Learning about life through metaphorical boxes


  1. If you think of a box as your environment, then everything in that environment will influence you.
  2. The problem arises when we get older and it’s up to us to get up and move boxes.
  3. Ask yourself, “what is my world? In which ways is the box I’m currently in constricting me? And how is it stifling my thoughts and ambitions? What are the kind of thoughts that will lead me out of this particular box?”

Alright, so it’s not exactly a chart, but a picture. But this picture is powerful: it captures how imagined realities can create real restrictions on our everyday lives. According to Dino Mihalopoulos of Permissionless Life, “each box can both define and constrain our life. We can grow by examining and changing boxes or we can stagnate by staying in our existing ones.”

The chief takeaway: look at life as a series of boxes which directly influence what we pay attention to. We can stay in the comfortable boxes we know the best, or we can choose to take a leap of faith by jumping into new, uncertain boxes that may help us get closer to what we really want.

This doesn’t mean that dramatically shifting your lifestyle or ecosystem is automatically helpful or healthy. But as Dino Mihalopoulos argues, at least “give yourself the option to move in those directions.”

In his AccelerateOTT Keynote speech, Tobi Lutke (CEO and co-founder of Shopify) explains further:

Life is this really, really interesting series of entering a box, seeing what it is sort of made of, probing at it, analyzing, seeing how things work, seeing what way gravity is pushing you, and then sort of understanding it and feeling familiar. This is the nice part. Every time you reach there it becomes very comfortable. And then you might learn something that isn’t reconcilable with this world you think exists. That is the very thing that cracks it and you get into the next box. And you start it again. Again and again and again.

What does it take to switch life boxes with ease? Two mindsets are involved—infinite and finite—both of which are outlined in Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse.

“Infinite players approach the world aware of their ultimate freedom to make choices and accept surprise as the norm,” Carse wrote. “Finite players feel like they have little freedom to choose and compete for the recognition of past accomplishments.”

Finite players choose to permanently reside in life boxes (knowingly or not), complete with restrictive rules and predefined metrics of success. Infinite players have the ability to move through life boxes as they seem fit.

I won’t bother you with specific examples because Simon Sinekin already said it best in his talk, Understanding The Game We’re Playing:

A Finite Game

An Infinite Game

Infinite players live by the principle of change: the only way to keep the game going is to keep changing it. According to James Carse:

[They] prepare themselves to be surprised by the future, they play in complete openness. It is not an openness as in candor, but an openness as in vulnerability. It is not a matter of exposing one’s unchanging identity, the true self that has always been, but a way of exposing one’s ceaseless growth, the dynamic self that has yet to be. The infinite player does not expect only to be amused by surprise, but to be transformed by it, for surprise does not alter some abstract past, but one’s own personal past.

Adopting an infinite mindset converts surprises to opportunities. It also embraces dynamism better than the finite mindset. Infinite players can stay amused by surprise, making it much easier to escape boxes.

Learn More

  1. Permissionless Life — Dino Mihalopoulos
  2. AccelerateOTT Keynote — Tobi Lütke, CEO, Shopify
  3. Finite and Infinite Games — James Carse
  4. The Game Visual Thinkers Play — Verbal to Visual
  5. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck — Mark Manson
  6. Understanding The Game We’re Playing — Simon Sinek