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Book Review – The Infinite Game

Book Review – The Infinite Game

So I’ve been trying to do more reading, and this book in particular got my attention after this video was referred to me.

I particularly found this interesting because if you watch the video. It discusses the differences between an infinite strategy and a finite strategy. And it struck me because to be honest I had been explaining to friends the differences between board games and TableTop Roleplaying Games. And more importantly, I saw the implications of this with regard to a career. Business / Technology is a game that will continue long after I am gone, and to build anything worthwhile it would require movement in that direction from a strategic perspective.

So after that I heard that Simon Sinek wrote a book that went into this more:

See the source image

What I found interesting reading this book?

For me the interesting part of this book was that it put forward a mathematics based theory, that attempts to model human behavior. And I find some of this completely fascinating. But more than that I found the original premise, of the infinite vs the finite strategy to be something very telling. And one of the things I love about my current position is that it affords the ability to to see a bigger picture than I used to, and the opportunity to see beyond the technology to the broader picture and to focus on a mission.

What is the difference between “Finite strategy” and “Infinite strategy.”

Now I’ve mentioned this a couple of times. So what is a “Finite strategy”, and an “infinite strategy.”

A Finite game, is a game that meets certain types of parameters and must be played as such. In a finite game, the following elements are true:

  • All players are none.
  • The conditions to “win” are transparent and clearly defined.
  • All rules are defined and agreed upon up front.
  • The duration of the game is defined.
  • A clear “winner” is defined at the end.

The best example of a Finite game I can think of are sports. Take hockey for example. A set number of players for two teams are set to play with the game starting at a specific time, and ending at a specific time. Because of this there is a very specific set of strategies that needs to be implemented to win.

Now an Infinite game, creates a very different situation, and requires that it be handled very differently. In an infinite game.

  • Players are both known and unknown, and can enter and leave the game at any time.
  • The conditions of “Winning” are to be able to continue to play the game.
  • Rules are both written and unwritten.
  • The duration of the game is infinite.
  • A player wins by creating a scenario where they continue to play the game. This requires creating situations that support maintaining the will and resources to continue.

The important part of this is the “Will and the Resources” to continue playing the game. In an infinite game setting, the goal is to stay in the game, and part of it is the realization that there will always be a competitor, and that you can’t ever assume you’ve “won” the game in any way.

A great example of this I find is the example of business. The business world doesn’t end. There is never a circumstance that says “Oh well Company X won…everyone time to go home.” The landscape of the game is always changing.

A perfect example of this is the COVID-19, situation around the world. The important part of this is to remember that the game conditions are changing at all time. But the companies that are going t o weather the storm are the ones who can make adjustments and flex their strategy to survive.

Why does this matter?

if you look at the companies and individuals that are most successful, they all focus on their values, and trying to continue to drive towards a goal / calling that helps them to keep the will in the game. And by having this longer term vision, and a clear mission the companies and individuals out there that embrace an infinite mindset and strategy are able to make the right adjustments to do what’s required to see that mission successful.

Final Thoughts?

I really enjoyed this book, and I found it to provide some very interesting ideas and insights that really forced me to question traditional thinking. Simon Sinek has this great ability to take these concepts and present them in such a way that they come off as mind-blowingly obvious. I definitely recommend this book overal.

Things I listen to…Podcasts / Audio Books

Things I listen to…Podcasts / Audio Books

Hello all, a shorter post this week. One question I’ve been asked a few times, so I thought I would put together a post on it. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and audio books. Personally I like this because it gives me an opportunity to take advantage of times I might not have and make them productive.

For Tech Podcasts, I listen to:

DotNetRocks – This really is a great and long running technical podcast, that I have been listening to for easily 7 years. They cover a wide array of topics but rerally have a great collection of guests. I was lucky enough to be a guest on this podcast once and I have to tell you it made me much more of a fan.

Azure Monk – Cloud Solution Architects – A shameless plug for a friends podcast, Anand is a great architect and very gifted technology specialist, and his podcast involves interviewing a other architects. The part I like about this is hearing the disparate backgrounds that leads everyone to this field..

