Playing An Infinite Game
24 minute read
Below is a talk shared in July 2022, at YJA convention in Dallas, Texas. Yes, it features Steph Curry. :)
Music at YJA is totally off the hook. Last night, I was sharing a wall with couple of you who were playing music till 4:00 AM -- and I would've complained, except it was good music. :) But you know, what was truly epic was that whoever was next door, they actually set an alarm for six o'clock! That is some solid amibition, to go late night and still aim to make the early morning sessions. I'm a light sleeper, so I had 4AM to 6AM sleep -- and I'm thinking I'm getting my YJA all-nighter experience. :)
Let me start with that notion of challenges. I remember when I was younger, I would love challenges. A bit later, though, I realized that we are programmed to climb up ladders, but then you realize sometimes the ladder's up against the wrong wall. You reach the destination, and it's not quite what you thought it was going to be.
We all get a high from rising to the occasion, but which challenge are we gonna pick?
Today, I wanna offer a challenge -- of playing an infinite game.
On my plane ride here, I was reading this book by James Carse. He was a NYU history professor, who wrote a book titled Finite and Infinite Games. He says, there's two kinds of games. One is a finite game, where there's a winner and a loser. You play a finite game for the purpose of winning, but you'll play an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.
He was writing about games, but it's actually kind of deep if you think about it, because if you're, if you're playing a game that continues life, if that's the purpose, it's very different than playing a game to win. Because when you win, you have a loser. If you're number one in anything, that means everyone else is not number one. And it feels good to be number one, but when you get there and if you have a heart, you're like, "Oh, I won." Maybe I'm the smartest in the class, or maybe I'm the most athletic in the school, or maybe I got the most awards. But that just means that so many others didn't. So I'm sort of feeling special at your cost.
That's one kind of a game, but can we play another kind of a game? And maybe this is not the kind of game that gets talked about in the media, but perhaps there is something else to explore. This became my pursuit.
Here's the opening lines of the book that I was reading on the plane: "A finite game is played for the purpose of winning and infinite game is the played for purpose of continuing the play." Last line of the book is just as interesting: "Infinite players are not serious actors in any one particular story, but the joyful poets of a story that continues to originate what they cannot finish."
Infinite players are planting seeds for trees, whose fruits they will not be around to see. How do we become that joyful poet?
Most of my life, I've been playing finite games. Right outta college, I was working at this place which is now infamously the world headquarters of Facebook, but it used to be Sun Microsystems back in those days. During that phase, you get out of college and you're thinking, "Okay, I just wanna land a good job. And then after a good job, you're thinking, 'I want to get promotions.'"
After I got couple quick promotions, I never felt like I arrived. I wanted to win more. I was in the Silicon valley, so it was no longer cool to work a big company. You gotta have your startup, take it public, drive fancy cars, and talk up a big fame. I realized it was a track, but let's say you win at that game. You're gonna create losers all along. I didn't really feel good about that.
That was the game I was boxed into. Nobody told me about a different kind of game, but I was like, okay, this money thing. Yeah, it's okay. It's a game and you win. And there's a kind of thrill to it, but maybe there's a different game. So then you think maybe there's something too, like this fame thing in, in our, our early twenties, we used to build websites for nonprofits, just volunteers. Our organization was called ServiceSpace.
In terms of fame, I'm not a famous guy, but for a short bit, we were covered in all these media outlets. And when you see your face on the cover of a magazine, you can ask yourself, "What if every single one of you was on the cover of like a magazine?" Well, that would no longer mean much because everybody's there. We all can't be famous. For me to be famous, you have to be necessarily not famous, which was a little bit off-putting for me.
Going a little farther, you wonder -- if not money or fame, perhaps power? With power, you can change people's lives. One fine day, in 2015, I got an email. "Hey, can you join our committee at the White House?" My first thought was like, "Spam!" Yeah, sure, Obama's writing to me. And yeah, my name is Mahatma Gandhi. It was actually a short, cryptic email invite, and I really thought it was spam -- but then I ended up going to the White House routinely. I felt like -- wow. It was a group of 20-30 people who were all incredible change makers, trying to address poverty and inequality in the country. Many folks I admired for their service to humanity. And I remember this very one specific moment when we're all sitting in a circle, and we were told to propose 3 core ideas to pass onto Obama to turn it into policy. Very cool, right? But there's 30 of us in the circle, and only 3 will win. I had ideas, the communities I was representing would love for their ideas to wing, but if I win, someone else loses. Do I want that? I don't know. Made me think in that moment. I withdrew, and I just opted to listed instead. Maybe that's not the responsible thing to do when you get to that stage, but for me, it didn't feel right.
