EPISODE 21: Quitting Porn Can Be A Game Changer

Feb 10, 2020

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You are listening to the Self-Mastery Podcast, where we break through barriers holding you back from becoming who you wanna be, whether you're struggling with pornography, overeating, social media addiction, or just wanna get better at succeeding at life. This podcast is for you. Now, your host, Zach 

Zach Spafford: 

Hey everybody, and welcome to another Mastery Monday. It's another. Beautiful day, I'm sure where you are. It's actually midnight right now where I am. It's all my kids are asleep. It's that magical moment where there's no one making noise. So I thought, you know what? I was gonna go to bed, but I'm going to stay up and I'm gonna record this podcast because, I'm a little bit excited about it.

In fact, when I told my wife about what we were gonna do on the podcast this week, she was like, oh, you're gonna be recording that alone, aren't you? Because this week we're gonna talk about finite and infinite games. Really. We're gonna be talking about infinite games. So you may be familiar with this concept, and you may maybe have even read the book Infinite Games.

And if you've read that book, you know that it talks about. It's subject matter from a business perspective. I will be perfectly upfront and honest with you. I've not read the book, although I have seen a number of the talks that Simon gave on this subject. And so as I went through those talks, I broke down what Simon was talking about in a personal way, in a way that can be applied to you as an individual who's trying to become the best person that you can possibly be.

So let's start off with defining what we're talking about. So finite games have a set number of players. They have specific rules, and they have an endpoint. American football's a really good example of this, or international football, also known to us Americans as soccer is another really good look at what a finite game is.

It has a definite beginning. It has a definite number of players. It has a definite end. Infinite games, on the other hand, are very different, right? They have rules that change, the number of players change, and the purpose of an infinite game is actually to keep the game going. . So one night while I was traveling home from a single adult activity when my pornography use was weighing on me really quite heavily, I looked out at the dark road and it the distance ahead and I felt this deep longing to be better.

And as the highway hummed along under me and the solitude of the car pulled my thoughts deeper into my actions, I prayed as earnestly as I knew how that if I could just not have this one problem. I knew I could be like this amazing person that would, achieve all sorts of things. What I didn't see from that point in my life that I see so clearly now is that becoming the person that I want to be is not an arrival at some particular set of attributes.

It really involves so, so much more than that. So to become great at life, we have to stop thinking about what we are doing in terms of arriving at an end point. . I wanted to arrive at a point where my pornography use was no longer an issue. That really wasn't the way to think about this game. We have to think of long-term continued and sustainable growth and learning when we think about the infinite game of life.

So how does an infinite game work and how can you become a great player, becoming the best version of yourself that you can be? That's the question that I was looking at as I. Worked through these talks by Simon Cenek. So five things have to happen. To play an infinite game according to Simon, you have to have a just cause.

You have to have trust in teams. You have to have a worthy adversary. You have to have an existential flexibility. And I'm gonna explain that one a little more deeply because it took me a little bit of a, study to figure out what exactly he was talking about there. And then you have to have courage to lead.

So let's begin with the just cause. , you have to have a cause that is so just right or important that you would willingly sacrifice for it. So as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there are a lot of moral guidance about the cause we work towards, right? Eternal life is a just cause that we look willingly to sacrifice for.

An internal family. That's a huge component of it. The just cause for most of us is our desire to be in concert with our Heavenly Father. So we believe that is the most important thing we can do because we believe that it will bring joy into our lives. There are a lot of great, just causes. The work you do could be considered a just cause, whatever job you do.

That can be a, just cause the United States was founded on a just cause. I've been recently reading Alexander Hamilton's biography and it is extraordinary. It's amazing the ideals that Alexander Hamilton put forward that created and really built this nation into the thing that it is now. Really the just cause that you're fighting for, it's an ideal.

It's something that's so amazing, so important that you may never achieve it in this lifetime. But, You are also willing to give it your all while you can. This is what gives us purpose, striving towards an ideal, sacrificing for a greater state of goodness. Simon talks about it this way.

