ve always prized those things very highly. And in my life, I’ve had a variety of weird jobs in which paying attention to the news and having to ask a couple of questions deeper have been part of that job, and I’ve really loved it. Although I did spend a stint of time working late night security at a desk, and it was during that time where I would finish up my homework for graduate school and then spend the rest of the time reading Wikipedia. My mother at that point in my life used to introduce me as what happens when you have somebody who reads Wikipedia for a living and is horribly sleep-deprived.
[00:01:28] But I’m bringing all this up because I’m always looking for something in the news that I can go deeper and I’ve done stuff on taxes. And when I was looking at all the different things in the news, you know, Republicans finally telling us what they want in exchange for not completely torpedoing the US economy, leaks at the Pentagon, the settlement of the defamation suit between Fox News and Dominion. But really honestly, none of those really like pushed my buttons. And then, I was listening to a podcast in which one of the guests on the podcast, his name is — , was explaining a concept he learned from another person named Simon Sinek about the idea of finite versus infinite games.
[00:02:09] And what he means by this is that there’s basically two different types of games that people can play. They can play finite games in which there is a clear objective that is clearly defined. So for example, a game of football is a finite game. Your goal is to win the football game, and so long as you accomplish that, everything else really kind of doesn’t matter. And so when you’re looking at this, there’s a finite period of time in which you’re playing it and there’s finite rules and those rules are dictated by the clock and what’s going on. But all the players that are on the football field are playing infinite games when it comes to their careers. That is to say, you can have somebody who is playing their heart out and trying to win the football game but could do lasting damage and lose the infinite game of their career. When we say “infinite” in this, we’re not talking about that their career will go on forever, but it’s a longer-term, more holistic goal.
[00:03:08] And so RG III who used to play for the Washington Redskins before they went through their entire rebranding exercise, he was a great example of this. In the first year of football, he was one of the most promising quarterbacks in the NFL. But his whole thing was that he wanted to win every game he could and he ended up blowing out his knee in a situation which it was completely unnecessary for him to have put himself at risk like he did. And so while they in fact did win the finite game of that particular football game, his career went straight down the tubes because he had failed to play the infinite game significantly better.
[00:03:48] The example in the podcast that I was listening to was this idea of the Vietnam War — that the American forces were trying to play a finite game in which they were just trying to win the war, stop the fighting. But the people on the Vietnamese side were playing an infinite game in which their whole goal was to just survive and continue to exist. And when you have a game, a situation in which one person is playing finite and the other person is playing infinite, the infinite’s always going to win because they’re better strategies. And this struck me. And I have not been able to think about much else since I heard this this weekend because this applies to your finances, your relationships, your sex life, and quite literally everything else.
[00:04:34] Let me give you an example of what I mean. When you are talking to, say, your partner. And you’re having a conversation and it gets heated, you suddenly have a choice. You can play the finite game of trying to win the argument. Now, for the men who are listening to this, I just want to give you a small bit of advice that I’ve learned over my married life, and that is: yeah, you can probably win the argument, but you’re going to lose the war. And the whole point there is she’s probably playing the infinite game. It’s getting heated because she doesn’t feel safe. Your role here is not to dominate and show her the error of her ways. Your role here is to help make her feel safe because that’s the infinite game that you’re both playing. Your marriage probably cannot survive you winning consecutive, infinite games. So yes, you might have won, but at the end of the day, you’re going to lose because you’re playing the wrong game.
[00:05:31] Or let me give you another example with kids, and this is the one piece of advice that I’ve been giving to new fathers for years, and now I suddenly have words to describe what it I’m talking about. The advice that I typically give to young fathers and for the men that I mentor, whether in my coaching practice or not, is that there is a set of things that you should be doing with your children that I think are universal.
[00:05:54] Number one: love your children’s mother. No matter what happens, be the one person in her life who loves her — even if the marriage doesn’t work out, even if she’s a complete bitch, even if in divorce court, it’s all stacked against you. She takes everything away from you and blah, blah, blah. Yeah. Yeah. I get it. But love the woman because you’re showing your children how a woman should be loved; that even when she’s angry at you, even when the situations are bad, even when she might have hurt you, you still love her, and that hatred just isn’t on the table. That is a lesson and a free gift that you can give your kids. That’s number one.
[00:06:34] Number two is make sure that you can laugh. Because if you can’t laugh at what’s going on, when you come home from a long day and you’re tired and you just wanna sit down for a second and have a moment to yourself and your children come running into the room screaming, “Daddy, look what I did,” and it turns out they took a bunch of sharpies and have colored a mural on the wall of the apartment that you were renting, this is your opportunity to laugh because otherwise, it’s gonna turn ugly. Just laugh out loud.
