Simon Sinek (he’s the one who told you to identify why your business exists, not what it does) has introduced some new thinking into our business lexicon: Do you have a finite or infinite career mindset? Illustrating the concept at the leadership level, a leader with a finite mindset focuses on winning and competition while a leader with an infinite mindset focuses on purpose and team. It’s so much easier to hire and fire in pursuit of the highest quarterly earnings statement (finite) instead of focusing on being a great leader with an engaged team in pursuit of something more than a buck (infinite). Infinite minded leaders do what’s right, rather than what’s expedient.
It’s much easier to apply these concepts when you are leading an organization but, regardless of your position in an organization, anyone can apply them to their career. A finite career mindset, for comparison, would be to go to work everyday looking to make more money, get more power, and advance in the ranks faster than others. Winning against the competition (e.g. your colleagues) is more important than anything else. The problem with this mindset is that despite the riches that may transpire, the further one advances in their career, the less fulfilled they seem to be, and the emptier the victory. They retire as a “used-to-be” as in, “That’s Joe. I worked with him when he was the Senior VP of Company X.”
With an infinite career mindset, you work toward a greater purpose than yourself. To develop others or to advance a cause that you believe in. Contributing to the greater team becomes the primary motivation and with it a more purposeful, fulfilled career. “That’s Joe. I don’t think I could’ve made it in this job without his help. He made a big difference.”
In the 1970s, Milton Friedman theorized that the modern company should be responsible solely for the shareholder’s interest. That pursuit of profit would build the future, and the wants and needs of the financial backers should have supremacy over the wants and needs of the employees or customers. Sinek likens this to a sports coach taking advice from the fans, rather than the players. This is not “capitalism”, it is a theory of capitalism, and since it has taken root, we see phenomena like mass layoffs, people jumping from job to job, and the degradation of loyalty on both sides.
As we reflect on the last decade and the one to come, think of the Earth we had in the 1970s and the one we have today. Reflect on all the amazing advancements humanity has made in the past half century and the tragedies. Take time to choose your mindset for the coming decade. There is no wrong answer, but it’s worth your consideration.
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