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Playing the Infinite Game

On a black background, an infinity symbol glows, with one half blue and the other loop orange.

If you’ve had a bad week—or a bad month‚ it’s easy to think, “I’m losing!”
But you’re probably not. You’re probably just playing the wrong game.
In the context of a 40-year business, a bad month is nothing. Hell, five bad years are no big deal—that’s only 12.5 percent of your career. No pro athlete, superstar entrepreneur or politician is at his or her peak 100 percent of the time. Five years spent learning hard lessons and 35 years spent reaping the rewards is a great tradeoff.
Take it from the guy who did it the hard way for 10 years!
In the Founder Phase, playing “the infinite game” is easy: You’re just trying to survive. Every day, you win just by opening the door. But eventually, you need your business to sustain itself and feed your family. These are the goals of Farmer Phase.
Most gym owners play finite games:

They try to get the most members.

They try to get the highest gross revenue or average monthly billing.

They try to get their athletes to the CrossFit Games.

Instead, they should be trying to build a business that lasts 40 years, provides great careers for their coaches and makes them wealthy.
 

Simon Sinek Says

 
Simon Sinek calls the long-term pursuit of success “The Infinite Game.” Here’s his new book on the subject—it’s great so far.
Sinek presents five keys to success in the infinite game:



1. Just Cause

You must feel compelled to serve your mission, whether you’re going through good times or fighting for your life. If you started a gym, I know you’ve got this one covered. You didn’t do it to get rich; you did it to get people healthy. Your “just cause” is so inspiring that helping you achieve it is my “just cause.” No exaggeration.
 

2. Worthy Adversary

You must have someone else who is trying to compete with you. I know, you have other gyms nearby. I know they copy you. I know they undercut your prices and blah-blah-blah-blah. Guess what: You need competitors. You need them to make you better. You need them to justify your high rates. You need them to force you to get better at business instead of better at coaching the snatch.


3. Open Playbook

You must pursue a fixed cause with a variable strategy. You must choose your methods without being trapped in an ideology. HIIT and Paleo are really effective, but they’re not what you sell. You sell weight loss. HIIT and Paleo are tools. When better tools emerge, you will test them and adopt anything that’s better. Right?
(Here’s a test: Could you change your gym’s name and still attract new clients? If your gym name is “Bill’s Pilates” or “Harry’s Barre+Boxing,” you’re probably trapped in an ideology.)
Your clients should know that you’re updating your skills and knowledge all the time—that you will find what’s best for them and filter out the rest.



4. Vulnerable Team

You must have a culture in which people feel free to say “I don’t know” or ask “how do I do this?” Your coaches must balance being an authority with maintaining a “beginner’s mind.” And you, the leader, can build trust by telling your team “I hired a business mentor to help me build a sustainable platform for you.”



5. Courageous Leadership

You must have leadership that focuses on the just cause instead of the competition or what’s being said on social media. This is pretty tough. It’s easy to get distracted by what the other guys are doing, what HQ is doing or what the critics are saying. But none of that matters: What matters is helping people live better, healthier lives. The more focused you are on The Mission, the easier it is to block out all these distractions. But it takes practice.
 

Up or Down: Where Do You Look?

 
Three years ago, Dave Tate of EliteFTS told me this:

“You’re playing a game of attrition. You don’t have to win; you just have to last. Three years from now, everyone else will be gone.”
He’s almost always right.
As other “gym consulting” businesses in the CrossFit space wither—or even fold up their tents and join Two-Brain—we’re growing.
The key reason why?
We’re focused on making gyms successful. They’re focused on us.
It’s pretty amazing to see Tate’s advice borne out three years later. The “competition” in 2016 is either gone, or they recommend us at their seminars, or they’re among our clients now. That means we can all focus on making gym owners successful.
Sure, some are still playing the finite games of getting followers or likes or attention—and some always will be. When they die, someone else will take their place. You and I will never be without critics or short-term competitors.
But if you play the infinite game in your business, as I try to do in mine, they won’t be distractions for long. Because it’s easy to ignore the mud on your shoes when you’re gazing at Infinity.
 

Other Articles in This Series

We Can all Win
Never Have Competition Again
The Mindset Necessary for Success
Why You Want More Two-Brain Gyms in Your City
1,000,000 Fitness Entrepreneurs: The Two-Brain Plan

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