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We Keep Playing

Losing at Westchester

Don’t get me wrong – I care a lot about winning.

At match point, I tremble. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter, it’s just a game. But deep down inside, I know that it does, at least to me. My hands are sweaty. After squandering five match points of my own, maybe I don’t deserve to win? How did I let it get here? Ugh. Breathe.

The high toss, the stomp, loose wrist, paddle in a perfect pendulum, clean contact, ball curving with a razor thin margin over the net, all happening in slow motion. The serve bounces half-long with ever so gentle underspin. No, wait, heavy underspin, or is it? Oh no, I must not make a mistake, just push it back, don’t miss it in the net. Don’t you dare to miss it in the net!

I push the ball ever so gently back with serious trepidation. Yes! I didn’t miss it. Oh shit, my opponent got what she wanted, a weak-ass return that needs to be punished. I hear my friend Tahl in my head: “PUNISH!!” And so she does. 

Game over. No trophy for Max. Again…

Ugh. My rating is in the gutter. How embarrassing. I thought this time I would finally get adjusted. Oh well. It’s just a game.

I smile cocking my head, half with acknowledgement and half with envy. She smiles awkwardly, knowing she got away with one. Damn, girl (read correctly), you have to work on your handshake. Almost as weak-ass as my serve return at match point. Good for her. She’s turning 12 in the summer. A great future awaits no doubt. Maybe she’ll be able to challenge Lily (Zhang) or Amy (Wang) soon? Or maybe she’ll fight for the World Championship with Siri (Benjegård)? They’re about the same age, I think. Wouldn’t that be awesome.

When it’s all said and done, does it matter? Not one bit. I know I get to go again. I will finally practice, put in the hours required to make gutsier returns automatic, to play better, to keep playing. And go again.

So yes, I care a lot about winning, so long as I am playing a finite game, with defined rules and a defined end. Especially if it’s table tennis.

The Infinite Game

In his book Finite and Infinite Games James Carse famously distinguished between two kinds of games: finite games are single play and the goal is to win; infinite games are repeat play and the goal is to keep playing. Any single game of ping pong is finite (a fixed number of players with clear rules determining a winner), but the sport of ping pong is infinite. The finite mindset focuses on winning, while the infinite mindset focuses on continuing to play. 

Simon Sinek elegantly points out in The Infinite Game that business is an infinite game. At PingPod, we couldn’t agree more. When creating company culture, companies can choose a finite or an infinite mindset–to target specific outcomes or to build an enduring enterprise. PingPod has chosen to build a company culture based on an infinite mindset. We serve the sport of ping pong and the community that plays and loves the sport.

In order to succeed in the infinite game of business, we need to think about how to build an organization that will last. An organization that is strong enough to stay in the game. An organization that is resilient to and thrives on change. An organization that serves all of its stakeholders in a manner that encourages service from its stakeholders.

We don’t care about “crushing the competition” or “dominating the market”, we care about building awesome spaces and allowing people to thrive in them. We care about helping solve The Screen Time Problem and Making What People Want, Where They Want It. We truly care about making the world a better place with kick-ass technology that helps people to create communities and not be lonely, to find meaning and connection. And in order to do so, we have to play to keep playing and play to keep serving.

My Friend Chat Agrees

Here is our conversation. Warning: Chat knows a lot about a lot…

Chat: According to Sinek, finite games have clear rules, known players, and an agreed-upon objective, while infinite games have no set endpoint, and the goal is simply to keep playing and to perpetuate the game. He argues that businesses and organizations should adopt an infinite mindset to succeed in the long term, rather than focusing solely on short-term goals and metrics. The book provides examples of companies that have succeeded by adopting an infinite mindset, as well as those that have failed by prioritizing short-term gains over long-term success.

Max: What are some of those examples?

Chat: In “The Infinite Game,” Simon Sinek provides several examples of companies that have successfully adopted an infinite mindset. Here are a few:

  1. Apple: Sinek argues that Apple is an example of a company with an infinite mindset, as they prioritize innovation and creating products that people love over simply making money. Apple’s goal is not to “win” against competitors, but to continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with technology.
  2. Patagonia: Patagonia is a clothing company that has been praised for its commitment to sustainability and ethical practices. Sinek argues that Patagonia is an example of a company with an infinite mindset because they prioritize their values over short-term profits.
  3. The US Marine Corps: Sinek notes that the Marine Corps is an example of an organization that has a clear mission and purpose, but also understands that the “game” they are playing (i.e. protecting national security) is infinite. They don’t expect to “win” against terrorism or other threats, but instead focus on continuous improvement and adaptation.
  4. Southwest Airlines: Sinek argues that Southwest Airlines is an example of a company with an infinite mindset because they prioritize their employees’ well-being and satisfaction, believing that happy employees lead to happy customers and long-term success. This mindset has helped them remain profitable and successful for many years. {hmmmm}

These are just a few examples, but there are many others discussed in the book.

Max: What are examples of companies with a finite mindset?

Chat: In “The Infinite Game,” Simon Sinek provides several examples of companies that he believes have a finite mindset. Here are a few:

  1. Enron: Sinek notes that Enron, the energy company that famously collapsed in 2001, had a finite mindset. They focused solely on short-term profits and shareholder value, without considering the long-term impact of their actions or the sustainability of their business practices.
  2. Blockbuster: Blockbuster, the video rental company that was once ubiquitous, is another example of a company with a finite mindset. They failed to adapt to the changing market and technology, instead clinging to their existing business model until it was too late.
  3. MySpace: MySpace, the social media platform that was once more popular than Facebook, is another example of a company with a finite mindset. They failed to keep up with changing user preferences and technology, and were eventually overtaken by competitors.
  4. Sears: Sinek argues that Sears, the department store chain, had a finite mindset because they focused on short-term profits and cost-cutting measures at the expense of customer experience and long-term sustainability.