Pondering all of these edges, I continued to do a whole bunch of different experiments -- with my own life. First was simply to ask questions. You arrive at some destination that you defined as success, and then you realize, "Oh, wait a second. That was just a story. Now that I'm here, it's not all that satisfying." In fact, there's actually all this residue I created because I was obssessed with getting here."
Another experiment was a pilgrimage. My wife and I, six months after our marriage, we went on a walking pilgrimage. (There's actually a great YJA story connected to it, which I can share in the after hours. :)) Both of us said to each other, "Let's play boldly with our lives. Let's think out of the box." Gandhi was a big inspiration for us, so we decided to go to the Gandhi Ashram in India, and embarked on a walking pilgrimage -- where we would use our hands to do small acts of service, our heads to profile stories of everyday heroes and our heart to cultivate greater purity and compassion. So we ate whatever food is offered and slept wherever place was offered.
Imagine if I told you, "Give me your cell phones, wallets, and I'll see you in six months." One of those do-not-try-at-home things. :) Both of us believed in kindness, but we wonder how deep our trust in the universe was. Can you actually walk out and be like, "I'm gonna connect with somebody with unselfish love and that's gonna sustain me?" We tried it, and it was mind-bending and heart-opening experience to say the least. I could give you a whole talk on all the lessons that I learned from it. But one particular lesson that kept returning was the one about playing an infinite game.
I remember there was a time when we're going through this patch. Not too many people really hot, like I'm talking 120 degrees and you can see I had a bandana and that bandana usually had like water in it. But in this area, there wasn't even water there weren't people. And this grandma is in a small little hut on the side. She notices our conditions and says, "Hey, you guys need some water?" Yeah, we definitely did. She gave us water from a cracked pot, which we later learned took for 4 hours to get. A bit later she asks, "You guys hungry?" Yeah, we definitely were! We didn't say anything, but she fed us with some snacks.
All along, the grandpa was completely ignoring us. He was praying, so we didn't interact much with him. But then he looks up and asks, "What are you guys doing?" So we told him how we are trying to renounce on the inside and serve on the outside to we can be better instruments of a larger love. Something like that, you know? He somewhat approves and asks a follow-up question, "Where did you guys start from?" I said, "Ahmedabad." He retorted, "Oh, Memdavad." I said, "No, Dada, Ahmedabad." Somehow he still couldn't hear, so I said it louder, "Dada, Ahmedabad. 127 kilometers from here."
And he says, "Oh, so you aren't on a pilgrimage after all." I didn't understand. "What do you mean?" I asked. And he flatly responded, "You're still keeping tracking of the number of kilometers."
I'd left everything. We had a couple pairs of clothes, but man, that spreadsheet in the mind keeps on going and going. And even I was like, if I would've said 125, I would've been like, yeah, roughly 125 -- I'm not really keeping track. Or if I would've said 130, it might've been a slight exaggeration, but still I could've convinced myself that I rounded up. But I knew exactly how many kilometers.
I'm still keeping track. Finite game. It's so hard to get out of this transactional mindset. Bit by bit, I started exploring how to undo this habit in day to day encounters.
We typically engage in direct reciprocity. Even when we meet each other, we usually in that give and take mode. I give to you, you give back to me. A transaction. That's how we treat everybody. We go to a coffee shop, and here's my five bucks and give me my coffee.
Beyond that, there's indirect reciprocity, which is more like a circle. We're all this color or this religion or this nationality, so let's help each other because of that. That's way better than direct reciprocity, but still, there's a collective ego that comes in.
Then, there's infinite reciprocity. These people, even if they're sitting in their corner of the world and nobody knows them and they have no money, power or fame, they are affecting the matrix of life. Whenever they do something, it's because it is infinitely good. In 5,000 years, it's gonna have an effect and they don't need to be there to reap the rewards. They have a heart big enough to avoid penny pinching and asking, "What's in it for me?" They plant seeds for 5,000 years later -- for infinity.
And what is that kind of an infinite reciprocity? Gandhi said it best, when he said, "In the early part of my life, I discovered that if I was to realize the truth, I must obey, even at the cost of my life, the law of love." And at a separate point, he said, if I want to learn the Law of Love, I would go to children. Here is the father of the nation, who rewrote world history, and he's saying my heroes are little children because they are corrupted the collective hypnosis of the world. So all of you young people are actually the real keepers of this law of love.
