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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




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The short game, the long game and the infinite game

How long is your long run? I know people who measure the world in ten second flashes, and they're happy to do something they call generous for six seconds, as long as they get a payback before the ten seconds are up.

More common and more celebrated are people who play a longer game. They build an asset, earn trust, give before getting, and then, after paying their dues, win.

There's something else available, though, something James Carse calls an infinite game. 

In finite games (short and long) there are players, there are rules and there are winners. The game is designed to end, and it's based on scarcity.

In the infinite game, though, something completely different is going on. In the infinite game, the point is to keep playing, not to win. In the infinite game, the journey is all there is. And so, players in an infinite game never stop giving so they can take. Players in this game throw a slower pitch so the batter can hit it, because a no-hitter shutout has no real upside.

A good mom, of course, always plays the infinite game. But it turns out that it's possible to build an organization or even a country that does this as well. Build hospitals and schools instead of forts and barricades...

You certainly know people who play this game, you may well have been touched by them, inspired by them and taught by them. The wrong question to ask is, "but how do they win?" The right way to understand it is, "but is it worth playing?"

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