I recently finished reading two of the best books I’ve ever read, and I read them back to back. The first is The Infinite Game by my friend, Simon Sinek, and the second is Atomic Habits by James Clear. Two different concepts, but two similar impacts in terms of how they inform my approach to this year.
I’ve long been a fan of consistency. In fact, it’s one of the
subjects I’m most passionate about when it comes to the subjects of leadership
and personal growth because in both arenas, consistency is the key to success.
When you start something, work daily at getting better at it, and stick with it
over time, you’ll see a return on your investment greater than anything you could’ve
Which brings me back to The Infinite Game and Atomic
Simon’s book is all about having a long view of life, about
seeing things as bigger than the short-term goals and quickly scribbled finish
lines we often chase. An infinite game—one that continues on and on, without
end—calls for a different mindset because the point of the game isn’t winning,
it’s keeping the game going. The infinite mindset chases different outcomes,
sets different boundaries, and functions under a different mandate because short-term
thinking won’t achieve long-lasting results.
I love the concept of the infinite game and the infinite
mindset, especially as a leader. When I first started out in my career, I was a
finite thinker—everything was about setting goals, achieving goals, accomplishing
things in the here and now that would take me to the new and next. It took
leaving my first leadership assignment and then watching it fall apart six
months after I left for me to realize I had to change my mindset.
I had to play a longer game. I had to invest in people, develop
them, empower them, and prepare them to go beyond my leadership because that
was the only guarantee that I would see lasting results.
Learning to make that investment helped me realize what James
talks about in his book: you do not rise to the level of your goals; you fall
to the level of your systems. When I first started investing in other leaders,
I was trying to do too much at once. I’d gather people together for a few hours
and try to cram in vision, strategies, resources, and objectives, and then
release them to go out and be mini-mes.
It didn’t go so well.
My system was off in two ways: first, I was trying to reproduce
myself instead of reproducing leaders. I was trying to make people conform to my
way of leading instead of developing them to become leaders themselves. I
needed to examine my leadership, look for the principles others could follow,
and then teach my leaders to apply those principles in their own unique way.
The second way my system was flawed was that it missed the
power of consistency. I wasn’t investing in my leaders in small, repeatable
ways on a regular basis—I was trying to pour everything in at once. As James
points out in Atomic Habits, it’s much more effective to get better by
1% daily than by trying to make a quantum leap when pressured.
Which brings me to the odd title for this blog post: pioneers
I spoke to our team yesterday and shared with them the
impact of these two books on my own life and reminded them that as we start
2020 with a fresh page, we’re looking to break new ground and sustain that
growth for the long haul. I encouraged them to think about the ways they could
get just a little bit better every day and, by doing so, become part of the
amazing things we’ll have accomplished by the end of the year.
Simply put, I told them that Pioneers today become Investors tomorrow. When we think big, act small, and stay consistent, we see our dreams and our accomplishments far exceed what we initially imagined they could be and participate in the rewards and return they bring.
As you look at the new year before you, may I encourage
you to do three things?
- First, check your mindset. Are you looking
at 2020 with an infinite mindset or a finite one?
- Second, check your system. Are you trying
to get 1% better every day or are you trying to become amazing all at once?
- And third, check your commitment. Infinite
games and sustained improvement are commitments to do the right things daily
Consistency compounds, my friends, whether we’re talking about leadership legacies or new year’s resolutions. No matter what your plans for this year, I encourage you to dream big and stay committed. You’ll love what develops along the way.