ESSAY ONE: Infinite Games
In the spring of 2020, the world changed. Perhaps forever.
Work from home became the norm. As a result, many people discovered newfound freedom for cycling. Free of the shackles of the nine to five and the daily commute.
Experienced cyclists increased their weekly training hours, and many newcomers have taken up the sport (welcome).
But for others, there was a problem.
Many events and races were postponed or cancelled. For almost a year, travel abroad wasn't allowed—no more trips to the sunshine or mountains. For a while, even riding with friends was frowned upon. Then, for many, everything changed.
In Our Blood
Competition is in our blood. We love a challenge and enjoy an adventure. In part, even suffering provides pleasure. When the world stopped, our goals were erased.
Goals get us out of bed in the morning. They motivate us to ride in all weathers or onto the indoor trainer long after the family has gone to bed. Without goals, we feel lost, and motivation erodes away.
So, "what now?"
Let's get philosophical, just for a moment.
Game theory describes two mindsets: "Finite" and "Infinite".
Our personalities draw us towards one or the other. It's an unconscious choice.
The good news is that the better mindset is obvious and available the second you decide to make it. The bad news is we're constantly encouraged to make the wrong choice.
A Finite Mindset
A finite mindset applies to games with known players, fixed rules, a start and endpoint, winners and losers. Finite games emphasise competition and comparison to others.
Individual and team sports benefit from a finite mindset. In football, we try to score more goals than the opposition. In athletics, reaching the finish line first defines success.
Was this why so many of us struggled over the last eighteen months. Because of a finite mindset? Our goals, beating others, winning, triumph, were gone.
However, some cyclists thrived through the pandemic.
Maybe they adopted a different mindset?
The Infinite Mindset
An infinite game has both known and unknown players, and the rules are flexible. Players come and go; rules change, and the aim is to keep playing. Infinite games emphasise cooperation over competition.
So much of life is an infinite game - we don't win business, friendships, or relationships. Infinite games create the possibility for everyone to win. Infinite players focus on improving themselves, not beating others.
For many serious cyclists, we view cycling as a finite game. We're obsessed with speed and competition: Racing, gran fondo's, Strava segments, interval sessions, crushing our friends on weekend group rides… the list could go on.
Faster, Faster. Faster.