[00:07:04] But it’s the third piece that really fits here. Because let’s go back to that scenario where your children have drawn the mural on the wall. The finite game that’s now presented to you is the idea of “Damnit. I have to solve the problem of this shit on the wall.” But honestly, that game doesn’t matter because your children have engaged in a creative activity that has allowed them to express themselves. And then, when you have walked through the door, you are now the most important person in their life ’cause they’re so excited to see you. This is a tender moment. They’ve made something beautiful that they are proud of, and they’ve chosen to share it with you. And so if you’re playing the infinite game, your job is to talk to your kids and validate them and show how excited and proud of them you are. And maybe in that time it’s an opportunity to say, “And next time, let’s find a better way so that you can create amazing art and we don’t have to repaint this wall.” This is your opportunity to be creative and to see the child for who the child actually is and what’s actually going on here.
[00:08:11] It’s the same type of thing when my kids would come up to me and they would ask me to read to them. They still do. My children are 10 and 7 and they still ask me to read to them. And I made a promise to myself when I was a younger man that when my children asked me to play with them, color with them, or read to them, it literally would not matter what I was doing. The answer would be yes. And what I was doing was I was in that moment. Even though I was unconscious of what I was doing, I was choosing to play the infinite game of being the father figure for their entire life rather than choosing the finite game of getting that project done for work or finishing that homework assignment, getting my shit graded at the school I was teaching at, or whatever else I was doing. And if that put me behind, if that made me have to stay up a little bit later, so be it.
[00:09:03] The advice I’d give was to play the long game; to always look at how whatever choices of behavior and treatment you are doing to your children now is gonna play out 20 years from now. And what really what it comes down to is you need to play the infinite game if you wish to raise children well. And I see parents and spouses so often get caught up in the finite thinking of, “I just need to win this situation.” I just gotta get this kid to stop crying. I just gotta convince them that I’m right. I just gotta keep myself protected. And then years down the road or maybe even months, depending on where you’re at in the cycle, your relationships are gone or they’re trash and you don’t understand why. Because didn’t you win everything? Weren’t you protected? Didn’t you make all the right choices? Well, it turns out you were playing the wrong game.
[00:09:52] One of the arguments my wife and I used to have all the time, and we still have this from time to time, was the idea of we just gotta get through something. My wife and I, particularly back in the battle days — but they were actually pretty good days if all things considered. Let’s just call them the interesting days of when she was in graduate school and I was still a teacher with a young daughter. She used to tell me all the time, I want margin. We just gotta get through this. We’re just gonna get through this month. And I used to ask her, “Honey, once we get through this month, what’s gonna happen?” Because from my perspective, it’s just gonna be a rinse and repeat of the same shitshow. Our lives weren’t magically gonna get better. The meth house down the street was still gonna smell like burning plastic. The drunks in the neighborhood would still sleep between our cars. Our drainage ditch would still be our backyard. And it really comes down to in that moment, she’s just looking at it — finite game, finite game, finite game. And quite frankly, I can’t really blame her for that. But once we were able to start moving beyond it, starting to see the bigger picture, what happens after graduation? Honey, when you get that PhD, what exactly are we going to do? What am I working for? What am I building? What is the long game I’m playing? I kind of knew what it was supposed to be with my kids. I really didn’t know what it was supposed to be with my wife. But I also knew that I was playing the wrong game with my career, which of course I’ve talked about on the show.
[00:11:16] The invitation I wanna make — the call to action, if you will — is I want you to just consider your day this Friday and maybe consider your entire weekend. Take some time to ask yourself, “What game am I playing, and do I understand what the rules of that game are going to give me in the end?” Apply this liberally across everything you do, from your bedtime, the food you eat, to the people you spend time with, to how you show up for your kids, perhaps most importantly, how you show up for yourself. Are you playing a finite game, where you’re just trying to win, just trying to check the box to make the accomplishment? Are you playing the infinite game, where you understand what you’re building? That you understand it’s never gonna be over. It’s always going to be processed. It’s always going to be some next thing. And that’s okay because that’s part of growing up. That’s part of being human. That’s part of going from if you’re male, a young man into a man, into a mentor, and finally into an elder. You know, there will come a day if you are playing the infinite game where you have the thought of, “I’ve never been here before.” It’s always gonna look different, but the thing about it is is that the finite games all kind of look the same. And so my invitation to you, ladies and gentlemen, is to ask yourself, “What game am I playing, and what are those rules going to give me?”
[00:12:55] Outro: Thanks for listening. If you like what we do here, please hit that subscribe button. Leave us a rating and review. And share the content with somebody who would benefit from the message. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all @fiscallysavage. And head over to fiscallysavage.com to get our free tools, suggested reading, and everything else you need to take control of your financial life and live free.