Look Beyond the Frame

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, Johannes Vermeer. A life better lived is found beyond the frame. Phillip Kane's andwin blog.
Image: Gandalf’s Gallery | Flickr

July 28, 2021

This week, I saw the painting Woman in Blue Reading a Letter by Johannes Vermeer for the first time in a long time.

The painting, which hangs in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, was completed by Vermeer between 1663 and 1664. For those unfamiliar with the work, the approximately 18” x 15” oil on canvas depicts a young woman, alone, dressed in a sea-blue bed jacket, awash in the light of an out of view window. The woman is standing, head down, reading a letter of still crisp parchment, her forearms resting on her apparently ample midsection.  On the table in front of her is a small wooden box, ajar, a book and a ribbon of pearls. On the wall to her right is a large map of Holland. In the room, aside from the table, are two finely upholstered chairs, seemingly of blue velvet, finished with brass nail heads, their backs topped with a pair of lion’s head finials. What may be her cloak lies spread haphazardly across one chair and a portion of the table as if hurriedly thrown aside by one preoccupied by other thoughts. 

But as much as can be seen in Woman in Blue, I have forever been left wondering about that which can’t be seen. For as much as is told, so much is left untold.

From whom is the letter? From where? What of the pearls, a gift with the letter or yesterday’s accessory tossed upon the table? What of her shape – the style of her skirt or is she with child? And the news – cause for joy, or something worse? For all that we see, there are things we cannot. But life is like that. There is always more than meets the eye and a life better lived deems that we find it. 

And that’s the point for the week.

In every situation, we will be presented with the facts as they are known – of all that can be seen. For many, and all too often, such is sufficient. But it is our nature, it seems, to act in haste – to accept that which is assembled in front of us at face value and as a summation of all available fact – and then to act. But in so doing, we miss things. We sub-optimize decision making. We tell others, without meaning to that not everything or everyone matters. 

What normally separates us from what we can see, and a more complete view of the world is simply a natural curiosity for things and the patience to feed it. Those with both tend to win more often. 

They do so because they make better decisions. Because they learn more – about every situation and every person in their life. Because they look beyond the frame. As a result, they engender greater trust from those around them, both those they lead and those who employ them.  Because these people come to recognize that they can be counted on to make complete thoughts based on complete information. All because they ask themselves and others, “what am I missing?” or “what am I not seeing?”

And the organizations they lead move forward with greater force and speed. They more than compensate for any extra time spent indulging their curiosity by avoiding the waste and rework that inevitably come with hastily made and half-cocked decisions. 

Best of all, people stay in these organizations longer, creating dynastic winning machines. They stay because they prefer patient leaders to foot-tapping ogres, but mostly because they never stop learning, growing or liking the feeling that comes from being encouraged to feed the child-like wonder that lives forever in each one of us.

So, be patient and curious. Look beyond the frame in front of you. 

And win. 

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Be Like Ted

Copyright Apple, Inc.

July 23, 2021

Today, season 2 of the hit TV show, Ted Lasso, premiers on AppleTV+. Like half of the country, I am a huge Ted Lasso fan. For those of you in the other half, who may not have heard of Ted Lasso, it’s s show about an American football coach picked to manage a British football club having had no prior experience with the sport.

As you might imagine, Ted has a rough go of it at first.  But by the end of season one, despite his team, AFC Richmond, being relegated out of the Premier League, there’s hope for Ted. He’s won a few games, earned the confidence of his boss, brought several of his players around, and even has the fans cheering for him – far more than any would have ever thought initially possible. And he did it without knowing the first thing about European football. But Ted, we’re made to surmise, won at the collegiate level of American football in similar fashion. Ted won less because of what he knew about the game than what he knew about leading human beings. But that’s mostly the way of things. People rarely decide to follow others because they feel they know things; they follow others because they know they feel things.

And that’s the point for the week.

There’s an old leadership cliché (and by the way, old clichés become old clichés because they are true clichés) that says: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Ted Lasso cares, and it’s why, in the course of a single season, he goes from having every human being associated with AFC Richmond but his American assistant and the water boy move from abject dislike for him to something ranging from acceptance to outright trust. And he cared singularly and uniquely for each individual he came in contact with.

Then he made them believe.

