In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, the Bautis Financial team discusses the second book assignment in their monthly Book Club, The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. The book seeks to answer the question: How do you win a game that has no end? These “infinite games” include business, politics and life itself. The book challenges the ways that we look at the responsibility of business and life.
In this episode, we discuss:
- Infinite games versus finite games.
- The five essential practices of an infinite mindset.
- The difference between worthy rivals and competitors.
- The role of a just cause, or “why.”
- The role of a leader.
- And more!
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to The Agent of Wealth Podcast, this is your host Marc Bautis. On today’s episode, we brought back the entire Bautis Financial team to discuss the second book we’ve read for our book club. John, Kyra and Kayla, welcome to the show.
Last month we read Atomic Habits by James Clear, which I picked. Kyra picked the one we’re going to talk about today, The Infinite Game. So Kyra, I’ll have you lead this discussion.
Thanks, Marc. Yes, I selected The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. I picked this book off the shelves of Barnes & Nobles about a year ago, intrigued by the front end paper, which reads in part:
How do you win a game that has no end?
Finite games, according to James P. Carse, have known players, fixed rules and a clear end point. The winners and losers are easily identified, like in a game of football or chess.
In infinite games, like business or politics or life itself, the players come and go, the rules are changeable and there is no defined end point. There are no winners or losers in an infinite game. There is no such thing as “winning business” or “winning life,” for example, there is only ahead and behind.
I thought this would be a good selection for the Bautis Financial book club because these discussions are happening with my coworkers, my team, and at large, the book’s main goal is to challenge the ways that we look at the responsibility of business and our responsibility to employees.
My first question is for John. In chapter 1 of the book, Simon says any leader who wants to adopt an infinite mindset must follow five essential practices, the first being “Advance a Just Cause.” By advancing a just cause, you should feel inspired every morning. Share with us your Just Cause in business, and one in your personal life.
It’s interesting that you ask me this, because it’s one of the things that was the most thought-provoking for me. When reading this book, I was unpacking how I’ve thought about the things that motivate me. And I don’t know if I have my “Just Cause” at a personal level figured out. Right now, with four kids, there’s no infinite game — it’s more of a finite game to get through the day.
But this question reminded me of the Advice Value Stack that we share with our clients (see below). At the top is fulfilling a life’s purpose. While this is certainly something that I’ve given a lot of thought to, I don’t have that wake up motivated feeling yet.
From a business perspective, it’s a little different — because there’s me and our business. One of the things that I really enjoy about this job is helping people gain confidence. Whenever I’m meeting with a client or prospect, my approach is to help them build confidence. And this is definitely one of the things that keeps me motivated and excited every morning.
That’s great. And this book was thought provoking in that way. And I agree with you on the personal level. For me, I want to leave a legacy… but what is that legacy? A lot of people also call this your “why.”
Didn’t Sinek write a book about that?
Marc Bautis :
Yes, Start With Why, I believe.
Yeah, funny enough.
So, it’s worth mentioning the second essential practice — building a trusting team. But my next question relates to the third, which is “Study Your Worthy Rivals.” However, Simon does caution that Worthy Rivals differ from competitors, saying “Viewing other companies or other individuals as competitors is really unhealthy. If you have a competitor at work, it means that you will undermine them so that you can improve your sales, so you can get the bonus, etc.” Marc, in your opinion, what differs a Worthy Rival from a competitor?
I grew up playing a lot of sports and always looked at the person on the other side of the field as a competitor. That mindset transitioned into business as well, especially when starting Bautis Financial — I looked at other advisors as competition. Sinek takes a different approach, saying you shouldn’t look at people as competitors but as worthy rivals. These are players in the game worthy of comparison.
Worthy rivals can be players in the industry, outside the industry, sworn enemies, collaborators or colleagues. But regardless of who they are, the main point is that they do something just as good, or maybe even better, than you — that can be a superior product, command greater loyalty, lead more efficiently or effectively.
You don’t need to admire everything about them, agree with them, or even like them. You should simply acknowledge that they do have strengths and abilities, and you probably could learn from them.
One of the things that I’ve done recently is join a group of advisors that meets regularly and shares best practices. It’s called Advisors Growing As A Community. It’s composed of advisors from all across the country — some are not necessarily even competitors. It’s a way to continue that quest of improving ourselves.
That’s great! My next question is for you, John. Have you ever come away from a customer service experience feeling like your needs could have been met without much hassle, but we’re denied as part of “company policy?” Simon says that this only happens in poorly led companies. “A well-led company knows what the rules are…. (And) knows when to break the rules when it’s the right thing to do.” Can you give me an example of when you’ve ‘broken the rules’? Did it pay off?
