by Dr. Tim Glaid

There are three kinds of people: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who ask, “What happened?” – Casey Stengel


 Leaders are unique individuals who are passionate and dedicated to their vision for the future.  And as such, leaders motivate and inspire others to follow and join in their passion.  Not all leaders actively recruit followers, as often it is the actions and purpose that draws others to want to follow the unique individual; the leader.

book coverIn this April 2022 blog, I share a simple, but powerful story of the “Fred factor”.  In his 2004 book, The Fred Factor – How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary, Mark Sanborn recounts the true story of Fred, the mail carrier who passionately loves his job, and who genuinely cares about the people he serves.  Because of that, Fred is constantly going the extra mile handling the mail – and sometimes watching over the houses – of the people on his route, treating everyone he meets as a friend.  Where other might see delivering mail as monotonous drudgery, Fred sees an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those he serves.  As such, Fred is revered, and many opt to follow and emulate his lead.

In The Fred Factor, Sanborn illuminates the simple steps each of us can take to transform our own lives from the ordinary — into the extraordinary. Sanborn, through stories about Fred and others like him, reveals the four basic principles that will help us bring fresh energy and creativity to our life and work: how to make a real difference every day, how to become more successful by building strong relationships, how to create real value for others without spending a penny, and how to constantly reinvent yourself. By following these principles, and by learning from and teaching other “Freds,” one can excel in his or her career and make life extraordinary. As Mark Sanborn makes clear, each of us has the potential be a Fred. The Fred Factor shows you how.

Seize the Chance to be Extraordinary

Who has made the biggest difference in your life? Whose words and actions have uplifted and motivated you to excel? Chances are it was someone like Fred the Postman — so outstanding in his service that Mark Sanborn realized this mail carrier could be an example for any person wanting to be extraordinary.

The “Fred Factor” is summarized by four principles that will release fresh energy, enthusiasm, and creativity in your career and life:
Principle #1: Everyone Makes a Difference

-There are no unimportant jobs, just people who feel unimportant in their jobs. Mark Sanborn

– There is more credit and satisfaction in being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth-rate executive. B.C. Forbes, founder of Forbes magazine

– Faithfully doing your best, independent of the support, acknowledgement, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling career. Mark Sanborn

 Principle #2: Success is Built on Relationships

– Service becomes personalized when a relationship exists between the provider and the customer. Mark Sanborn

– …relationship building is the most important objective because the quality of the relationship determines the quality of the product or service. Mark Sanborn

– The 7 B’s of Relationship Building

  1. Be Real.
  2. Be interested (not just interesting).
  3. Be a better listener.
  4. Be empathetic.
  5. Be honest. Say what you’ll do and do what you say.
  6. Be helpful.
  7. Be prompt.

 Principle #3: One Must Continually Create Value for Others, and it Doesn’t Have to Cost a Penny

– The object is to outthink your competition rather than outspend them. Mark Sanborn

– Sanborn’s Maxim says that the faster you try to solve a problem with money, the less likely it will be the best solution.  Mark Sanborn

– There are two types of people who never achieve very much in their lifetimes. One is the person who won’t do what he or she is told to, and the other is the person who does no more than he or she is told to do. Andrew Carnegie

Principle #4: Reinvent Yourself Regularly

– IQ = Implementation Quotient. It’s the difference between having a good idea and implementing it.

– Practice one a day. If you had to do everything in an extraordinary manner, you’d barely make it to work in the morning. Focus on doing one extraordinary thing per day. If you do that 7days a week, 52 weeks a year, your life will soon be a record book full of extraordinary.

– Compete with yourself. There will always be people who accomplish more or less than you. It’s more productive and fun to compete against and benchmark yourself.

Becoming a Fred

You change the world of another driver when you allow her to change lanes abruptly without blaring your horn, recognizing that she too is human and fallible. Of course, you alter her world in a different way if you blast your horn, yell and gesture obscenely.

You also change the world of a coworker, a customer, a vendor, or a cafeteria worker with your smile or your frown.

No these aren’t dramatic changes. They won’t alter the course of world affairs or bring about a cure for a disease. But who’s to say these little changes don’t have a cumulative, profound effect in the lives of others and, ultimately, in your own life. Mark Sanborn

The fact is that everybody is already making a difference every day. The key question is, what kind of difference is each of us making? Mark Sanborn

Developing Other Freds

There is something that is much more scarce, something finer by far, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability. Elbert Hubbard

When people feel that their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies. Mark Sanborn

You teach what you know but you reproduce who you are. John C. Maxwell

You can preach a better sermon with your life than your lips. Oliver Goldsmith

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle

At the Day of Judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done. Thomas A. Kempis

  1. R. E. D.

Sanborn uses the acronym FRED to explain how to develop “Freds”:

  • Find – Let “Freds” find you (your company), discover the inner “Fred” that hasn’t blossomed, or recruit and hire “Freds”.
  • Reward – Implement a rewards program to make sure “Freds” are recognized, including rewarding good intentions.
  • Educate – Find examples of “Freds”, analyze those examples, teach others to act extraordinary everyday (not just when there is a crisis), and set an example (invite others to act similarly to you).
  • Demonstrate – Set an example by inspiring, involving, initiating, and improvising.

What motivates Fred the mail carrier to be a “Fred”:

  • Doing good makes him feel good.
  • Personal commitment to doing his best.
  • He treats his customers as his friends or his parents.
  • His reward is knowing he did what is right.
  • He treats others as he would want to be treated.
  • He doesn’t waste a day – he makes each day better than the one before.

If you feel like you cannot make a difference in what you do, Sanborn suggests otherwise.  Any task can be taken from ordinary to extraordinary and it begins with you.  There are many “Freds” out there, so join the group, but remember to do it for the right reasons.


Is your professional commitment wavering? Do you just want to get the job done and go home?   You, too, can apply The Fred Factor to enrich the lives of customers, co-workers, friends, and family members, as well as reach new levels of personal success yourself. Sanborn also shows how to discover and develop other Freds.  You can earn the trust and respect of those all around, and can become a leader and role model of behavior.

Why not become a “Fred” yourself? You will turn the ordinary moments of life into extraordinary opportunities to make a difference in the world.  As Casey Stengel, the great baseball player and long-time manager of the New York Mets challenged …

  • Do you make things happen?
  • Do you watch things happen?
  • Or, do you ask, “what just happened”?

Making things happen, and motivating others to participate, is leadership in action.  Be a Fred … be a leader!

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