He says, imagine a world that is different than the one we have now, that you believe. If everything that you did in your organization went perfectly, and again, he's talking about businesses really here, but if everything that you did in your organization went perfectly, that you would contribute to the building of that world, So as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Morone, or Ether, I'm really not sure if Morone is just quoting ether here or inserting his commentary into what e Ether said here.

But this is what was said. Who so believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world? Ye even a place of the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith make its an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.

So for those of us who are constantly striving to become masters of self and build up who we are into the best version of the person we are, we're striving toward that vision of a better world. And I think it's interesting, and this is one of those things that I always kind of find in the gospel and in the world at large.

Is that truth is truth no matter where you find it. And Simon Sinek, he's saying, this is this new thing and it's very important. And yet here it is written by well written by Moroni. And I'm, again, I'm not sure whether he's quoting Ether or not here, but it was written by Moroni. And we have it in the Book of Mormon.

This is the cause that we have faith in. So having a just cause is an extraordinarily powerful measure, and it's important not just in the business world, but in our own personal lives. And recognizing that just cause is a huge component of why we do what we do. It's a huge component of, okay, how, why am I gonna change and become that better person?

That's why we work to give up our addictive behaviors. It's why we strive to teach our children the gospel. It's why we accept callings at church that we don't really feel qualified to do, or that we simply don't want to do. I mean, how many of us have taken on a calling that we're like, I don't really wanna do that.

Like, Cubs scout leader, thank goodness that's gone. That's just an opinion. Okay, so the next thing Simon talks about is trusting teams. This one, as Simon explained, it did not have a readily apparent application for those of us who worked to become masters of self. As I listened, however, I saw some clear patterns of parallels between the business world that Simon talks about in our home lives.

Just recently, one of our children had been granted a privilege that I don't think they merited, and immediately that child abused a privilege, like literally within 15 minutes. . Previously, I would've probably laid into this kid. I probably would've just yelled at him and said, this is not okay. This is not how you behave.

This is, I would've spent some time and energy on that, and I would've told them their behavior was unacceptable and I would've removed the privilege and I would've really gotten upset. However, over the last few years I've been seeing this child as someone who needs to be trusted.

even though they make mistakes, because if I don't teach them to trust and to be trusted, they will not rise above their current level of behavior. Simon talks about this as the trust in teams that we all need to have to play the infinite game well. We need to create and foster a team atmosphere within our own lives and specifically within ourselves that does not lose its cool or ostracize those who make mistakes.

That includes ourselves. Beating yourself up is not a useful or helpful way to deal with your problems, right? That doesn't mean there aren't consequences, it just means that treating yourself or others as irredeemable because of a mistake that was made, creates an atmosphere where you begin to lose at the infinite game, rather.

So instead of that, what if we just accept people and we recognize that they are truly doing their best? that will foster greater love and acceptance, as well as give everybody around you a self-driving thrust to be better. So I don't think this child should have this privilege, and I actually really don't want to police this privilege because it takes a lot of energy that I don't really wanna spend on the issue.

But recognizing that I'm now playing this infinite game where growth and learning are more important than rules and arriving. I felt that it was important to re entrust this child with that same privilege for their own sake. Now, there are consequences for abusing our privileges, but there isn't this sense that the person is irredeemable or broken or wrong.

This, this in the long run creates that sense of control and decision making that we all need to become better at who we want to be. Partly, I really just did this for myself. I want to be able to trust that child. I want that child to have. As a part of my life in a way that I can believe in and trust the work that they're doing.

And really that same thing goes for our own behaviors. When we work to ask ourselves, what can I do to make my life and the lives of those around me better? Rather than berating ourselves and hating ourselves for slipping up and saying to ourselves, I'm broken and I'm irredeemable because I wasn't perfect and because I made this mistake.