Hanselminutes – To me this is a must have for anyone in technology. Scott Hanselman is “everyone’s favorite developer” and to be honest what I really enjoy about this podcast is the breadth of topics. He covers everything from coding, game development, mathematics, soft skills, and just about anything else that comes to mind.

For more fun stuff I enjoy these podcasts when I need a break:

Critical Role – Ok, I’ve made no secret of the fact thatt I am a huge nerd, and a big fan of gaming whether it be video games, or most recently table-top games. Recently I’ve dove into Dungeons and Dragons. To that end I’ve really enjoy Critical Role as a podcast, as it really does a good job of capturing everything I enjoy about the storytelling medium.

Angel of Vine – A fictional podcast that documents an investigation during Hollywood’s golden era, and has some major name actors behind it. Leads to some great mysteries and storytelling, definitely recommend it.

Welcome to Night Vale – A bizarre podcast that can be a lot of fun if you are actually looking for something weird. Welcome to Night Vale is very much a podcast that embraces Cthulu and that Lovecraft-ian horror. Like I said it a podcast for someone who just wants something off beat.

Decoder Ring Theatre – Going to get a little personal here, when I was growing up, I had a great uncle who introduced me to the Shadow, the original radio program, and it is part of what turned me on to comics in general. So when I found this podcast series that is modeled on old radio dramas, I absolutely jumped at it. The adventures of the Red Panda are absolutely something me and my amazing wife enjoy.

And for additional listening, I highly recommend the following audio books:

The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek – This is my most recent read, and it really is a fascinating book. The idea of the infinite game has so many implications to a lot of our life, but specifically the ways of attaching this to career and your goals is absolutely fascinating. This is a very dense but powerful book, with a lot to digest.

Just Mercy – Bryan Stephenson – This is a really powerful, and at the same time brutal read. The story is a powerful one, about standing up for what’s right, and not backing down. And the underlying story of empathy is a truly powerful one. I will say that if you are looking for “light reading” this is not it. But it is a powerful story about standing up to protect people from the hate off the world, and what I would consider to be “true evil” in this world.

Retired Inspired – Chris Hogan – This really is a great book for everyone when its comes to managing your finances. The advice in here is powerful for retirement and I recommend this to anyone and everyone who is working. It’s never to early to think about retirement.

Grit – Angela Duckworth – Really is an amazing book, and definitely changes your mindset with regard to what is the difference between talent and effort.

Mindset – Carol Dweck – Another amazing book that when combined with the above will really help you to understand the difference between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset and the overall impact on your life of each.

Book Review – Multipliers

Book Review – Multipliers

So I have another book review, and honestly I’ve found myself traveling so there will be probably quite a few of these as I continue to have time to kill on a plane. The latest book I just finished was “Multipliers” by Liz Weisman and Greg McKeown.

Now I’ve read a book by Greg McKeown before, Essentialism, and found it to be really an excellent and thought provoking read. It caused me to re-examine a lot of the ways I’d approached things in my life. So I was very excited to finally get around to reading the book he wrote before with Lizi Weisman.

This book takes the position that their are two types of leaders in this world, Multipliers and Diminishers. The earlier being the type of leader that causes their teams to aspire to great heights, and to rise to meet an impossible challenge. The later being the type of leader who crushes the spirit of the people they lead, causing them to deliver less and less.

I found this book to be rather insightful and interesting, as it made me question the type of leader that I want to be. Now that being said, I do feel like to say that all leaders fall into one of two buckets, is a bit of a falsehood. I believe all leaders have elements of both diminishers and multipliers in their approach as no one is perfect.

But what I found in this book is that the examples are pretty dramatic, and in that regard its easy to say “I’m not that bad”. But I found it eye opening in that it made me re-evaluate how I approach leadership. I think the focus of the book is on a “binary” nature of these two types of leaders, and to be honest I don’t find that I totally agree with that assessment.