You may think you need to learn this and do that to create impact in the world. Maybe you think you need to be become a billionaire before you can significantly help alleviate suffering in the world. But all that is just a story. You've got something right now, which is love -- this law of love. You are connected to it because you haven't been jaded by the ways of the direct-reciprocity world.
Here's a photo of a violinist named Dagmar Turner. During her brain surgery, they asked her to play the violin so her brian actually stay wired in that same patterns. It's such a great metaphor for compassion -- no matter how tough the situation is, even if you're going through a deep surgery, keep playing the song of your heart. That way, you'll remember.
Our practice of compassion has three layers to it: sympathy, empathy and compassion. Sympathy is when we have something and others don't, and we give from that space. That's a good start, and far better than taking, but we can do better. We can go deeper. Empathy where you're feeling what the other person is feeling. There's a deeper connection there. But a notch even beyond that is compassion. It isn't the sympathy of "oh poor, homeless person," nor the empathy which can often lead to burnout, but it's a regenerative source that is rooted in a heart of service but with an understanding of boundaries. It's like moving from a dialup internet connection to 5G. :)
So how do we practice this? And where does it show up?
My next slide is a total experiment. I was asking around this morning if I should include a Steph Curry video, and every single person is like, "Oh yeah, of course." Now, I don't know if I bridge Steph Curry to compassion, but I'm going to try. :) I'll apologize first to Celtics fans, but here's a little video. [Steph Curry Video]
Now, Steph Curry isn't a basketball player who plays hero ball. When he steps on court, he makes everybody else better. Sure, there's a boundary to his team -- Warriors -- and he's not trying to make the other team better. :) But it's a step in that right direction.
For those of you who saw Game 4 of the finals -- it was a Steph Curry performance for the ages. But at one point, all 18 thousand Celtics fans started cursing out one of his teammates -- Draymond Green. It rattled him. Can you imagine how that would feel? At the time, he didn't admit it. But now watch this clip of Steph -- he does something amazing. Steph, who is a super humble guy, stars celebrating in 2nd quarter and starts talking to trash-talking fans. He never does that, especially in the second quarter. At the time everyone thought he was pumped-up, but after the series, Draymond revealed that the reason why he was doing that was to protect him. Steph is essentially saying, "Bring all the bad stuff to me. Let me suffer, instead of my teammate."
Steph was drawing a bigger circle, including more people in his circle. Usually it's just me in my circle, and that too, these days, we even have started to hate parts of our own selves. But we have the capacity to expand our circles of compassion.
We can go much bigger. This is Ruby Bridges -- first African American to go to an all white school. On November 14th, 1960, she walks in and they need four fire marshals to escort her in because people have lined up. All 500 enrolled students walked out, parents protesting outside. But this six year old bravely walks up the stairs.
All the protesters never saw a child. They didn't see the Law of Love.
But the thing about Ruby bridges is she didn't just stiff them and say, "Oh, you think you're right? Let me show you the high road -- desegregation is way better than segregation." She didn't go there. She expanded her circle far beyond that right and wrong.
At that school, none of the teachers agreed to teach Ruby -- except for one Mrs. Henry. None of the other kids joined, but Mrs. Henry continued to teach Ruby one-on-one for the entire year! Naturally, they would've had a bond, and Mrs. Henry would tell Ruby, "When you walk in and those people are saying all those mean things, you just ignore them and come straight in." Then, one day, Mrs. Henry saw something odd and confronted Ruby. "Why were you talking to them, Ruby?" "I wasn't, Mrs. Henry." "I saw your lips moving." "Oh, I was praying for them. I prayed, 'Please, God try to forgive these people. Because even if they say those bad things, they don't know what they're doing.'"
Six year old.
These are the people that create history. Their circle of compassion is wide. Includes even the seeming 'other'.
If we look around, such examples are everywhere. Few months in Ukraine, in the middle the war carnage, a whole bunch of Ukrainians captured a Russian soldier. Everyone was angry, and all kinds of bad things can happen to prisoners of war. But in this case, a grandma comes from behind the crowd and brings him a bowl of soup. Then another young woman take out her cell phone and says, "Your mother must be worried for you. You can call her from my phone." Hearing his mother's voice, the Russian soldier starts weeping.