The first thing that popped into my mind was Comcast. I feel every time I have interaction with Comcast, very rarely, it is positive. It is so important for companies to leave a positive experience behind, because customers have choices. And it’s just there’s just very simple things that come along with that positive experience.
I don’t have a specific example when I’ve broken the rules, but I can say that an infinite mindset, in most cases, trickles down to the people who are in contact with the consumer on a regular basis.
I like how the Ritz-Carlton approaches it. They give every employee the authority to spend up to $2,000 to improve client experience in any way they choose. I think that’s a really great strategy.
Yesterday I saw a thread on Twitter that began with someone complaining about U-Haul customer service. What started as a singular tweet turned into a thread of customer complaints of poor service from a slew of companies. I mean, you wouldn’t believe the amount of people that posted. Businesses have to remember that people have a voice, and they will use it.
So, getting back to your question, Kya… Sinek talks a lot about the focus of a company. In the finite mindset, it is shareholders. But in infinite games, it’s the customer, the employees and the shareholders — it’s everyone involved.
I’d agree. Little things go a long way.
So my next question is for you Marc: At the conclusion of the book, do you feel inspired to adopt an infinite mindset?
Sinek talks about the five essential practices of an infinite mindset, all of which resonated with me. I talked earlier about worthy rivals. He also talks about advancing a just cause. One of my just causes is financial literacy — as a company, we try to teach and promote financial literacy with our content. Since many people aren’t taught financial literacy growing up, it’s a passion of mine to help with that.
He also talks about building trusting teams and leaders. One story that related to the idea was about the Marine Corps. Sinek found that the Marine Corps identifies leaders through a variety of assessment and tests. However, leaders aren’t chosen by their ability to complete the assessments, but rather on the characteristics they exhibit: such as honesty, integrity, judgment and decisiveness. For example, the Marine Corps is not interested in whether someone can cross a water hazard — they want leaders to create a trusting environment so that their team can cross any water obstacles.
Reading that opened my eyes and made me brainstorm better ways to lead.
Yeah, I liked that story too. Kayla, my next question is for you. How did this book inspire you to cultivate the courage to lead in your own life?
That’s a really interesting question. I think within your own life, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint your “why” — I don’t have one right now, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. But just knowing that you’re working towards something bigger creates that infinite mindset. So that was one of the biggest takeaways for me.
Another thing that I took away from the book is that you are your own biggest competitor. There’s no good in comparing yourself to colleagues or others around you — you should just be comparing you to yourself. And the last thing that I’m taking into my own life is that in a finite game, you’re worried about small consequences, but in an infinite game, you’re not really letting those hold you back.
Was there any aspect of The Infinite Games that you would change, that you disliked or that you disagreed with?
I thought It was really entertaining the whole way through. One criticism that I do have is that some of the stories felt a bit redundant. There were a lot of businesses used as examples, like everyone has mentioned: Wells Fargo, Apple versus Microsoft, etc. I liked the story about CVS’ decision to stop selling cigarettes a few years back, and how the decision opened up their store to more partnerships with businesses that were health-focused. While I thought these were entertaining, they had the same general idea and felt redundant.
Something I couldn’t get out of my head as I was reading the book is that the infinite game is just as important as the finite game. And that good companies actually figure out a way to make them both co-exist.
I felt Sinek always had this anticapitalist feel to the way he was talking about business. And I don’t know if that was necessarily his intention, but it certainly seemed that way. And I just couldn’t help thinking that the purest sense of the infinite game is probably just as evil as the purest sense of the finite game.
In my opinion, it’s best to meet in the middle — almost like politics. Did anyone else have that thought about his approach?
Yeah, he weaves in it a little bit. But also I think business is not as simple as just an infinite game. I think there’s finite games within the infinite game. I guess Sinek is trying to go over on one side in terms of the message. But in reality, it’s probably not as simple as outlined.
If you look at it from a pure capitalist vs. anticapitalist perspective, I think he does weave some of that in there. It’s hard to tell if that’s his stance on it or not, but I think there’s a little bit of it in there.
I think there’s something to be said for coming to the middle, or taking sort of going back to what you were saying, Mark, about worthy rivals, taking the practices, and successes that come from both infinite and finite games and using them both to your advantage when you are a business owner, or working for a business. And there’s just something to be said for learning from all different types of perspectives and then putting them to use in your own way.
Alright, we’re just about out of time. Thank you all for participating in today’s conversation. John, what book did you select for us to read next month?
So next month we’re going to talk about Elon Musk. There’s obviously a lot in the news about him these days, between Space X and some of his comments about Bitcoin. We will be reading Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.
Looking forward to it. I don’t think we can get away from him if we try, so.
If you can’t beat them, join them.
Marc Bautis :
All right. So that just about wraps up today’s show. Thank you everyone for listening in.