He made them believe not only in themselves but in the proposition he was selling and in each other. He made them believe that in caring for one another and in something bigger than themselves that they could achieve something extraordinary. And they did – believe then achieve. And for one bright shining moment it was theirs … until it wasn’t. But even in that, Ted Lasso taught them, and all of us watching, that the best part of believing is that you can do it again, and the only thing to do with defeat is to let it go – or have a party on the heels of it.

Those like Ted Lasso, those who care and who believe, win more often than they lose. And not just on TV. These folks win more IRL too. They win more in real life because they not only earn the trust of those around them but because they teach those around them to trust each other as well. Cords of many strands are not easily broken. Teams built on foundations of trust win more because they can withstand more, because they know what they are capable of enduring and, most importantly, because they believe that there is almost no earthly possibility that anyone around them would ever let them down.

It starts with caring, then believing, then winning. In that order.

So be like Ted Lasso.

Care. Believe.

And win.

For more about the author, visit

photo copyright Apple, Inc.


Face Fear

True, caring leaders face, then move beyond fear. Phillip Kane's blog

July 20, 2021

Last week, extreme violence and lawlessness gripped much of South Africa, as protests against the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma spiraled out of control. The unrest, the worst in more than a quarter-century, lasted more than a week, and was marked by massive looting, fires and more than 200 deaths. Ultimately, the South African army was called up to quell the dissent and to restore order. It was difficult to watch the goings on there and not think of Nelson Mandela whose election in 1994, following years of ethnic strife, brought a final end to Apartheid in South Africa. In his inaugural address, Mandela, in a tone reminiscent of Churchill, FDR, Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of a South Africa where all citizens might “walk tall, without any fear in their hearts.”

As I reminisced for those few seconds on the words of Mandela, something else struck me – something that applied to but also went far beyond the goings-on in South Africa. It was a sense of the state of leadership in the world today, and, in turn, the state of the citizenry, of the us, the people of this great country. For it occurred to me that in the prior history of the world, at the gravest of times, the greatest leaders, like those I mentioned above, all, remarkably, had one thing in common: they recognized the fear in the hearts of those they led and provided assurance that there’d be no further need of it. See, great leaders show empathy in regard to fear while providing assurance that everything will be ok.

And that’s the point for the week.

What’s largely been missing for the last 20 years or so here and in world politics are leaders willing to openly acknowledge fear in themselves and those they lead while offering a full-throated promise that brighter days are indeed ahead. Not since George W Bush stood on top of the rubble of the twin towers in the days after 9/11/01 has the world seen a leader willing to openly acknowledge the existence of and mandate driven by fear. Instead, it seems, modern leaders use fear to control, divide, and agitate those they should be calming, assuring and unifying.

Great leaders understand that fear is isolating and paralyzing. They know that the proper response to fear is never to minimize it. People who are frightened do not need someone in a position of insulated safety telling them they are overreacting. Great leaders also understand that there is no value in making things seem worse than they actually are. Fearmongering, as is occurring right now, today, in our country is divisive and paralyzing. People don’t want to be controlled, they want to be led. And they don’t want to be told the sky is falling; they simply want the truth and a plan to move forward. True, caring leaders understand this. They calmly offer those who follow them an honest assessment of what’s at stake. They recognize that there is something to be fearful of to be sure. But they, likewise, and most importantly, offer their assurance that together, and with courage, the team will prevail.

See, courage is not an absence of fear. Fearlessness is the same as wonton recklessness. Fearlessness is not a leadership trait; it’s a close cousin to narcissism and has no place on winning teams. No, courage is simply an unwillingness to let fear stand in the way of achieving one’s goals. Those with courage are still afraid; they simply do not let fear stand in their way.

As a result, they set an example for others to follow. They prove that whatever fears might exist can be overcome. They don’t control or manipulate; they simply walk ahead, providing footsteps to follow in. They show that winning is possible, and that life is better on the other side of whatever was causing folks to be afraid.

In doing so, these leaders, like Roosevelt, Mandela and Churchill create conditions where entire nations unify behind them, wiling to trust in them, to move from the known to the unknown, to stare down the throat of fear and laugh, firm in the knowledge that they can and will overcome that which they are afraid of. All because of a leader who recognized their fears and their dream of someplace better and courageously united them behind a plan to go there.