After reading this, I’m convinced, that in a way similar to the nature of introverted vs extroverted aren’t binary but a sliding scale, I believe the same can be said for multipliers and diminishers. Most of the leaders I’ve worked with are somewhere on that scale, but no one is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But I don’t feel that comes across in the author’s description, and that could because of the reliance on dramatic examples.

The other element I found in this book, is that it does focus on what I call “Official leadership”, which is having an official title or position that puts you in a position of leadership. But in my experience, leadership includes people who are not in a position of authority but who act as leaders. In the beginning of the book it seems to exclusively focus on the earlier, and it is easy to say “this doesn’t apply to me” but I find that is not true.

Overall I found this to be pretty insightful book. Below is a talk from Liz Wiseman at a CEO summit about the content of the book.

Book Review – Everyday Millionaire

Book Review – Everyday Millionaire

So for something a little different, I decided to check out a book on finance, because ultimately I do love my job, but I enjoy making money :). So the question obviously becomes how to you generate enough well to some day gain the financial freedom to enjoy it.

My wife and I a while back, took the Financial Peace University course, and found it to be really insightful, and since then by applying the teachings so that course we have been able to leverage the money we make to achieve more of our goals, and honestly its been a very liberating experience overall. Our entire financial outlook completely changed in a single year’s time.

Honestly, if the past few years time have taught me anything, its the change can happen every quickly, and with almost no time (or warning) at all. In the past 6 years, my entire life changed so much that if you honestly tried to tell my past self this was all going to happen, I would have absolutely laughed at you. I went from a married man, living in a small town home, and working as a developer and architect to my current position, father of 2, and currently in a new home.

So I decided to check out Chris Hogan’s book, Everyday Millionaire, and see sort of what I could gleam from his research and insights. For those who don’t recognize the name, Chris Hogan is a financial expert that is part of Dave Ramsay’s “Ramsay Solutions” organization, and has done several books on how to ensure you set yourself up for a successful retirement.

I have to say I enjoyed this book, as part of this book Chris Hogan interviewed and did a study of over 10,000 people who all have a net worth over $1 million dollars. And to be honest his findings pretty much lined up with a lot of the things that are talked about in Dave Ramsay’s books and course.

Now admittedly, that’s not surprising, because he talks about how they found these people was to put out an open call and interview the people who came back, and the people who would be listening to him are people who are already familiar with his work. So his results may be a little skewed, but that doesn’t make his findings any less relevant.

The general message of the book is that it is possible to attain millionaire status without doing so through any one of the many myths out there. The idea that the people who are rich has some “secret sauce” or some “unnatural advantage” is not at all true.

The simple message of this book is that if you work hard, and invest smart and safely you can achieve the financial independence you are looking for, and chasing that “1 big break” is what can ultimately lead to ruin.

Below is a video describing how this is possible.

Now there is one thing I fundamentally disagree with, and its not what he’s saying, but more how he says it. The one statement he repeats often is “If you work hard then …” and makes a reference to how attainable it is.

I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but I do disagree with the phrasing. The past few years have taught me a very valuable lesson, and that lesson is that of making sure you focus on “Impact OVER activity”. I don’t believe that working hard is enough to get anywhere in life, but rather working smarter and harder is the key.

Let me put this to an example…Take the following two scenarios, and I’m borrowing these from Greg McKeown. I’m going to keep the numbers small for my point.

If you have a job as a kid with a paper route, and you work every day of the week, and ultimately make $10 a week, you can make good money. That’s $40 / month, and that can do a lot for a kid who is say 12 years old.

Now, if you could instead take a job washing cars on the weekend, and you can charge $5 per car and do 5 cars in a saturday, and 5 cars in a sunday. That means you can make $50 a week, which is $200 / month.

Now I would argue, you can work hard at the paper route, but at the end of the day the impact it has on your goals is significantly lower. It would make more sense to take the job washing cars, and make more money, and then look for other things you can do during the week. It doesn’t matter how hard you work that doesn’t change the fact that the impact is different. If I work 10x as hard at the paper route, the end result is the same.

