Make Others Big

Make it About Others

Make it about others. Phillip Kane's blog
Image credit: Didgeman | Pixabay

Friday, November 18, 2022

This week, CBS ran a story about Ironman athletes, father and son, Jeff and Johnny Agar. Jeff is 59. Johnny is 26. They have competed in over 200 competitions together – competitions that require a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. Jeff and Johnny are not your typical triathletes though. Johnny has Cerebral Palsy. So, in each race, when they swim, Jeff tugs Johnny; when they bike, Jeff tows Johnny; and when they run, Jeff pushes Johnny. The two of them together with their gear weigh over 400 pounds.

This is not something Jeff Agar does for himself. Speaking of her husband, Becky Agar said, “Even though he got him the 140 miles, he’ll always be hiding behind Johnny. He doesn’t want to be announced as an Ironman. It’s Johnny’s moment. And it’s the most beautiful thing to me.” Jeff Agar knows with 100% certainty that it’s not about him. And because of that, his son becomes really, really big. See, that’s the paradoxical truth of life and leadership: the smaller we become, the bigger those around us can get.

And that’s the point for the week.

Those who make it about others attract followers to them. Because those who follow them recognize in them a genuine care for those they lead as human beings, and a true concern for their welfare and safety. When we make it about others, their interests are placed ahead of our own, and as a result, we are made more aware of that which stands in their way of health and happiness, and we’ll move heaven and earth to fix it when these things are threatened. When we make it about others, they flourish, because nothing other than that is more important to us.

But when we make it about us, those around us cease to thrive. That’s because we suck the very life out of them. It’s exhausting and soul-crushing for others to support the nearly endless need of a narcissist to feel more important than they truly are. Those who put themselves first make others feel unsafe, less valued, and less important. They feel like disposable parts whose opinions matter for nothing and who wouldn’t be missed if they didn’t bother showing up one more day.

In organizations where it’s not about those in charge, the rest of the place looks out for one another and for their leaders. They offer up ideas to make things better and to catapult the organization forward. They bring their whole hearts to what they do because they know that it’s about them and making their lives better. And as a result, the businesses they work in move ahead with speed and force, accomplishing things that those in them only ever once dreamed were possible. All because people started making it more about others than themselves.

So, make others really, really big … by making yourself really, really small.And win.

Make Others Big

Light a Candle Instead

Light a candle instead. Phillip Kane's blog
Image credit: Ben Lambert |

Saturday, May 7, 2022

As a way to spend time together and to get away from normal life for a bit, my wife, Annie, and I enjoy watching British crime dramas such as you’d find on Acorn, Masterpiece, and BritBox. This past week, we invested three nights of our life in a NetFlix Originals offering called, The Anatomy of a Scandal. It was engaging enough … until the end, when it became apparent why NetFlix is struggling.

The mini-series follows the prosecution of a British MP who has been accused of a heinous crime by a former subordinate. The viewer learns that the crown prosecutor, who seems far too invested in the case, is, in fact, far too invested in the case – having both a story of her own to tell about the man, and an unhealthy obsession with making him pay. Eventually, though, the man is acquitted as the prosecutor fails to make a case. But in an almost unfathomable turn of events, the man’s wife recounts to the prosecutor knowledge of her husband’s and the Prime Minister’s involvement in an even more horrific scandal, bringing down all of (yes, Tory) British government. The film ends with scenes of the man’s (ex?) spouse enjoying life with the couple’s children outside new, posh, but magically affordable, seaside digs near Dover, and of the prosecutor, who had, just before, looked sadly beaten and worn, now shown back at it in court, bright, happy, and confident-looking, shoulders back, with a gleam of satisfaction in her eye, as if riding on a cloud – number 9, no doubt.

While there were near-countless reasons to dislike this mess and to have regretted pouring three nights into it (that I won’t ever get back, mind you), the biggest issue I had with The Anatomy of a Scandal is the moral of its story: that it’s possible to lift yourself up by tearing someone else down. See, it doesn’t work that way. No one ever got taller by cutting the legs out from under anyone else. 

And that’s the point for the week.

It’s not possible to make one candle burn brighter by blowing another one out. Doubt it? Try it sometime. For fun, light three, then blow two out. The one remaining will not provide any more light. Those who go through life believing that it is possible to improve their position at the expense of someone else are the same sort of people that compete with people they work with and the same kind of folks who make films like The Anatomy of a Scandal. It’s the same mentality that fuels cancel culture; the thought that by destroying someone else, I can make myself look better, feel better, do better, or somehow be better. But the only thing that gets better is the likelihood that decent human beings will want almost nothing to do with me.