So when we're being our best, we're creating loving team environments that we and those around us wanna be a part of, right? That, by the way, that's the kind of environment where people can say that they're messing up and they need help, and they know that they're going to get the help that they need because it's always gonna be given.

That's the kind of thing people will sacrifice their time and talents and energy to perpetuate because it allows people to exercise their agency to be themselves. Even if that means they sometimes mess up, but when they mess up, we still love them and they know that we still love them. That to me, is one of the indicators of what winning at the Infinite game looks like, and we have to trust ourselves as well.

In the same way we trust others, build them up and believe that they're doing their best. We have to believe the same about ourselves. When we do, we can look at our mistakes objectively and without shame and figure out better ways to move forward with our lives. So number three, a worthy rival. I think by this point you can kind of see that the only true competitor in the infinite game is yourself lasting as long as you can, and being the best version of you is not about anyone except you Really.

Brooke Castillo talks about doing things because she wants to see how much she can get done and how far she can take her own growth. That really is the purpose of the Infinite Game. Simon talks, however, about a worthy rival. So you probably know what this looks like in your own life, right? You have that friend or that family member that you dearly love, and you're always trying to be as good as they are in your own life, and hopefully they feel the same way about you.

but you look up to them, you strive to be amazing like them, and you're constantly trying to outdo them. It's that slight edge of a competition that makes you better, not bitter. And sometimes that will be an older person who drops outta the game before you. Sometimes they will be a peer, and sometimes it'll be a younger person that you admire as they grow.

What you have to remember is that this is about sharing and helping and growing and not hoarding and undermining and shrinking your competition. So number four, the capacity for existential flexibility. So I have to say, when Simon started talking about this, I had to look up existential, and I still didn't know what he was saying, but after working through it a couple times, what I believe he's really talking about here is the flexibility to adapt to the changing world in order to continue to exist and keep playing the game.

So for companies, that means being able to innovate and change as the times do. One example of this is Kodak that he talks about, right? If you're not familiar with Kodak, they used to make film, then they discovered the digital camera. Then for 10 years, they basically buried that technology. They chose to keep it all under wraps until someone else figured it out.

Rather than becoming the market leader and an innovator, Kodak went bankrupt because of that decision. In our personal lives. What I take this to mean is that we need to be ever growing, learning, and building on our own experiences in such a way that we play as long and as well as we can for those of us who believe in eternal life, this is us living and growing through the high standards we set for ourselves so we can return and live with our Heavenly Father.

Right here, Simon talks about blowing up companies for the sake of innovation, but what does that look like for an individual? Well, for starters, I think it really means to be willing to change your whole identity, and that is enormously difficult as a person. I was coaching a woman recently who, as she thought about a major shift in her careers, said, literally said to me, I don't want this to be our identity.

Simon Sinek makes the argument that for a business to be the best they can, they have to be willing to be flexible enough to change their entire identity. Kodak going from film. to a digital camera company could have been a great move for them. And I would argue that to live your best life, you have to be willing to change your entire image.

And what you believe others' image of you is you have to be willing to go from z Spafford Insurance Guy to z Spafford, LDS life coach for men and women with addictive behaviors, including pornography, in fact. This was actually one of my biggest struggles in deciding to talk about my difficulty with pornography.

This would not just be my job, it would be my identity. It would be something that I wouldn't be able to escape on vacation and something that would follow me everywhere. Even if I ever went back to being in insurance, people would be like, Hey, didn't you have a podcast about pornography? Do I really wanna do business with you?

All of that ran through my head. And the risks are enormous. When we blow up our lives, just like they were for Kodak or they would be for Steve Jobs, when he went and he decided, you know what, we're gonna do the gooey interface, right? And that's for you non nerds. That's graphic user interface. That's really the reason that you can use a mouse and touch on your screen and use your computer in a simple and coordinated way.

Steve Jobs, Simon talks about, blew up his entire company. To do that, Disney did the same thing. In our own personal lives, we have to be willing to say, I am going to make that leap from who I am to the person that I want to be. And again, the risks are enormous, including money-wise, but the rewards are innumerable and extraordinary, including money-wise, right?

