TIB 54: Super relevant business advice for modern-day entrepreneurs… from 1986?

Written by Arno Jansen

Too many solopreneurs get tangled up in the same problem: They want a lifestyle business to have more freedom. But they make that freedom a goal for the future, instead of enjoying it everyday.

Without the proper mindset, you will never get to your freedom. You may think there is a $-amount that will get you that freedom, but you’d be kidding yourself.

In fact, the whole idea of a lifestyle business, is that your work adapts to your life, and not the other way around.

It is possible, but only if you make intentional life design choices. Unfortunately, many people go in hero-mode- in hopes of ‘making bank’ before burning out.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, it should not be that way.

Today, I want to shift that perspective. To make choosing sustainable consistency easier.

Meet James Carse

James Carse is the author of the widely influential book “Finite and Infinite Games”. It was first published in 1986.

And you know you’re onto something good if the subtitle reads: “A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility”

In it he introduces the distinction between ‘finite games’ and ‘infinite games’.

Finite games have:
• fixed rules
• known player
• a clear goal.

The objective is to win. And to win, someone has to lose.

Infinite games are:

• open-ended
• have no set outcome
• changing rules.

The goal of an infinite game, is to keep the game going.

In recent years, Simon Sinek popularised this in the context of leadership.

I want you to understand the principles of infinite games. That way you can apply them to your business and other areas in life and achieve sustainable consistency.

Let’s dive in.

The problem with a finite game mindset

Seeing your business as a finite game hurts your long-term focus. It also makes you focus on work over everything else. Your health, relationships, and leisure start to suffer.

These are clear signs of a finite mindset:

  • Short-term focus. Often shows up as an arbitrary MRR/ARR amount. Nothing wrong with a quick win and short-term profits. But do not focus on quick gains over long-term sustainability.
  • Win-lose mentality. Defining success as one-upmanship, creates a hyper-competitive environment. It kills the potential benefits of creativity, collaboration and cooperation.
  • Fixed rules and boundaries. These can stifle creativity and innovation in your business. You may be hesitant to change or go beyond established norms. Many creators impose this on themselves too; Because succesfull people in their space share what works for them, it is easy to take their methods as gospel. In reality, these are great starting points from where you should add your spin to it.
  • External rewards as the sole motivation. A ‘finite game mindset’ prioritizes financial gains, status, and recognition. Sure, money is important, it is the fuel that keeps you going. But you don’t want to lose sight of your intrinsic motivations.
    Passion, purpose, and personal fulfillment are important, long-term motivators.
  • Lack of long-term strategy. Finite games have a clear endpoint. The goal is to win before the game ends. It is very hard to have combine this mindset with long-term sustainability. A clear sign of this is when your business starts to eat into your relationships and health.

How is an infinite-game mindset different?

The overarching goal of an infinite game, is not to win, but to keep the game going. To keep a game going you need a game to play and players to play it with.

The way to do that is through:

  • A long-term vision. This encourages you to set meaningful goals and make decisions for sustainable success.
  • Adaptability and innovation. The rules of the game can, and should, be changed. Explore new ideas, challenge conventional norms, embrace change. Adapt your strategies and business models to remain relevant. Add creativity and resilience as ingredients to keep playing this game.
  • Collaboration and partnerships. Accept coöperation over cutthroat competition. Value building strong networks, and collaborating with other players in your niche. This creates mutually beneficial relationships, shared knowledge, and collective progress.
  • Sustainable success and legacy. An infinite game mindset to sustainable success. Focus on building a resilient and enduring business that thrives pretty much on its own. This mindset helps create a lasting legacy. It will have a positive impact that extends beyond your immediate results.

Embracing this mindset requires self-awareness, continuous learning, resilience, and adaptability. These also happen to be important life-skills.

To hone those skills, you can get a coach or mentor, join a solopreneur network, and invest in personal development. Those help you overcome these struggles and help develop effective personal leadership skills.

Lets make this practical

To help you embrace an infinite-game-mindset, here are 3 activities you can do:

Define a Purpose-driven Vision

Write your long-term vision and describe a purpose that goes beyond short-term gains. Know why you started your business and describe the impact you want it to have on your life and that of others. It will help you make decisions that contribute to something meaningful.

I’ve written these step-by-step guides make it easy for you:

TIB 12: “Goals are better when they’re L.O.F.T.Y.”

TIB 13: “OMG: How To Find Your One Major Goal”

Build Great Relationships

Find ways to collaborate and build relationships with like-minded people. Embrace a cooperative mindset. Others are allies in the game, not competitors. Share knowledge, support each other, and explore partnerships. Build a sense of community and tap into collective resources for mutual growth.

To help you connect with others, check out these past newsletter issues:

TIB 17: Use 3 Levels Of Communication To Connect With Anyone

TIB 23: 5 Levels Of Listening To Best Connect With People

TIB 36: How To Ask Question That Reveal More

Focus on Work-Life Integration

Instead of striving for a strict work-life balance, aim for work-life integration. Understand that your business is not a finite game with fixed boundaries. It is an ongoing journey.

Find ways to integrate work and personal life harmoniously. Allow flexibility and set boundaries when needed. Take care of your well-being. Know when to put in the extra effort when needed, but also when to step away to recharge.

Nurture sustainability to prevent burnout.

Here are 4 free articles to help you with that:

TIB 25: 6 tips to stop feeling like you’re never doing enough

TIB 26: 3 things I do to keep going when I don’t feel like it

TIB 35: D.R.E.A.M. G.R.E.A.T. to be happier

TIB 37: How to set boundaries; you can’t pour from an empty cup


If you struggle to balance building a business with the rest of your life, focus on these principles:

• ‘Long-term vision’ over ‘Short-term results’

• ‘Adaptability and innovation’ over ‘Fixed rules’

• ‘Creativity and collaboration’ over ‘Win-Lose mentality’

• ‘Meaningful success and legacy’ over ‘External rewards’

Apply this mindset to building your business so you can enjoy the journey. It helps to overcome challenges with greater ease.

In fact, apply this other areas of your life, such as health and relationships, to make life more enjoyable.

I hope you enjoyed the mindset shift and 3 practical applications for your business.

Enjoy the ride!

Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

Join my free Focus Finder email course to transform yourself from deeply distracted to fully focused.

    Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

    Join my free Focus Finder course and go from deeply distracted to fully focused.

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