See, people don’t want to be around negative people, or people who seek to move ahead by tearing others apart. Instead, people want to spend time with, and be led by, people with something positive to say – by people who lift others up and who by their words and actions seek to make others bigger, not smaller. People want to spend time with people who have something to give, not people whose entire persona is built around taking things away from other people.

Most often, despite the fact that these people believe the problem they are having is with someone else, the problem they are having is solely with themselves. It might be some insecurity or grudge that they’ve ascribed to someone else, but the issue they are having exists only in their own mind. They’ve given control over their life to some offending party for some real or imagined slight –  or simply because that person reminds them that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, kind enough, or whatever enough. But that person is going merrily along living their life while the brutish candle-snuffer makes their own life and the lives of every person they touch a living nightmare because of it. Because they become obsessed with the notion that it is possible to make their life better by making someone else’s worse.

But it’s not possible. Not even once. Not ever.

But the good news is, it does not have to be that way. There is a better way to live and to lead.

The alternative to living this life of hate and resentment isn’t hard. Like almost everything else in life, it’s a choice. It’s a simple choice to reject the notion that your life can somehow improve when someone else’s life gets worse. It’s a choice to lift up rather than put down. It’s a choice to build up rather than tear apart. It’s a choice to make others feel big, not small. It’s a choice to give more than you take. It’s a choice to light candles instead of blowing them out. And it’s a choice to start forgiving others for everything. For until we stop giving other people control over our lives, we are not in a position to lead the lives of anyone. It’s no more complicated than that.

So, make the right, better choice. Light a candle instead.

And win. 

PS. It’s apparently also a choice to stop watching NetFlix originals.

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Image credit: Ben Lambert |

Make Others Big

Pass More Than You Shoot

Pass more than you shoot. Phillip Kane's andwin blog.
Photo credit: Markus Spiske |

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

This week, I saw a nice post about the late Kobe Bryant which made a great case for missing a lot of shots. See, Kobe, still to this day, holds the NBA lifetime record for most missed shots with just shy of 15,000; the point being that if you’re missing a lot, you’re not avoiding failure and so you continue to throw the thing up there. In terms of sheer tries, though, Kobe is third to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who made just over 28,000 field-goal attempts during his 20 seasons in the league. I’m all for trying and failing and coming back for more; it’s an important lesson to teach and learn. But in a sport where you’re one of five on a team, if you are leading the league in trying, there might be another way to look at it too.

I most often look at life in terms of what a person is doing to make the lives of those around them better. So, I looked at assists. That’s the stat that records the last guy to touch the ball before the guy who scores touches it. I like to think of it as the person who facilitated the successful basket, who made the score possible. I looked where Kobe ended up on that list: 31st – not even in the top 25.

Rather, the all-time NBA assist leaders are John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. What’s also interesting about these three is that they all went on to coach others after playing in the NBA. After racking up the top 3 spots in making the lives of other players better, these 3 cats went on to help other teams get better. It’s not surprising to me. Improving the lives of other people isn’t something people do, it’s a part of who they are.

And that’s the point for the week.

True, caring leaders do not view themselves as the center of their universe. Their first waking thought on any day is never about how or what they can do to make themselves bigger. These leaders have a singular purpose in life: to help other people. It is from that starting point that everything else follows. Decisions that involve a tradeoff between doing something for others or failing to do so are never even considered; because for these leaders, the base supposition is that the reason for doing anything is to make life better for other people. They know that as a leader you will win more often when you pass more than you shoot.

Because they approach life this way, they create not only better plans, but plans others are quickly apt to get behind. As a result, these leaders win more often. They do so almost for one singular reason. Because others trust them. They trust them to always act in their best interest and to do the right thing by them. Those they have the privilege to lead dream the same dreams they dream, care about the same things they care about, fight for the same things they fight for, and up to and including following them into a burning building, will do almost anything for them. Because they know if the roles were reversed, the person that’s leading them would do exactly the same thing in return.

These relationships aren’t bought. They aren’t demanded. They don’t come with a title. They are the earned over time by people who have no hesitation whatsoever in telling anyone who will listen that they genuinely love those whose care has been entrusted to them.

And while great individual fame often accrues from putting points on the board and while much attention can be attracted by tossing up the rock more times than anyone else, leadership is still a team sport, one that is best mastered by those who make it about others, whose first interest is for making others really, really big, and who pass the ball way more than they shoot it.

So, make it about others. Pass more than you shoot.

And win.

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