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The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek.
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In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek explores the differences between finite and infinite games: Games where the players either play to win (finite), or to survive, thrive, and keep playing (infinite). He argues that people who view business as an infinite game that is constantly evolving and never-ending are more successful, while those who aim to “win” don’t end up as well-off.

Two Games: Finite and Infinite

Sinek defines finite games as those with known players, fixed rules, and an agreed-upon objective. A poker game, for example, has identifiable players, strict rules, and a pre-set ending point where one player is judged to have won and the players stop playing.

In contrast, infinite games have both known and unknown players, changeable rules, and no clear ending point at which one person is declared the winner and everyone goes home.

When players leave a finite game, the game ends. When players leave an infinite game, the game continues on without them.

Sinek started thinking about these concepts after reading James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games, a philosophical treatise published in 1986, which first contrasted the idea of a finite game (played to win) with an infinite game (played to keep playing). Carse applies these theories to many aspects of life, both personal and professional. Sinek’s twist was to apply the concepts specifically to business.

Business Is an Infinite Game

In arguing that business is an infinite game, Sinek points out some characteristics that make it so:

  • There are many players, and even some you don’t recognize as players.
  • There are no fixed rules—other than acting legally, there are infinite ways to conduct business.
  • There’s no agreed-upon objective. One person’s definition of success may not be another’s
  • There’s no end. When a player leaves the game, the game continues.

Infinite Games Lay the Foundation for More Games

Sinek wasn’t the first to examine how Carse’s theories of infinite games might play out in the real world. In 2011, Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired Magazine and bestselling author, explored finite and infinite games as part of his book What Technology Wants.

Kelly notes that finite games are dramatic (think military battles or football games) while infinite games can be boring—no one wants to read about a company that’s doing its job well or two countries at peace. However, the boring stories are the ones that lead to future stories. When people cooperate, they can create opportunities for others, whether that be new settlements where people can live and work, or new artistic collaborations that enhance the quality of peoples’ lives.

In other words, although people pay more attention to finite games and their dramatic storylines, it’s infinite (boring) games that end up having greater consequences, spawning more games both infinite and finite.

Developing an Infinite Mindset

Sinek contends that someone who sees their business as part of an infinite game will make decisions based on long-term strategies that develop long-term strength, while a leader who plays a finite game will aim for short-term wins that might weaken her organization in the long run. To develop a mindset that sees the larger game at play, Sinek recommends you adopt several attitudes:

  • Play versus win: Don’t set out to defeat others, but instead, aim to maintain a healthy position within a competitive field.
  • “Us” versus “Me”: Consider the impact your company will have on your employees, your community, the economy, and the outside world.
  • Be proactive, not reactive: Anticipate them and prepare for disruptions instead of merely reacting to them.
  • Think of long-term goals: Work toward a longer-term view of success rather than worrying primarily about your near-term bottom line.
  • Focus on long-term threats: Don’t center your corporate strategies around specific, definable threats posed by rivals. Instead, explore opportunities or develop innovations that might strengthen your organization.
  • Aim for resilience over stability: Strive not just to weather storms but to be made stronger by them.

Objections to Sinek’s Binary Thinking

Some critics of Sinek have argued that he ignores the fact that, in the real world, businesses operate with both finite and infinite mindsets, depending on the particular challenge they’re working on—sometimes they need to use finite tactics in order to keep immediately afloat, and other times, they have the luxury of thinking infinitely.

How to Lead With an Infinite Mindset

Sinek outlines these five guidelines to help you develop an infinite mindset and build a strong, resilient company:

  1. Advance a just cause.
  2. Build trusting teams.
  3. Study your worthy rivals.
  4. Be ready to pivot on a fundamental level.
  5. Demonstrate the courage to lead.

We’ll explore each of these guidelines in depth in the following sections.

Guideline 1: Advance a Just Cause

According to Sinek, an infinite mindset begins with a Just Cause. A Just Cause is a big-picture vision that provides a framework for your corporate strategies. A Just Cause provides a context for all the decisions you’ll make. It inspires people to work hard and make sacrifices because they believe in the cause.

Sinek defines a Just Cause as a specific vision of an ideal state of the future that inspires people. Your Just Cause must paint a clear picture that others can see: A promise to “improve the world” doesn’t provide enough substance or specificity to inspire people. A Just Cause has five elements:

1. It stands for something, not...

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The Infinite Game Summary The Infinite Game Guide Shortform Introduction

In The Infinite Game, motivational speaker and bestselling author Simon Sinek explores the differences between finite games (games with clear winners, losers, and end points) and infinite games (games that transcend the players themselves and have a higher purpose). He argues that people who see business as an infinite game will succeed at it, while those who focus on short-term concerns like beating the competition won’t. He explores how to develop an infinite mindset that will put you and your organization on a path for long-term success.