But if I increase my efforts on washing cars and can do 7 cars a day (only 2 more) that’s now $35 / day, which is $280 / month.

See my point, at the end of the day I feel like its important to work hard, but you have to take the time to make sure that what you are working on is moving you towards your end goals in life, sitting and grinding away at a job that you don’t enjoy and has no growth potential it may get you millionaire status some day, but the risk would be lower if I focus on careers where the level of effort has an impact on the return on the investment.

Ultimately we all have a finite amount amount of time and we invest it in our careers and skills so we should focus on items that have an acceptable level of risk and a reasonable return on that investment.

Overall I recommend the box, but would advise you to keep this in mind as you read it.

Book Review – Innovator’s Mindset

Book Review – Innovator’s Mindset

So I have been trying to read more, and focus less on technical technology reading more books on a variety of topics. So one that I wanted to check out was the innovator’s mindset.

Right now my family has been going through a lot of changes, and at the forefront of that is the fact that my kids are a school age, we are moving, and I’ve been looking at my approach to tackling innovation and education as the mission of our family is to secure the future of our kids.

Because of that I was really keen to hear options for people use to help guide new innovative learning methods for not just myself but my children as well.

The book interesting mirrors the work of Angela Duckworth, and her book Grit. And Carol Dwreck’s book, Mindset. Both of which I am very familiar with, and enjoyed and have seen value in my life.

The interesting part he points to here is honestly that the education system. Is ripe for disruption. Many schools and institutions cling to the old ways of doing things and are afraid to take risks with how they teach.

The focus of the book is around how we as a society teach problem solving but not problem fighting, the idea of how you look at the world and see that something is wrong. That requires intelligence but more than that requires empathy. The ability to understand how people feel and to gain understanding into their situation and problem.

The intention is then that we should focus on using learning to drive outcomes, because knowledge that is not practical is wasted effort. There needs to be a way for the student or person to absorb that knowledge into the fiber of their being, into their structure of knowledge for application.

The idea of the innovators mindset is that we need to seek alternative viewpoints take risks and recognize that their is a cost to not changing, and know that failure and iterations are a part of that solution.

I enjoyed the focus on how to embrace the idea of taking risks and the kid of challenges you may run into, and overall found this book to be great. I think he focused a little too much of examples that involved social media. This is not a magic silver bullet for education.

But one point I do agree with is his focus on honest and public reflection. The idea of declaring you will do something is a great way of encouraging accountability, but to the authors point, it also encourages us to be more thoughtful of our ideas if we know that others will be reviewing and challenging these ideas. This can lead to a better more thoughtful effort and a crowd sourced solution to problems.

The biggest thing that really landed in our family is that right now the education system is very focused on consumption, and pushing kids to consume what is thrown at them. While this type of learning can work and has its place, there is such a thing as focusing on empowerment. The idea is to take an objective, and help our kids to have the resources to learn everything they need to obtain that objective. It’s an interesting piece of learning but it works.

So how did this help, my daughter, has been struggling with learning her letters in kindergarten, worksheets are like pulling teeth, flash cards are boring. She’s been having a rough time. While listening to this book, I noticed my daughter loves putting on plays and shows at home. So I asked her “let’s make a letter video.” Not only did she get excited but she pushed passed what was required. After practicing her letters making videos and her wanting to practice “for the video.” She took her test and went from struggling to pass 1 list of letters, to passing 2, and almost a third.

It occurs to me this goes beyond kids, in my own profession. Anyone can learn a technology but it becomes a lot easier when you focus on solving a specific problem and direct your learning as such.

There is no better place to learn than the foxhole. Ultimately it leads to much better drivers to success at the end of the day.

The interesting part also was the second half of the book which talked about how to as a leader foster a culture of innovation within your organization.  And the key points I would acknowledge here are that the giving peole the freedom to fail, and fail fast.  And encouraging your people to take risks.  This is something that I’ve been working on in my family and with my kids, and celebrating the fact that they “tried something new”.

Overall I recommend the book, it gave some good ideas with regard to approaching innovation that I found enlightening, provided you can get past the “education system” focus.