Again, these are just a few examples, but they illustrate the dangers of a finite mindset and the importance of adopting an infinite mindset for long-term success.

Max: Do you think Sinek is right?

Chat: As an AI language model {oops}, I don’t have personal opinions, but I can provide some insights on Simon Sinek’s ideas.

Simon Sinek’s concepts of finite and infinite games and the importance of having an infinite mindset have been well-received by many people in the business and leadership community. Many believe that a focus on short-term goals and metrics can lead to unsustainable practices and ultimately hinder long-term success.

Sinek’s emphasis on purpose, values, and mission has resonated with many, as has his argument that businesses and organizations should prioritize people over profits. However, there are also some who have criticized Sinek’s ideas, arguing that they are too simplistic and don’t account for the complexities of running a business.

Ultimately, whether or not one agrees with Simon Sinek’s ideas depends on a variety of factors, including one’s personal values and beliefs, as well as one’s experiences in the business world.

Max: Do you know of any business leaders who agree with him?

Chat: Yes, many business leaders have expressed agreement with Simon Sinek’s ideas. Here are a few examples:

  1. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has cited Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” as a key influence on his leadership style. Nadella has spoken about the importance of purpose and values in driving innovation and success.
  2. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has also expressed agreement with Sinek’s ideas, stating that he believes a company’s purpose should be to make a positive difference in the world.
  3. Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, a global manufacturing company, has been a vocal proponent of Sinek’s ideas. Chapman has implemented many of Sinek’s principles in his own company, including a focus on purpose, values, and people.
  4. Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, has also cited Sinek’s ideas as influential in his leadership style. Polman has emphasized the importance of sustainability and social responsibility in business, and has been a vocal critic of short-term thinking and profit-driven decision-making.

These are just a few examples, but there are many other business leaders who have expressed agreement with Simon Sinek’s ideas.

Max: Does this mean that those folks don’t care about winning?

Chat: No, it does not mean that these business leaders do not care about winning or achieving success. Rather, they believe that an infinite mindset focused on purpose, values, and people is key to achieving sustainable success over the long term.

In Simon Sinek’s view, having an infinite mindset means seeing business as an ongoing journey rather than a finite game with a clear endpoint. In this view, the focus is on continuous improvement, innovation, and adapting to changing circumstances, rather than solely on winning against competitors or achieving short-term goals.

Many business leaders who agree with Sinek’s ideas believe that by prioritizing purpose, values, and people, they will ultimately be more successful in the long run than if they only focus on short-term gains. By creating a culture that values these things, they can attract and retain top talent, build a loyal customer base, and create products and services that truly make a difference in people’s lives.

Max: So in the end it’s still about winning?

Chat: In a way, yes, business is still about winning. However, the definition of “winning” may differ depending on whether a company has a finite or infinite mindset.

For companies with a finite mindset, winning is often defined narrowly in terms of short-term financial gains or beating out competitors. This mindset can lead to practices that are not sustainable over the long term and may ultimately hinder the company’s success.

On the other hand, companies with an infinite mindset define winning more broadly in terms of fulfilling their purpose, creating value for customers, and making a positive impact on the world. This mindset prioritizes long-term success and sustainability over short-term gains, and focuses on continuous improvement, innovation, and adapting to changing circumstances.

So, while both types of companies may be focused on “winning,” their definition of winning and their approach to achieving it may be very different.

Max: ok good. because we want to make sure our stakeholders know that I care about winning. I mean, we care about the success of our company despite believing in the infinite mindset. 🙂

Chat: Absolutely, it’s important for investors and stakeholders to know that you are committed to achieving success for your company. Embracing an infinite mindset and prioritizing purpose, values, and people can actually be beneficial for achieving sustainable success over the long term.

By focusing on creating value for customers, building a strong company culture, and making a positive impact on the world, you can attract and retain top talent, build a loyal customer base, and differentiate your company from competitors. These factors can ultimately lead to increased profitability and success for your company.

So, by embracing an infinite mindset while also remaining focused on achieving success for your company, you can create a win-win situation that benefits both your company and its stakeholders.

Max: How would you translate this type of thinking into competitive sport? Say table tennis competitions?

Chat: The concept of finite and infinite mindset can also be applied to competitive sports like table tennis. In this context, a finite mindset would focus on winning individual matches or tournaments, while an infinite mindset would focus on continuous improvement, learning, and growth.

Athletes with a finite mindset might prioritize short-term success at the expense of long-term development. They may focus solely on winning matches, without considering how they can improve their skills and strategies over time. This can lead to burnout, stagnation, and ultimately hinder their long-term success.

On the other hand, athletes with an infinite mindset would focus on continuous improvement and learning, even if it means losing matches in the short term. They would view each match as an opportunity to learn and grow, and would prioritize long-term development over short-term gains. This mindset can lead to sustained success over time, as athletes who focus on continuous improvement are more likely to reach their full potential and achieve greater success in the long run.

In table tennis competitions, athletes with an infinite mindset might focus on improving their technique, studying their opponents, and developing new strategies, rather than solely on winning individual matches. They might also prioritize their physical and mental well-being, recognizing that these factors play an important role in their long-term success.

Ultimately, athletes with an infinite mindset are likely to be more resilient, adaptable, and successful over the long term, as they prioritize continuous improvement and growth over short-term gains.

Max: We agree.

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Time to play some ping pong!

If this post resonates with you, we would love you to join the movement. Download the PingPod app or head to www.uk.pingpod.com

See you at the pod.

Ping Pod
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To play at PINGPOD requires PROOF OF VACCINATION as part of the KEY TO NYC