About the Author

Simon Sinek burst into the public’s consciousness in 2009 with a viral Ted Talk called How Great Leaders Inspire Action, which has now been viewed over 54 million times on the Ted website and another 14 million times on YouTube. He followed up his talk with five books on leadership and inspiration, two of which, Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, hit the New York Times Bestseller list.

He made a...

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The Infinite Game Summary The Infinite Game Guide Introduction to Finite and Infinite Games

In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek explores the differences between finite and infinite games: games where the players either play to win (finite), or to survive, thrive, and keep playing (infinite).

Sinek argues that people who view business as an infinite game are more successful. Those who aim to arrive at an ending “win” point do not end up as well-off as those who see their challenges as part of a larger game that is constantly evolving and never-ending.

Two Games: Finite and Infinite

Sinek defines finite games as those with known players, fixed rules, and an agreed-upon objective. A poker game, for example, has identifiable players, strict rules, and a pre-set ending point where one player is judged to have won and the players stop playing.

In contrast, infinite games have both known and unknown players, changeable rules, and no clear ending point at which one person is declared the winner and everyone goes home.

The biggest difference between finite and infinite games is this: When players leave a finite game, the game ends. When players leave an infinite game, the game continues on without them.

Examples of finite games include:

  • ...

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The Infinite Game Summary The Infinite Game Guide Guideline 1: Advance a Just Cause

According to Sinek, an infinite mindset begins with a Just Cause. A Just Cause is a big-picture vision that provides a framework for your corporate strategies. It provides a context for all the decisions you’ll make. It inspires people to work hard and make sacrifices because they believe in the cause.

Southwest’s Just Cause Led Its Success

Prior to the publication of The Infinite Game, in a speech Sinek named Southwest Airlines as an example of a company with a Just Cause, because its mission went beyond just being an airline—it aimed to allow average people to afford to fly instead of driving or taking a bus somewhere.

Other management thinkers have also discussed how Southwest’s core purpose allowed it to succeed in oftentimes challenging circumstances, through industry upheavals and economic downturns. Greg McKeown explains in his book Essentialism, that to stay true to its cause, Southwest made trade-offs so as not to get distracted by alternative ways it could serve its customers. Instead, Southwest stayed focused...

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Shortform Exercise: Name Your Just Cause

A Just Cause is a big-picture vision that provides a framework for your corporate strategies. A Just Cause outlines the reason you are in business beyond the provision of any one specific product or service; it is the vision your product or service exists to support.


Write down your company’s Just Cause. Think beyond your product or service—ask yourself what larger need your product or service answers (remember the example of the railroad companies, who should have seen themselves as transportation providers rather than sellers of train tickets).

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The Infinite Game Summary The Infinite Game Guide Guideline 2: Build Trusting Teams

Sinek’s second guideline for developing an infinite mindset is to build trusting teams. A trusting team is a team made up of people who feel safe around each other—safe expressing their feelings, asking for help, talking about problems, and admitting to mistakes.

On a trusting team, workers know that their bosses and colleagues will support them through errors and will offer help in a non-judgmental way when asked. Thus, they feel safe being honest. Conversely, on a non-trusting team, people do not feel comfortable showing vulnerabilities and often feel compelled to lie, hide mistakes, and fake expertise rather than ask for help. In such an environment, problems in an organization are ignored or hidden instead of fixed. After some time, these problems can build up and can be much harder to address.

The Importance of Trust

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) published a report in 2017, prior to Sinek’s book, that advances many of the same philosophies on trusting teams. They define trust as “the bridge between the business need for results and the human need for connection.” Like Sinek, the report notes that [trust is a key element in a properly...

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Shortform Exercise: Design Ethical Incentives

In an organization run with a finite mindset where employees are judged exclusively on their performance with no consideration given to how they achieved that performance, employees can feel pressure to hit their targets by cutting corners, bending rules, and making unethical decisions.


Think back to a work situation in which you felt compelled to cut corners or otherwise behave unethically in order to keep up with the performance of colleagues. What actions did you feel compelled to engage in? What outcome were you expecting by engaging in them?

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The Infinite Game Summary The Infinite Game Guide Guideline 3: Study Your Worthy Rivals

Sinek’s third method of developing your infinite-minded leadership is to study your worthy rivals. A worthy rival is a competitor who is better than you at certain things, and who can therefore reveal to you ways you can improve, enabling you to better survive in the infinite game. A worthy rival may make a better product, provide a better service, or command stronger customer loyalty than you do: anything from which you can draw lessons.

Sinek discusses ways in which a worthy rival can inspire you to get better at what you do and can help you more clearly define yourself.

Rivals Help You Improve Your Game

Sinek maintains that viewing a competitor as a worthy rival rather than simply a rival can inspire you to improve rather than just to win, focusing your attention on process rather than outcome. When you respect your rivals and acknowledge what they do well, you are able to better see how their strengths can guide your own shortcomings.