What kind of a heart does it take to actually look on the other side of the fence, people actively trying to hurt you, and then give them love? That is people playing an infinite game. We have a lot of suffering in today's world, but with that suffering, we also have this tremendous capacity to ignite, awaken and rekindle, this Maha Karuna -- great compassion.
How will we do it? How will we play that kind of an infinite game?
I don't know the answer, but we typically think we just have to try harder. Growing up, I used to play a lot of tennis ; and whenever you lose on the court, you come back home with greater determination to try harder. The theory is greater the effort, greater your chances of success. So then, we try that with compassion. Okay, so maybe I'm not a Gandhi or Mother Teresa, but maybe practice will get me there?
Unfortunately, singular effort alone isn't enough for cultivating virtue. Individual grit and willpower work well for finite games, but infinite games requires a community -- a field of blessings, if you will.
That's why something like YJA is so important. It's fantastic that a thousand people come together, because you create these bonds that will last for life. What's even more fantastic, though, is there is a web of values underneath it. When you connect around those values, the tensile strength of that bond is very high. It gives you a kind of resilience, a resilience. So my path to being number one in compassion requires that I lift you up first. Being number one, then, is an oxymoron but that pursuit itself will land you in a different place of community, connection and resilience. Being around compassionate people actually gives you a lot more strength than just your shoulders alone. We need each other to become better human beings.
Today, I want to leave you with four progressive steps to grow in this kind of virtue -- to play this infinite game. They've been helpful for me, and perhaps it'll be helpful for you too.
Step one is a very simple notion: everyone is good at something. As soon as you say, oh, you're the smartest, the most amazing, great speaker, it implies that so many other people that are not. When everything's graded on a curve, you can feel good about winning on a curve, but that's not really the best feeling we're capable of. We are capable live into a much bigger high -- and it starts with the notion that everyone is good at something.
One of my friends has an autistic child and that gave him unique insight into what people on that spectrum are really good at -- how they're never late, they don't get bored, and so on. At SAP, he hired a few people on the spectrum and it became a Harvard case study. How do we start looking at the world as if everyone has to gift to offer?
One of my friends was volunteering with Mother Teresa, when a donor visited her and wanted to take a photo with her. They took the photo, but it wasn't quite right. So the photographer asked Mother Teresa to move closer. Click. Second photo also wasn't quite right, so they asked her to move her face book. Click. Still not quite right, so they manually adjusted her face. Yikes! My friend watching this is like, "My God, you gotta be outta your mind to treat a global icon of compassion in this way." But Mother Teresa's unfazed by this, so she didn't saying anything. After they left, though, she asks, "Mother, that was so rude. Why didn't you say anything?" And then Mother Teresa gave her one sentence that ended up changing her life trajectory.
"My dear, there are multiple forms of poverty," Mother Teresa said. Surely, there are material forms of poverty -- but there's also emotional, spiritual and many other forms of poverty. Wow.
What that also leads us to is also this -- there are multiple forms of wealth. You guys are all so kindly tuned in -- that's a kind of gift, right? Time is a kind of wealth -- all of you going to volunteer tomorrow. Technology capital, cultural capital. There are so many other forms of capital.
So how do we start to live into a diversity of wealths? That's an important design question.
Before the pandemic, we had helped host a big conference in Berkeley around mindfulness. And usually you go to conferences and you can buy your ticket with Visa, MasterCard, Discover. But we stepped things up -- yeah, you can buy with money, but also give with other kinds of capital. Do five acts of kindness, and tell us a story -- and that counts as a ticket. Eight hours of meditation. Five-minute selfies counts as creativity wealth. And so on. You can just imagine the ambiance in the conference where all kinds of people are contributing in all kinds of different ways. The engagement, gratitude, connection, the vibe just goes off the charts.
Second step is that everyone can be great at giving. Not just that everyone has a gift, but that everyone wants to circulate. And not just circulate it transactionally, but in an infinite game kind of way. Neuroscience has made some remarkable discoveries in recent years, around how we're wired to be compassionate. Experiment after experiment, it's so clear. We can see the wisdom in Martin Luther King Jr saying, "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve."
This is a friend of mine who has no legs -- Ragu. He lost his legs to polio. He lives in the slums and you might look at his condition and figure, he's not only financially poor but also mobility poor. That was true, but he was love rich. He had a huge heart, that longed to play the infinite game. He wondered, what I can give? What are my assets?
