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An author explains why having a workplace rival is a key to success


It’s no secret that many American workers are stressed, and he holiday season can often amplify many of those underlying problems.  

But the bestselling author behind the most popular TEDx talk in its history has an unusual answer to help solve it: Finding your own rival at the office.

“Having worthy rivals means that their strengths reveal to us our weaknesses,” Simon Sinek told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM.  “If we know our weaknesses, it means we can build upon them.”

Sinek’s newest book, “The Infinite Game,” focuses on strategies to help businesses and employees achieve long-term success.  He gives particular focus to what he calls an “infinite mindset” to help improve “trust, cooperation, and innovation” among coworkers.  

“There’s no such thing as ‘winning’ business. If you think about how business works, it’s this infinite game,” Sinek explained.  

“An infinite game is defined as known and unknown players. The rules are changeable. You can play however you want, and the objective is to perpetuate the game—to stay in the game as long as possible,” he said.

And in Sinek’s view, healthy workplace rivalries are essential in achieving that goal. 

“As we get stronger and better at what we do, there are going to be others out there who challenge us more.  Or they may no longer represent a challenge,” he explained. 

“The odds are there’s something about that person or their personality that’s making us uncomfortable. It’s probably revealing a weakness in us,” Sinek argued. “It’s much better to take that energy away from being against somebody and trying to undermine them or get ahead of them, and rather focus on ourselves.”

Ask for help

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Simon Sinek and Eric Schurenberg attend Inc. Magazine 35th Anniversary Party at Tourneau Time Machine on September 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Inc. Magazine)

Sinek has dealt with some of the most successful leaders in business over the years.  In his experience, virtually all of them have one common trait: They ask for help.

“One of the things I find remarkable that many of the great leaders I’ve had to meet is they all recognize that as much as they know and may have accomplished, they still don’t know even more things,” he said.  “They need help getting to wherever they’re getting.” 

“I find them sort of remarkable. They all consider themselves students of leadership. None of them consider themselves experts,” Sinek added. 

Leaders, he said, “lean in with curiosity. Whether they’re generals or politicians or CEOs, they have curiosity for the ideas of others.” 

He suggested that another strong leadership quality is the ability to be receptive to good ideas from others.

“You can have a big ego and think you’re wonderful,” Sinek said. “But if somebody says ‘I have an idea’ and you lean in and say, ‘so let’s hear it,’ that’s humility.  And I like that in a leader.”

Nick Robertson is a senior producer at Yahoo Finance.

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