The Balance Between Finite and Infinite
- Board games, games of sport, etc., are intrinsically finite
- People can live their lives in a finite way (with rules and sharp boundaries) or in a more infinite way where things are flexible and elastic.
- Children tend to play in more infinite ways and adults in finite ways (so as to avoid surprises)
- Finding a balance between the finite and infinite is key to a more fulfilled life — one where surprises and unplanned events don’t upset the balance.
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” That’s a quote from William Blake and it addresses something I wrote about some time ago: finite versus infinite.
Balancing the finite and infinite — where the fun is
Games are intrinsically finite. They have distinct rules, whether they’re board games or games in the field of play. Infinite, in this context, refers to the players playing those games in infinite ways. Infinite interactions change rules, push boundaries, and have the goal of continuing the game.
Understood in this way, it’s clear that we deal with these two things in our everyday lives. If we’re too finite, we become overly rigid and rule-based — even legalistic — and nothing new would ever get created going forward. And we can’t be too infinite or everything would be completely chaotic. By balancing the two, there’s a nice blend that takes place between them.
In my own perception of the world, I see young people, children in particular, play the game of life in more infinite ways. As people mature and grow older, they tend to want things ordered toward the finite — a specific outcome. This tendency, oftentimes, arises out of a fear of failure. As adults, we hope to avoid the frustrations we’ve experienced in the past. We don’t want things to come up and surprise us, but surprises (both good and bad) are really a fact of life.
It never goes away from the time we’re born to the time we die — this struggle to balance the finite and the infinite. I certainly know I fight with it in trying to keep things leaning more toward the infinite side because, like most adults, I naturally want to go forward simply knowing how everything’s going to be every day. I don’t want things suddenly changed on me.
But things are going to change and do change. All you have to do to know this is look at the weather. It changes almost all the time — and sometimes so rapidly the meteorologists completely miss predicting it. Changing weather actually represents a good analogy for the inevitable changes in our everyday lives. Life, for each of us, is constantly changing. We never know what’s going to come up and, somehow, we have to be prepared to deal with these changes. We must deal with the unexpected because there’s nothing else we can do.
Finding the line that blends the infinite and finite, for you and me, holds the key to handling the surprises and changes that occur in our lives with an infinite flair. For instance, we’ve watched scores of scientists, creators, and inventors deal with the infinite unknown over time and it’s been a great benefit to us. They’re playing an infinite game, and in doing so, we gain access to new technology, new medicines, new ways of thinking…new everything…to make our lives better.
Consider these infinite players the next time you assess how you’re running your life in the day-to-day. Are you leaning too far toward the safe and known finite? You’re probably not weighted toward the infinite, but maybe you want to press a little more towards it. The infinite: that’s where the play is; that’s where the fun is. And though the struggle to keep a good blend between the two may prove difficult, it’s ultimately a lot more fun, especially, the longer we live. Until next time. Enjoy.
Gary Klaben is in our Glenview, IL office and serves our clients who are now located all over the country. He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, Wealth of Everything and co-author of The Business Battlefield. Whether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.
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