By Dan Brady
In The Training World, Be An Infinite Player
It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The adage proves true in both training and life, but what it leaves out is that every step along the way is equally important. Some steps are easy, and others are arduous, largely based on the conditions we are walking through.
The firearms training industry has grown tremendously in recent years, and in my view has done an excellent job of using varied approaches to build on and advance the abilities of everyone industry wide. Author Simon Sinek has numerous books and presentations about corporate culture and human-focused business practices. None are more applicable to our industry of personal defensive instruction than “The Infinite Game,” which expands on James Carse’s theory of finite versus infinite games.
A finite game has known players, fixed rules, and an agreed upon objective. Chess is a finite game. Chess pieces have set capabilities, and each game has a winner and a loser.
In an infinite game, on the other hand, the players are both known and unknown. The rules are changeable, and there are no winners or losers. The objective is simply to perpetuate the game or stay in it as long as possible.
Understand that an infinite game will continue with or without you. Infinite players leave the game when they run out of will or resources, but the game carries on. Finite games occur within an infinite game, and their outcomes influence whether we continue or exit the infinite game. In the context of defensive instruction, finite games include situational force-on-force training, real-world scenarios, competitive shooting, and even managing business financial obligations.
Sinek explains that in order to be an infinite player, you must have five distinct things. If you do not have all five, you will slide back into being a finite player and end up in quagmire.
1. A Just Cause
You must stand for something, not just be against something. A just cause is a vision of the future that does not yet exist that you are willing to devote your time, energy, and resources to pursuing. I don’t believe there is a more just cause than teaching people how to defend themselves and their families. It is a righteous mission, teaching acceptance of personal accountability, that no one else is responsible for your personal safety but you.
2. Courageous Leadership
Leaders must be willing to sacrifice the short term for the long term. Courageous leaders must profoundly believe in the justness of the cause. Their passion for the cause must trump their desire for immediate economic success, or name recognition, or any sort of accolades. They must put their mission first and be committed to the principle(s) of that mission. In our industry, the clearest indicators of a courageous leader are instructors who are perpetual students, those who are willing to admit they were wrong, and those who are very selective about sponsorships and product affiliations.
3. Trusting Teams
Team members need to feel safe to admit weakness and mistakes. They must accept accountability and know they will be treated fairly. If employees are consistently worried about failure causing them to lose their job or be castigated in front of their peers, you’ll have employees who hide their mistakes, blame others, and refuse accountability. When people are too fearful to make mistakes, they can’t grow in their journey and they can’t help you advance the cause. It doesn’t matter if those team members are your accountant, your website or social media person, or instructors you employ. If you don’t exhibit courageous leadership, you will not get trusting teams.
4. A Worthy Rival
While the goal of an infinite game isn’t to win, a worthy rival will show you where you or your organization are weak or need to improve. The training industry is overflowing with worthy rivals — top-notch instructors and trainers who possess the technical abilities and teaching know-how to help their students perform better. You should be taking their classes as well, taking notes on how their content is delivered. And when you adopt something of theirs, give credit where it is due. The real winners will be all future students, society will be safer one student at a time, and the game will advance.
5. A Flexible Playbook
Dogma is the sworn enemy of advancing the game. Being stuck in training modalities or techniques hinders advancement. If something else works better, be willing to adopt it, adapt it and move forward. As technology advances and more real-world armed encounters are captured on video, we see what works and what does not captured in real time. Accurate information is never your enemy. Be flexible in your thinking. Understand as more information becomes available, you may need to slaughter some of your sacred cows on the altar of making yourself and thus the entire industry better.
Personal defensive instruction is most certainly an infinite game. It will continue no matter who leaves the industry or who joins it. Our point in being involved is to to help people be safer in their lives, promoting their ability to solve immediate, life-threatening problems safely within moments of those problems appearing. Having a stake in the game advances the craft if we all approach it in this manner. The money we make is just the fuel to help us drive forward.
Be the infinite player. Play the infinite game.