So, face then move beyond fear.

And win

To learn more about the author, visit


Create Community

Leaders who create a strong sense of community win more often. Phillip Kane's blog

July 16, 2021

This week, we took my son, Will, who will soon start his last year of high school, on a couple of college visits. One of the schools we visited was the University of Dayton, where Will’s sister, Chick, graduated from a year ago. Dayton is a Catholic university run by the Marianist Fathers, the same cats that are in charge at Notre Dame. As, I watched the recruitment video, I was reminded again of the importance of community to this school and to the Marianist order. Now, before you say, “All schools talk about community,” I will tell you, that I suspect all schools talk about community, smaller ones anyway. I know that the school we visited a couple days before did. But, this school – Dayton – lives it. If you don’t like other people, you’re going to be miserable at UD. The school has found the secret to ensuring student interaction, not only at the school, but in and around the town of Dayton as well, where the Marianists are also highly visible and active. And it continues after school with one of the strongest alumni networks in the business. What Dayton has figured out is that stronger communities are winning communities, and that members of strong communities are happier. In fact, year in and year out, Dayton ranks among the top schools in the country for happiest student body. They also have a 93% success rate for placing students after graduation. The correlation between community and winning is undeniable.

And that’s the point for the week.

Leaders who create a strong sense of community win more often. It’s that simple. Any organization has the potential to be a simple collection of disconnected human beings or a community, either or. The leader will determine which. And that choice will largely determine whether that organization is successful – or not.

People want to belong to something bigger than themselves. It’s the way that we were made. We are largely social creatures. We do not do well on our own. Even those of us that sometimes like to be left alone, do not like to be alone (there is a vast difference between the two). We thrive when we are part of a larger community, of a group of people who share our goals, our dreams, our interests, and who cheer our victories and pick us up on the days when life doesn’t go the way we planned.

Community is different than teamwork. Teamwork is tactical. It’s mechanical. It’s more like scripted choreography where everyone knows and does their part, performs their role, and repeats their lines. Teamwork leaves plenty of room for selfishness; just ask LeBron James. But community involves emotion and feeling. Community requires commitment. Community requires investment of not only one’s mind and body but one’s heart and soul. With teamwork, rarely are plays written for what to do when the person next to you loses something they value or suffers some other form of personal setback. In communities, people reflexively offer comfort to those who hurt; they automatically celebrate the achievements of others; they instinctively offer aid to those who are down.

Where there is community, teams prosper because the whole becomes far greater than the sum of its parts. In community, the gifts of all are combined and multiplied. In community, when one part slumps, the other part does more to overcome the shortfall. In communities, individuals are able to achieve that which they never dreamed possible. In communities, the lives of everyone are improved – because everyone gives a damn about everyone else. It’s no more complicated than that.

So, build community.

And win.

For more about the author, visit

Look for the Good

Look for the Good in Things

Look for the good in more things more often. Phillip Kane's blog.

July 10, 2021

In the last week or so, there have been two examples of athletes representing the United States of America turning their back while our national anthem was being played. As you might imagine, this sort of behavior sparked outrage in some circles. These weren’t athletes playing for some city or corporate sponsor. They were competing on behalf of their country. As I followed continuing coverage of the events, considering the arguments of those defending and condemning their actions, I chose to start thinking about things differently. I began to look at these events from a different perspective. In looking at the photographs, instead of focusing on the small number of athletes who had elicited outrage, I mentally cropped them from my view. I focused on finding something good, something that didn’t invite contempt. And I found it, in spades – more women than not, who chose not to behave in ways that might bring negative attention upon themselves. It was simply a matter of where one looked. Life is like that though. By looking for something positive, you will more often find it and success along the way.

And that’s the point for the week.

Every situation will provide a mix of good and bad. Nothing is ever entirely without fault nor absolutely without merit. Virtually everything in life comes with trade-offs. The stories of these athletes were no exception. Unfortunately, many chose to focus on an aspect of a few athletes’ behavior which they found troubling. The point here is not to make a judgement, one way or the other, about the behavior of these athletes. It’s beside the point and makes no difference to me. The point is about the choice that exists in any situation: between looking for something negative or finding something positive. What we seek, we will more often find. When we go looking for something ugly, we’re going to find it, particularly if we’re predisposed to do so. And as a result, we’ll lose.

