June 29, 2019

More Zero vs Infinity

Sent by Jonathan Stark on July 1st, 2019

Thanks to everyone who replied to my recent message about zero-sum games vs infinite games.

A few folks pointed out that zero-sum vs infinite is not as binary of a proposition that I made it out to be. And in at least one sense, that’s true. For example:

I used football as an example of a zero sum game, but... you can play football with your kids just for fun.

I used frisbee as an example of an infinite game but... can compete to win the ultimate Frisbee world championship.

I used a marathon as an example of a zero some game but... you can run an entire marathon alongside a slower friend to provide encouragement.

Here’s the thing...

The underlying point that I was trying to illustrate with my (perhaps flawed) examples was this:

If you’re playing with the intention of beating a competitor to become the winner, you’re operating in “zero-sum game mode”.

If on the other hand you’re playing with the intention of increasing everyone’s enjoyment for as long as possible, you’re playing in “infinite game mode”.

The primary mode that you choose to operate in is completely up to you.

But the one you pick will have significant effects on your behavior, relationships, and emotional state.

It’s your choice.