Not Much Happens Without Pressure

Mot Much Happens Without Pressure. Phillip Kane's blog.
Image credit: Katherine Chase |

Saturday, March 26, 2022

This week, I read an article about the upcoming Axiom-1 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for early next month. The piece featured renowned chef, José Andrés, who is providing a meal for the crew of Axiom-1 and the NASA, Russian, and European astronauts aboard the ISS. Cooking a gourmet meal for consumption in low-Earth orbit is quite a lot different than preparing small plates for diners in places like South Beach, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. Ultimately, Andrés and his team solved the issue by applying pressure. By utilizing high-pressure cooking methods, he was able to solve for the atmospheric and other challenges to produce a winning outcome – a chicken and mushroom paella he was proud to put his name on. 

As I considered the situation for a bit, it occurred to me that life and leadership are typically like Chef Andrés’ paella dilemma. Not much happens without pressure.

And that’s the point for the week.

The best leaders understand that the level of output in any organization is almost always directly proportional to the amount of pressure applied to it; subject, of course, to the law of diminishing returns.

I recently saw a piece about a leader advocating for dead calm in the workplace. She posited that the path to prosperity could be found in a magical state of zero stress, zero pressure and zero heat or weight. In these heaven-like places, workers could be free to work when they want, how they want and at their own pace, to deliver results for the organizations that employ them. The only problem with such utopias is that they don’t exist – except in magazine stories. When tried, they don’t work. That’s because human beings work best when subjected to some amount of pressure.

Pressure is good. Pressure clarifies. Pressure brings needed focus. Pressure forces learning. It leads to growth. It engenders trust and strengthens bonds between people. Pressure highlights areas of opportunity and causes us to let go of things that matter less. Pressure brings with it maturity and separates those with integrity from those without it. Pressure shines lights on posers, pulls back curtains on frauds, and elevates those who tell the truth. Mostly, pressure separates the kind from the unkind.

See, pressure and unkindness are not synonymous. There is a vast difference between effectively using pressure to clarify deadlines and to ensure accountability, and being a jerk. Those who effectively use pressure know that there is a point at which too much pressure is just as bad as too little. In forming wood, apply too little pressure and the wood will never take shape; apply too much and it will break, likely hurting someone in the process. Leading people is no different, and the kindhearted know it. They know that the key is being aware of when to stop bending. People will tell you where that limit is; all you need to do is listen. True leaders do. And they win because of it.

But nothing happens without pressure. If you’ve ever tried to boil an egg in the mountains you know this. Leading people is no different. Without pressure, everything takes longer and things seem to matter less.

Those who win do so because they engage more fully, more urgently, more passionately, and with more care than the other person – because they accept the privilege to toil under the weight of pressure – which is, after all, just another way to say the weight of responsibility to improve the lives of others – nothing more, in fact, than any of us were called to do in the first place.

So, be like Chef Andrés. Apply pressure.

And win.

For more about the author please click HERE.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, please follow this LINK.

Image credit: Katherine Chase |


Don’t Squander Your Fuse

Don't squander your fuse. Phillip Kane's blog.
Image credit: Bill Jelen |

Friday, March 18, 2022

This week, I attended a memorial service slash rodeo.

They say that if you live long enough, you will see everything. It’s an expression that is used to convey hyperbolic astonishment. And it may well be true. Had you asked me a month ago if I’d ever expected to attend a rodeo funeral, I’m certain that I’d have said, “no.” But if you live long enough, you’ll see everything.

My Uncle RS, my dad’s only brother, whose service it was, was one of those everythings. I’m glad I lived long enough to see him.

Some called him “Rocket Man,” a song that, fittingly, played as fireworks lit up the dusky blue South Texas sky at the close of the Funeo (see what I did there?). They called him this because he was forever sending others off on some opportunity or other of a lifetime. That’s how he was. He never gave anyone a thing. But if you earned his trust, he’d offer you an opportunity. He’d light a fuse under you.

The rest was up to you. You got one match … one flame. Then it was your turn, your choice, your opportunity … to fly, or not.

And as I looked up at the brilliant explosions of pink and blue and white that rose then drifted back toward the earth I craned my neck and strove to see past them, to find him in the ether above, fearing, as the song said, that it would “be a long, long time” until we’d ever see him again or anything like him again; and promising, under my breath, that I’d continue to make good on the fuse he’d lit under me some 23 years ago.

Because when given an opportunity without string or expectation, the least we can do is to make good on it.

And that’s the point for the week.

Those who lead are those who choose to take what is freely given to them and then make the most of it. It matters little to them whether what was supplied is perfect, or ideal or given at the right time. All that matters is the opportunity itself and the chance it represents.

I am ever amazed at those who fail in such situations who ultimately blame the lighter of the fuse … for lighting the wrong fuse, at the wrong time, or for not doing enough after they light the fuse, or for forcing them to fly in the first place. The profound misunderstanding by these folks that life is a choice, and that whether they think they are winners or think they are losers they are correct, is mind-boggling. Blaming the fuse lighter for a subsequent crash is like blaming the god-awful soup on whoever made the steel pot it boils in. What each of us does with opportunity has nothing to do with who handed the opportunity to us but everything to do with whoever stares back at us in a mirror.

My Uncle RS understood this completely. He was a lighter of fuses, a maker of leaders, a father to me when mine left too soon.

And I think if he were here still, he’d tell us to take what we get and do something great with it, lift someone up with it, stare at the face of the Sun with it, and touch the hand of God with it.

So, don’t squander your fuse. Fly like a rocket.