Now, when Ragu walks, he has to walk with his hands. He puts his slippers on his hands and he scoots. It makes a peculiar sound, and everyone knows it's Ragu coming down the aisel. As he walks down, no one is going to be intimidated by him; in fact, people will be drawn to him. At one point, he started connecting women in this community who had been domestically abused. And then he did something remarkable. He grew Tulsi (holy basil plants) -- and he would offer it as a gift to them. Next time, he's passing through, he'd ask how you're Tulsi plant. They would often invite him in. They would chat, he would do prayers of goodwill and give them them strength. In a span of two years, he gave something like 900 Tulsi plants. In face of so much domestic abuse, no business or NGO or government could do what Ragu did with his little Tulsi plant.
Ragu was playing an infinite game. Everybody wins in the game that he was playing because he knew that not just that everyone has a gift, but that everyone can be great at giving.
The third insight, which now gets quite interesting, is that when everyone's giving gets connected, it creates a murmuration.
Everyone is good at something, and they can be great at giving, but when such giving gets inter-connected, a whole greater than the sum starts to emerge. It's not just one person's giving plus another person's giving. One plus one now is greater than two.
This photo is of thousands of starling coming together in a unique formation. When I first saw this photo, I had goosebumps. It was National Geographic runner-up for photo-of-the-year in 2019. A German guy in Spain is taking nature photography, and he doesn't even realize that he's just taken this photo. It turned out that a whole bunch of starlings were flying along, doing their merry old thing, and then they saw, "Oh, a big bird is coming towards us." In a matter of second, they organized into a shape of a murmuration. And just like that, as that moment passed, they dissolved just as easily. The photograph didn't even realize that he had taken the photo.
Isn't that incredible? The starlings didn't argue that, "Oh, I wanna be at the beak." Or "There's too much draft right here in the aisle seat." They went beyond that to land into the intelligence of a whole. It's not just you and me. It's that when you and I come together, we actually create a third new possibility.
Some of you might know about Karma Kitchen. It's a restaurant pop-up, run by volunteers, where the check at the end of the meal reads zero -- not because it's free, but because someone before you paid for you and you are trusted to pay it forward. If that happened to you, how much would you pay? A little less because life is tough; benchmark at the market rate of other restaurants; or be moved by gratitude and leave more?
How would people respond? It actually became the subject of a widely cited UC Berkeley business school paper titled, Paying More When Paying For Others. People always ask, "So, does it work out?" That is, aren't people selfish? It turns out people are solidly altruistic, assuming you can create the right context for generosity to thrive.
Still, this is only part of the story. What really happens is that generosity ignites a murmuration, a new possibility altogether.
For a while, we were the top rated restaurant in Yelp in Berkeley, for instance. It was hard to get a table, but you could just walk by and you'd just pick on this vibe -- all these people dining, and everyone was paying for each other voluntarily. It's really something. A transactional space just can't create that energy.
It's one thing to balance the ledger sheets, but the value-add here goes way beyond.
I remember a volunteer coming in for the first time. After serving one of his guests, one of the diner does something curious. "So you're telling me that you trust me to pay whatever I want." "Yeah, I think that's how it works." "Okay, here's a $100. I'm trusting you to bring me back whatever change you want to give me." Wow -- he just turned around the table. What to do? I was also volunteering that day, so he came and asked me how to respond. I didn't know; there's no recipe for this kind of stuff. So I told him to give whatever his heart guided him to. And this volunteer does something stunning! He takes out a twenty from his own pocket and give back the diner $120. Whoa! That diner simply couldn't believe his eyes -- "What is this place? Is this heaven on earth?" :)
Totally epic. How did the volunteer think of doing this? People behave differently when a murmuration is awakened. Sure, I'm special in my own way -- but I also have the capacity to belong to a much greater identity.
We experimented the same idea with a rickshaw in India. You sit in Uday-bhai's rickshaw and there's no meter; you pay whatever you want! What exactly is he putting his faith in? He is saying that if I treat you with love, I am betting my daily livelihood that you will respond to that love with even greater love. All chips on the table for that infinite game.
Infinite Game, then, game starts by seeing that everyone is good at something and that everyone can be great at giving in an infinite way. When everyone's generosity gets engaged, the intelligence of the whole -- a murmuration -- starts to unfold.
After all that foundational work, we then arrived at the fourth step: everyone is connected to everything.
Without that homework, there is no foundation and the idea of inter-connection is just an intellectual concept. Yes, we're all breathing each other's air, but that doesn't go too far into our awareness.
