The Infinite Game of Coaching

There’s a game within the game.

You may coach baseball, but you are not playing the game you think you’re playing.

You see, in the game of life, you’re either playing a finite or infinite game.

What is a Finite Game?

I learned about finite and infinite games from Simon Sinek, author of the upcoming book The Infinite Game, on a podcast he did with Cal Fussman

To paraphrase him, finite games have a beginning, middle, and end with agreed-upon rules. There are a winner and a loser.

The game of baseball is a finite game.

One team wins; the other team loses.

What is an Infinite Game?

An infinite game is vastly different.

Infinite games have no defined start and end.

There’s no winner and loser.

Business is an infinite game. So is your career.

You can’t win business. Just like nobody wins their career.

Infinite games require your own scorecard because there’s no defined set of rules. No agreed-upon terms to let you know when you’ve won (or lost).

Infinite games require a long-term mindset.

The good news? You get to decide which game you want to play.

Finite vs. Infinite Players

The choice is yours as to what kind of player you will be.

You get to choose which game you will play.

So what defines a finite player or an infinite player?

The finite player focuses on winning, being #1, beating their competition.

The infinite player will approach life differently. They keep an inner scorecard. Their concern is to become better than they were this morning and consistently upgrade their skills and understanding of the world.

Finite players play to beat the people around them. Infinite players play to be better than themselves.

The finite player gets caught up in the wins and losses of today, the promotions of next quarter.

The infinite player thinks 5, 10, x years down the road. They know where they’re going, but they don’t quite know how they’re going to get there.

The finite player gets caught up in what and how.

The infinite player starts with why.

The finite player will do anything for a win.

The infinite player cannot possibly lose.

Coaching: Finite or Infinite Game?

Coaching is interesting.

On game days, we and our teams take part in a finite game.

The National Anthem resounds through the stadium, the first pitch is thrown, and the game starts.

After a predetermined amount of time, the game ends with a winner and a loser.

Baseball is a finite game.

That’s okay.

But coaching, that’s different.

While the games are finite, coaching is best played as an infinite game.

The finite coach is over-concerned with wins and losses.

The infinite coach sees beyond the immediate external scoreboard and chooses to play a different game.

They want to win games, of course. But their true measure of success goes beyond wins and losses.

They’re concerned with impact. Player and personal development. Leaving people everywhere better than when they first met.

They’re not gunning for a promotion, sacrificing others upon the altar of their career.

They recognize that when it all ends, they won’t “win” their career.

They’ll simply be content with the impact they made and the men and women they helped along the way.

I want to be an infinite coach.