“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” — Vince Lombardi
Once you understand why “better” is better than “best”, you’ll never look at “the best” the same way again.
Better is relative. Best is absolute. And this distinction matters.
A colleague once told me that the pursuit of ‘better” is better than the pursuit of “best.”
To put it another way, he said to me, “Better is better than best.”
He said that Simon Sinek had shared some very insightful wisdom on why “better” is better than “best.”
To bottom line it, “better” is more believable, and therefore, more credible than “best.”
Not only is “best” not believable, it sounds static, with no room for growth or achievement.
But when you choose “better” over “best”, you signal a commitment to continuous improvement, and you invite ongoing effort and innovation.
When you focus on “better” you can grow better over time, in a believable and achievable way.
What is an Infinite Game?
Simon Sinek, in his book The Infinite Game, defines an infinite game as a type of game that has no fixed rules or endpoint.
Unlike finite games, which have clearly defined rules, winners, and losers, infinite games are played with the goal of perpetuating the game itself, not necessarily winning it.
Key characteristics of infinite games, as described by Simon Sinek, include:
- Infinite Purpose: Infinite games have a broad and enduring purpose that goes beyond immediate goals. They are driven by a sense of making a lasting impact or advancing a cause.
- No Fixed Endpoint: There is no predetermined endpoint or finish line in an infinite game. It continues indefinitely, adapting to changing circumstances and challenges.
- Variable Rules: The rules of an infinite game can change over time to address evolving conditions and dynamics. Participants must be adaptable and open to rule modifications.
- Infinite Players: Infinite games involve an indefinite number of participants. New players can join, and others may exit, but the game continues.
- Competition with Yourself: In infinite games, the primary competition is with oneself, striving for personal improvement and progress.
- Long-Term Thinking: Participants in infinite games adopt a long-term perspective, focusing on sustainability and enduring success rather than short-term gains.
Sinek contrasts infinite games with finite games, such as sports with set rules and clear winners, which have fixed endpoints and are played for the purpose of winning.
In the business world and in life, adopting an infinite mindset can lead to more sustainable and meaningful success, emphasizing the importance of purpose, adaptability, and long-term thinking.
Infinite-Minded Leaders Strive to Be Better
‘Best’ is not a permanent state. ‘Better’ is a journey.
Rather than strive to be the best, infinite-minded leaders strive to grow better over time.
Here’s a quote that distills the essence of Simon Sinek’s take on infinite-minded leaders:
“Infinite-minded leaders understand that ‘best’ is not a permanent state. Instead, they strive to be ‘better.’ ‘Better’ suggests a journey of constant improvement and makes us feel like we are being invited to contribute our talents and energies to make progress in that journey.” — Simon Sinek
Infinite-minded leaders recognize that ‘better’ signifies an ongoing quest for improvement, inviting continuous contributions and progress, as opposed to the static notion of being the ‘best.’
Adopting an Infinite Mindset
Here’s a video where Simon Sinek walks through the power of adopting an infinite mindset:
The main reasons to adopt an infinite mindset include:
- Sustainable Success: Embracing an infinite mindset ensures sustainable success by focusing on long-term goals and enduring impact rather than short-term wins.
- Continuous Adaptation: It fosters a culture of continuous adaptation and resilience, allowing individuals and organizations to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
- Meaningful Contribution: An infinite mindset everyone to make meaningful contributions and be part of a purpose-driven journey, fostering personal fulfillment and collective progress.
Why Better is Better than Best According to Simon Sinek
You don’t need to be the fastest. You just need to be faster than the one behind you.
Better is better than best whether it’s a mindset or even your marketing.
It can be a philosophy for how you approach life, or how you approach work or business.
“The fastest runners in the world run between 12-14 miles per hour.
The average bear runs between 30-40 miles per hour. That means if a bear decides to give chase, even world record-breaking sprinter Usain Bolt, could not outrun it.
But there is an adage: to get away from a bear you don’t have to be the fastest runner in the world, you just have to be faster than the guy behind you.”
Recreational runners average 5 to 10 miles per hour. Long distance runners average 8 to 12 miles per hour. Elite long-distance runners average 12 to 15 miles per hour.
The fastest sprinters in the world, such as Usain Bolt and Florence Griffith-Joyner, typically reach top speeds of around 27 to 28 miles per hour during their peak performance in races like the 100 meters and 200 meters. They achieve these speeds only for very short distances, and they train rigorously to achieve such high velocities.
But even the fastest runners can’t outrun a bear.
The Same is True in Business.
Claiming you’re “the best” is an unrealistic claim.
It’s not believable or credible.
Being the best is rarely achievable. And being the best is rarely long-term.
And you can’t really defend or prove it with any standard, credible metrics.
“It is amazing how many businesses, big and small, like to present themselves as ‘the best.’
I once met an optometrist, for example, who bragged to me that her store had ‘the best service in the industry.’
A claim that is simply untrue—or at least there is no way to actually measure if it even is true.
At the end of the day, there is no way for any business to say they offer the best of anything—service, quality or features.
There are no standard metrics and most companies have no idea who all their competitors are.”
The Good News is, You Don’t Need to Be the Best. You Need to Be Better.
You don’t need to be the best. You just need to be better. Better than your competition, or even just better than you were last year.
Better is a continuous journey of evolution.
“‘The best’ is an impossible standard that lacks credibility.
But ‘better’ is a realistic claim and a much easier comparison to make.
The optometrist I met should have told me that she was ‘driven to offer better service than any of the other stores in the area and, more importantly, to outdo her own great service every year.’
To her, this seemingly lower claim is actually much more realistic, much more believable and much more appealing.
The standard of “better” also keeps you on your toes.
Like being chased by a bear, you always have to be one step ahead not to get eaten.
Being better means you have to keep pushing, learning and improving because there is still room for improvement (not to mention there is a huge bear running behind you).
Being the best offers only a short-term advantage.
Once you’re the best, there is no incentive to push any harder and laziness or hubris start to set in (think about any big company that made it to the top of their industry only to be bashed from all sides by every competitor … bashed by everyone working to be better).
And for all those ‘bests’ out there who believe their incentive is to stay the best, they are fooling themselves.
Just as there is much more of an incentive to lose a few pounds than to stay the same weight, just as there is much more of an incentive to run your next race faster than to run it at the same pace, the incentive to improve is always more powerful than the false incentive to stay in one place, even if it’s the best.
Any great athlete, company or leader that is actually capable of staying ahead of the pack for any significant period of time is able to do so not because they think they are the best, but because they show up every day to do better than their most important competitor of all: themselves.
Pushing yourself and those around you to be the best is unsustainable. Pushing yourself and those around you to be better is the only way to be the best.
… and outrun the bear.”
Excellence is an Ongoing Journey
Excellence is an ongoing journey, not a static destination.
When you embrace “better” over “best”, you’re choosing a mindset that invites growth, resilience, and continuous progress.
Excellence is not a fixed point that you reach and then stop. It’s a continuous process and a way of approaching life and work.
When you opt for “better” rather than striving for the elusive “best,” you’re acknowledging that improvement and growth are constant and necessary.
This “better” over “best” mindset encourages you to keep evolving, adapting to challenges, and learning from experiences.
It fosters resilience by understanding that setbacks are part of the journey, and it promotes ongoing progress as you strive to be better today than you were yesterday.