And win.

For more like this, visit

To place an order for Phillip’s new book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK:

Image credit: Bill Jelen |


Choose Joy

Choose joy. Phillip Kane's blog.
Image credit: The Daily Mail

Saturday, March 12, 2022

This week, I saw a video of a group of Ukrainian children joyfully playing just outside a train station in Poland. They had just arrived there from their war-torn home, having fled, leaving everything behind, except what they could carry. The camera panned to their mothers, who looked beaten down, suffering, in angst – some audibly sobbing. But the children played on. 

One might suggest that they had yet to figure out what was happening to them. I prefer to think they simply hadn’t yet figured out how to feel sorry for themselves. 

See, feeling sorry for ourselves isn’t something we’re born knowing how to do. We learn it from adults. And from the moment that self-pity enters our lives, joy starts seeping out of it. 

And that’s the point for the week. 

There is a distinct lack of joy in the world. 

More than partly because there’s far too much self-pity in it. 

We learn, then teach our children that regret for what we don’t have should overtake joy for what we do. 

Those Ukrainian children weren’t thinking about what was lost. They weren’t thinking about anything it seemed – except the joy of being alive and playing with one another. 

Leaders that unlearn how to feel sorry for themselves have more followers. It’s simply because joy and gratitude are more attractive than dread and regret. 

It’s also because those who approach life and their work with joy and gratitude rarely forget to show appreciation to others. They also focus more on what people deliver than what they don’t. They praise effort, celebrate progress and encourage improvement. 

They don’t tear people down for the 4% they didn’t do; they build them up for the 96% they did. They don’t demean the 99 they have by longing for one that got away. They see falls as opportunities to pick someone up, not to put them down. 

As a result, people seek opportunities to join teams that these people lead. 

Better people attract better people and together they win more often. It’s just a fact. Doubt it? Just look around you. 

These people aren’t Pollyannas. They don’t practice false or toxic optimism.  They recognize that life includes downside, hardship and loss. They don’t pretend that these things aren’t real or that they don’t hurt. They know that they are and that they do. But they don’t dwell on them or allow them to consume their lives. They know that everything in this life is temporary and that even on the darkest of days, there is something to be grateful for and to be joyful about. 

Mostly it’s the souls of those they are responsible for, who watch them and learn from what they do, and who emulate the example they set. 

Like anything else in life, it’s a choice. To wallow around in self pity or to choose to be grateful for that which we have. To celebrate the piercing ray of light in the darkness, however small, or to curse the dim. To shake a fist at the sky in anger and self-sorrow or to open our palms toward heaven, arms outstretched in joyful praise for every good thing in our life. 

Choose joy. 

And win.

To learn a bit about the author, click HERE.

To pre-order a copy of Phillip’s new book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, please follow this LINK

Image credit: The Daily Mail


Grace is Earned

Grace is earned. Phillip Kane's blog.
Image credit: Ohmydearlife | Pixabay

Friday, March 4, 2022

This week, I saw a post of a man objecting to another man singing a hateful word as he sang along with the lyrics to a song in an electronics store.

The man objected because he did not believe that the singing man had earned the right to use the word, whether it was a sung lyric or a shouted epithet either one.

As I have for every one of the 21,146 of the weeks I have been alive, I thought of my mother. She’s been gone for more of those weeks than I’d have wanted. But on a lot of days it’s as if she never left. That’s the sort of cult of personality she was. She had strong feelings about a lot of things. One of them was the defense of family. And that’s why I thought of her this week.

It was my mother’s belief, as it is of many mothers, that it’s quite OK to talk as much trash as might reasonably or even unreasonably be done by one of us about another one of us … but God help whoever outside of us who was foolish enough to try it. Deserved or not, any assault on the family from outside the family would be met with a fury almost apart from description. And she taught those around her to model the behavior.

See, what we learned was the right to hurt, whether for fun or for blood, was earned. It came with trust, and love and a promise to heal.

The right to tear down came with an obligation to build up. To take away came with a duty to give back. To break anything required one to fix it.

What’s taken away never exceeds what’s given back. We give grace to the extent that it’s given back to us.

And that’s the point for the week.

The permission to allow another to step into us is, in and of itself, grace. Grace that has been earned. In love, and trust and an implicit promise that if something gets broken it’s going to get put back right.

Strangers who assault a close knit family, team or community are quickly repelled because they have earned no grace, no license for their assault.

I understand what man #1 was trying to say. He was speaking on behalf of himself and others and simply saying, no one has the right to talk like that about us except us. Us who we know, and love; those we trust to fix what they break.

Teams work just like families because teams are made of people too. People who will guard against breakage until they believe it will be fixed. People who won’t allow someone to take a thing out if they don’t think they’ll put it back in. People who won’t let you hurt what they don’t think you’ll heal.

But when they know you’re for real, that you’re good for it, that you’re to be loved, and trusted, they’ll let you in, for good for as long as you keep giving as much as you get – for as long as you understand that anything worth loving is worth fighting for. And that trust is just as soon lost as found.

Leaders who get this don’t ask others to follow them. Others just line up behind them and do. Because they know these people will do right by them. Because they know that these people never take more than they give. Because they know that they fix what they break. And because they know that no amount of nothing will ever give them the right to make a withdrawl from an account they’ve never put a thin dime into – even if all they were doing was singing along.

So, recognize that grace is earned.

And win.

To learn about the author, please click HERE.

To pre-order Phillip’s new book about a better, kinder way to lead other human beings, please follow this LINK.