Number five, you have to have the courage to lead. In true leadership, even without titles or positions, we prioritize people over every other motivation. This kind of courage to lead in our own lives is where the principles come together. Imagine just how difficult it is to make an existential change with your just cause in mind.

Some of you don't have to imagine. So my wife, for instance, Darcy. had one of those moments in her life when she found and then joined the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint. She did this at great personal cost. Her family wasn't even allowed to be at our wedding in the Chicago Temple. For her, someone who had her whole life dreamed of having her father walk her down the aisle.

This was a tremendous blow. Not only would Jim, my father-in-law, not walk her down the aisle, not a single member of her family except Darcy's sister-in-law. Michelle would be at the temple on our wedding day. , but she did it because she believed at the time that it was the best way forward, and it was the way she would build her capacity to become the person she wanted to be.

Courage is also a place where we leave behind our need and our desire to be right, and we become willing to admit to ourselves and to others that we don't know what we are doing, and that we need help when we can admit to ourselves that we aren't the person we want to be yet. That is where we begin to see a path forward to becoming that person.

That courage to lead is really more about honesty to others and one's self than it is to almost any other thing, rather than hunkering down and how right you are about whatever topic you're discussing and how wrong someone or something else is often kind of by default and being able to admit that you may be wrong and objectively adjusting your V views will do more for you.

Than anything else on this list. It is the most difficult thing to do, honestly. Partly this is because when we admit that we are wrong, deep down we think that it means something about us that makes us a terrible person. But those of us who are practicing the art of being wrong on purpose, we find that it's pretty liberating to say, yeah, I might be wrong.

Let me see if I can find a way forward. It also makes you more willing. To listen to others and it makes people more willing to listen to you, which is really the key component of all this courage. It's putting people first. They become more important to you than any other component of your life. They become more important to you than just about everything out there.

So when you're striving to, live a better life, you have to take a step back and look at. Am I playing this game from a finite mindset, thinking that there are only a set number of players and that there is a an end point? Or am I playing this with an infinite mindset? Do I have a just cause do I trust in the people around me and in myself?

Do I have a worthy adversary, someone that I can look up to and emulate as well as compete with, if only in my own mind? And then am I willing to be flexible and change and blow up my entire life to be something new because that is the next step in my progression. And then do I put people forward? Are they the most important thing?

And am I in, am I being courageous in my leadership with them and with myself? For me, this was a really fascinating thing to look at because as I went through this talk from Simon, he was really laying it out as a business perspective, and I was seeing these immediate parallels into your personal life and how playing an infinite game versus playing a finite game changes the perspective of everything that you're doing, and it helps you become a better person if you play the game that's actually being played rather than the one that you think is being played.

In Summary, becoming the person you want to be is an infinite game, as opposed to a finite game. Infinite games have changing rules, players, and the goal is to keep the game going. To play the infinite game and become the best version of yourself, several key elements are required:

  1. Just cause: You need to have a cause that is just, right, or important enough to willingly sacrifice for. It could be something like working towards eternal life, building an ideal world, or striving for personal growth and improvement.
  2. Trusting teams: Creating a team atmosphere within yourself and in your relationships where mistakes are not met with condemnation, but with trust and support. Trusting others and yourself allows for growth and development.
  3. Worthy adversary: In the infinite game, your true competition is yourself. However, having a worthy rival, someone you admire and strive to be as good as, can inspire and motivate you to excel.
  4. Existential flexibility: The capacity to adapt and change in order to continue existing and playing the game. It means being open to growth, learning, and embracing new identities or paths when necessary.
  5. Courage to lead: True leadership involves prioritizing people and having the courage to admit when you don't know something or need help. It also requires honesty with yourself and others, being willing to admit mistakes and adjust your views.

In the end, playing the infinite game means striving for continual growth, learning, and self-improvement, while embracing challenges and adapting to change along the way.

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