Conversely, if you view your rivals with disdain or see them solely as competitors to beat, you’re far more likely to dismiss their strengths and ignore your own weaknesses, because your mind will be focused on...

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Shortform Exercise: Find a Worthy Rival

When you have a worthy rival, that person or organization can keep you focused on what you stand for. When a worthy rival shows you both what to imitate and what to avoid doing, they can help you define your own Just Cause.


Name a competitor whom you admire in some way—someone (or some organization) who does at least one thing better than you do.

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The Infinite Game Summary The Infinite Game Guide Guideline 4: Be Ready to Pivot

Sinek’s fourth guideline that prepares you to lead with an infinite mindset is being prepared to pivot on a fundamental, existential level. An existential pivot is a purposeful, dramatic change that a person willingly makes in order to stay true to her Just Cause. It’s a move that pushes her out of her comfort zone and carries a risk of failure but is necessary in order for her to continue to play an infinite game.

Pivot Proactively

Sinek emphasizes that an existential pivot is not a reactive move—a move that someone makes in order to stay alive in the face of difficult challenges. Instead, it’s a move made in anticipation of a future changing climate because you know that at some point, your organization will need to be positioned differently to survive.

Because of the forward-thinking nature of an existential pivot, it’s a move that a person makes when things are going well, when she sees that down the road, she’ll need to be on a different path in order to live up to her Just Cause.

Nintendo’s Proactive Pivot

Nintendo is an example of a company that was doing well in its established business but saw that [by pivoting to a different...

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Shortform Exercise: Plan for an Existential Pivot

An existential pivot is a purposeful, dramatic change that a person willingly makes in order to stay true to her Just Cause. It’s a move that pushes her out of her comfort zone and carries a risk of failure but is necessary in order for her to continue to play an infinite game.


Describe a fundamental change that you anticipate coming to your industry. It might be technological, political, or market-based. (Have fun with this, if needed: If there’s nothing you’re currently anticipating, imagine something that might possibly happen, if something changes in the wider world.)

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The Infinite Game Summary The Infinite Game Guide Guideline 5: Lead Courageously

Sinek’s fifth and final guideline to follow in developing your infinite mindset is to lead courageously. Leading courageously means working toward a better future, even if doing so puts your own career in jeopardy.

Leading Courageously Means Supporting Your Just Cause

Sinek notes that when you lead courageously, you might take risks that investors warn against—not just any risks (as finite-minded leaders take risks, too), but specifically, risks that help you follow your Just Cause.

He cautions that it can be difficult to take such risks because they can lower a company’s profitability in the short term, which won’t please investors who want to see immediate shareholder returns or employees who are concerned with their job security. But sometimes risks that decrease immediate profits are the best way to ensure a company’s health in the long run.

Sinek points to an oft-cited example of the convenience store and pharmacy CVS Health, which demonstrated courageous leadership in 2014 when it decided to stop selling...

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Shortform Exercise: Align Your Just Cause to Your Actions

To truly lead with an infinite mindset, your Just Cause must be more than merely words; you must act on it. Otherwise, it’s nothing but a marketing slogan.


Think of a company—either one you’ve worked for or one you’re familiar with—that does things that don’t align with their stated mission. (For example, you might think of a national company that advertises excellent worker relations but is often in the press with labor problems, or a local restaurant that proclaims their commitment to customer service but employs surly waiters.)

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The Infinite Game Summary The Infinite Game Guide Conclusion: Changes Are Coming

Sinek notes that people are starting to question Friedman’s philosophies about business existing only to serve an elite class of owners, and are starting to recognize that there are other important reasons that companies exist.

Part of what’s driving this change is a rethink of the role of shareholders in a corporation. While economists and investors talk about shareholders as if they are owners of a company (because technically, they are), a more accurate analogy would be to think of shareholders as renters, rather than owners. Watch any show advising people on stocks and it’s clear that the analysts are giving people advice on how to buy and flip a stock, rather than how to find a stock for long-term ownership.

To build resilient companies equipped for the infinite game, leaders need to stop thinking of shareholders as owners to whom the company owes everything, and instead start thinking of them as just one contributor among other contributors. Investors contribute funds, employees...

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Shortform Introduction
  • Introduction to Finite and Infinite Games
  • Guideline 1: Advance a Just Cause
  • Exercise: Name Your Just Cause
  • Guideline 2: Build Trusting Teams
  • Exercise: Design Ethical Incentives
  • Guideline 3: Study Your Worthy Rivals
  • Exercise: Find a Worthy Rival
  • Guideline 4: Be Ready to Pivot
  • Exercise: Plan for an Existential Pivot
  • Guideline 5: Lead Courageously
  • Exercise: Align Your Just Cause to Your Actions
  • Conclusion: Changes Are Coming