Being critical of that which you believe to be wrong does not make you a better person. And the choice to focus on the negative aspects of any situation leads to no good end.  It’s waste. Certainly, some find it therapeutic to complain or to highlight the imperfect. However, calling out that which is broken, particularly without also providing some recommendation for improvement, is unproductive. Worse, the practice leads to lower morale, reduced output and greater conflict and division among teammates. Ultimately, the time and energy spent generating, then reacting to, negative energy detracts from more productive pursuits and activity directed at achieving the goals of the wider enterprise.

Anyone can be a critic. It takes almost no talent whatsoever to identify what is obviously broken or not working. It takes an altogether different talent to seek the better part, to ignore those seeking negative attention, to find that which unites, and which can be built upon. Those who most often win are those who crop mental photos to remove that which unnecessarily detracts from that which they and their teams are seeking to accomplish. It’s not that these people refuse to believe that there are negative things in the world; they simply choose to overlook them in favor of that which actually delivers results.

If the goal, for example, is to win a gold medal medal in Olympic Hammer Throwing, neither pouting on the 3rd place podium nor choosing to engage in outrage over it will contribute one thing to accomplishing that goal. Finding, then focusing on that which is positively and directly connected to achievement, of the ultimate objective, however, will. And when that happens, when more and more begin to recognize the value of same, then winning will replace losing, unity will replace division and a search for beauty will overtake a constant and unhealthy obsession with ugliness.

So, look for the good in more things more often.

And win.

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Belief Perseverance

Think it Then Be it

Great, caring leaders know that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think it, you can be it.

July 5, 2021

Two weeks ago, Mini-me learned that one of our ancestors was a passenger on the Mayflower. As exciting as it might seem, this new information about her family’s history is going to do nothing to change her future. The only things that will have a certain impact on one’s tomorrows are the same things that have always been connected to a change in trajectory: personal belief and commitment.

And that’s the point for this new week.

Nothing about my daughter’s ancestry entitles her to anything. Learning something new about the past changes not one thing about the future. Committing to the attitude, thoughts and behaviors that impact future outcomes, however, will.

Each of us is individually responsible for ourselves individually.

Whatever we accomplish in life is directly correlated to that which we believe we can accomplish and are willing to work to achieve. If we think it, then we can be it. Things which occurred hundreds of years ago have exactly nothing to do with who we will become tomorrow. Only we are in charge of that.

Whether we believe we are capable of greatness or that we are destined for mediocrity, we’re exactly right. See, life is a choice. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. What you hope for and endeavor to achieve is what you will become. Period.

Even as the debate over what we should teach our children rages on, simply remember this: it doesn’t matter. Charlotte’s Mayflower ancestry has endowed her with the same privilege as any other American – to wake up each day and to work harder than anyone else, to believe that what she envisions, she can achieve, and that in this country one can still be anything they put your mind to being.

So, think it, then be it.

And win.

To learn about Phillip’s soon-to-be-released book, please visit


E Pluribus Unum

E Pluribus Unum We are all Americans first. Phillip Kane's AndWin Blog

July 4, 2021

Today America turns 245 years old. I’ve been around for less than 100 of them. But at no time in my life have I seen as much division as now. Certainly, there have been periods of legitimate disagreement over such as wars, economic policy, and civil rights. But the degree to which people in this country actively seek to create discontent, upset and conflict which spills over into violence and unrest has reached a level I have never witnessed before. People now look for reasons to be offended. Our country is breaking into factions – left and right, black and white, gay and straight, those who believe in two sexes and those who believe in many, and on and on. We have reached a place which seems very far removed from the unity our founders envisioned. Sadly, all of this unrest is tearing us apart. It’s a situation that will lead to no good end … as this country has seen before. In the words of Alexandre Dumas, from the pages of The Three Muskateers, “All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.” Or, if you prefer a more serious, non-fiction reference, recall it was Winston Churchill who said, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

And that’s the point(s) for the week.

Restoring unity in this great land of ours begins with each one of us acting individually.

If you are or are planning to spend one bit of effort hereon using any event, pandemic, human tragedy, or other occasion to get over on, criticize, keep down, make fun of, hurt, or otherwise profit at the expense of any other group of other Americans whose ideas you do not agree with, just stop. Enough is enough.