I like math, especially when it can help make the case for deeper values. :)
In a room full of 50 people, network math says that a one-to-many broadcast model will lend you 50 connections. It's like watching TV. Not very interactive. Now, imagine those same 50 people in a telephone network -- one-to-one. It turns out to be 1,225. And finally, consider a group-forming network like you'd like on the Internet. Many-to-many. In a group of 50 people, 100 million trillion connections are possible! Our minds are wired to think linearly, in a finite-game way, but life is actually exponential. A hundred million trillion with just fifty of us. So imagine what's possible in a giant room like this.
Then, the question becomes -- how do we awaken a collective flow that taps into the wisdom of that tremendous connectivity? What does that look like?
Let's try and experiment. Rules are very simple. You have to clap in unison until I tell you to stop. Okay -- 1, 2, 3. go.
Wow, awesome. Okay. Stop.
Did you notice something spectacular? All of you coordinated without a coordinator! Scientists study this, and have found such phenomena all over nature. Even with synchronized clapping, we could do all kinds of experiments. Even if some people try to throw in a different beat, the collective would override it. Quite amazing.
Take a look at this video of fireflies. This footage was only possible to capture because in COVID there was no light pollution. Initially, the fireflies are firing individually and then all of sudden, they synchronize. Like our hands clapping, the whole forest feels like it has a light switch. On and off. Individual effort, and then boom, it all connects in deep resonance.
In a house where people are in harmony, their heartbeats starts to synchronize. If you're singing with a choirs, all the singers' heartbeats starts to synchronize without any physical contact. In fact, if an audience is really resonating, we'd all start to synchronize just like our claps.
There is a lot more going on in each moment than what we're open to it. We can all feel it, and especially all of you -- because, as Gandhi said, the Law of Love is a lot closer to you.
And it's all around us. A mycologist in Japan discovered that our fungal networks are smarter than our fastest route algorithms for railroad networks! Even consider Redwood trees. When a Redwood tree dies, an angel ring of other redwood trees sprouts around it in a perfect circle, to support the mother tree. And so much science now tells us that happiness spreads in networks. If you have friends that are happy, you're gonna be happy. Same with cancer, obesity, depression, smoking, quitting, having children, divorce, philanthropy, kindness, and good news. It all spreads in network. Even if you look at the internet, it's not quite the FedEx model -- you want something, and I will make a trip to your to deliver it. No, Internet doesn't work like that. When you email somebody, it's actually going to a whole bunch of people and everyone is passing it off to their neighbor. Just like when we did the clap, just like when the fire flies did their thing, that's how the internet is designed.
Unfortunately, we have taken that principle and capped it with a very low ceiling. We've designed it into a finite game. Few companies own it. But what happens if we turn that around and instead of a centralized thing, or even a decentralized thing, what if we actually move to a distributed web of consciousness, of love, of compassion that each of one of us has an antenna to already? That can really change the game.
Our theme of this conference is navigating new horizons. Here's a photo of the first ship that went around the world -- few years ago -- but this Polynesian ship had no technology, no compass, no gadgets. Tens of thousands of miles of water, and what are you gonna do? You don't know where you're at. How the heck do you get from one side of the world to the other? Of course, they look at the water and sky and winds to navigate -- but every so often, when even the indigenous elders of the ship get stumped, what do they do? They call the ground crew. How do they connect with them? They pray. Because the "ground crew" has an affinity for their well-being, they are connected -- not via the internet, but the inner-net.
Now, that inner-net connection will allow all of us to navigate new horizons. It's so powerful that it's humbling.
I want close with this video, that I heard when I was with some monks sitting at the base of a majestic redwood tree:
How, then, do we harmonize individual and collective flow? We must play an Infinite Game.
If you look at the infinity sign, think of it as two circles. One circle is how each one of us is unique; that's a greatness we each need to step into. We're all good at something, which is the world needs us to do. Yet, if we just do that, it's not enough because then you reduce yourself to a finite game. You become singularly amazing, and your ego reaches the top of the world. That standing-out needs to be tempered and balanced with the second circle of infinity -- blending-in, dissolving, disappearing into murmuration. We don't learn this today. Stand out, but remember to also blend in. With humility, we can see the power of small acts that are deeply connected. We do our it and awaken to the infinity of a murmuration.
Thank you very much.
Nipun Mehta is the founder of ServiceSpace, a nonprofit that works at the intersection of gift-economy, technology and volunteerism. His popular TED talk Designing for Generosity provides an overview of their work and guiding principles.