We are all Americans first. Find something good in someone you don’t agree with. Think critically for a change about the issues that pit half of us against the other. Stop conflating simple trespass with 9/11 and the Civil War. Accept that not all immigration is bad. Realize tolerance is a two-way street. Listen instead of waiting to speak. Don’t expect people to keep believing things that their own two eyes tell them are false. Understand how ridiculous you sound when you say things you and everyone around you knows are not true. Recognize that there is good in almost everyone and that you could likely fit the actual (anti)Fascists and White Supremacists that exist in America in a high school gymnasium.

So, spend today, and every day from now on, looking for that good. Stop assuming that, because someone voted for someone other than your guy, they’re a horrible human being. And for heaven’s sake, stop believing that “historical candidate” means, “can do no wrong” or that someone who doesn’t share your party affiliation can do no right. Bring yourself to admit that the last guy did a lot right in addition to the things he got wrong. Know that this guy will do both too.

The sooner we all recognize these things the better life will become for everyone.But it starts with a recognition that we are all Americans first – that this is the United States of America – and that from many we form one perfect union that, to me, even with her bad days and poor choices, remains that shining beacon on a hill – the grand experiment and the greatest nation in the history of mankind. We are, after all, a nation of 300 plus million people, each of whom share both the privilege of living here and the basic duty to love one another and this extraordinary country of ours.

So, make things right with someone you disagree with.

And win.

Happy Birthday America.

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Give ’em a Break

Take a vacation or approve one. In post-Covid 19 recovery vacations are critical to workplace productivity. Phillip Kane's blog. Take a vacation or approve one.

July 1, 2021

As travel restrictions ease and personal trepidations along with them, more Americans are returning to the roads, seas and skies. The idea of a family vacation, which seemed unthinkable to many just a few short months ago is now being contemplated by scores of folks desperate for an escape from so many months of captivity. And while it may seem strange to some, this idea of needing a vacation from not being at the office, for quite a few more this need is quite real. It’s being driven by an intrinsic human desire for that which is customary and expected. When people’s lives are disturbed, they typically experience an intense gravitational pull from that which is known, routine, and normal. See, humans do not do well with disruption.

And that’s the point for the week.

Vacations are customary. They are normal. They represent regular American life. And for most, for nearly two years, they’ve been missing. Their absence has added to a feeling of disorientation, a feeling that something is wrong and amiss. But now, finally, they are back. And that’s a very good thing.

For many employers, however, these vacation requests are going to be piled on already difficult staffing situations and a productivity picture that has been at best clouded, at worst suboptimized, by endless telecommuting and zoom calls in place of true human interaction and teamwork. For some managers, there may be an inclination to resist, or at least meter, this uptick in requests for time away believing their organizations can ill afford the impact of so many additional absences. However, to do so would be an error, a typical knee-jerk, short-term focused decision made at the expense of long-term results and the greater good.

Great, caring managers, though, know that a happy, well-adjusted workforce is a more productive workforce. They likewise know that wringing short-term results out of already brittle associates will work for a while, until people break and the whole thing falls apart. It’s because people have limits. And bad leaders are famous for finding them.

People are exhausted, scared and uncertain right now. Some are angry. They simply want their lives back. They want to be around other people and they want to feel normal again. Vacations allow them to feel these things – even for just a week or two. When they are given the opportunity to do so, most return rested and recharged, ready to tackle whatever difficulty is facing the team. Productivity actually increases. Trust and appreciation between these associates and their leaders rises. And morale spirals upward. All because people were given a chance to get away for a bit.

It’s also an opportunity to trust the vaccines and to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that the workplace that these people return to feels as much like the pre-pandemic place they remember. If you trust the science, don’t put people through any more than is required by law. The freer people are, the better they will perform. It’s at the very core of what it means to be American.

But to come back from vacation, one must go on vacation. It’s a simple matter of someone asking for the time off and someone approving it. Wherever that occurs, workplaces will be immediately happier, healthier and more productive. Not just because people are getting away, but because people are getting back to normal.

So, take a vacation or approve one.

And win.

To learn about Phillip’s soon-to-be-released book, please visit https://phillipkaneauthor.com

For more about the author, click: Day Job