Turn Ordinary Into Extraordinary: Mark Sanborn Discusses Principles From the Fred Factor and Fred 2.0

Is it possible to transform our ordinary work into an extraordinary experience? According to Mark Sanborn, it certainly is.
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Very few of us have so-called "dream jobs" like being an astronaut, or a rock star or a professional athlete. For most of us, our jobs are pretty ordinary.

Is it possible to transform our ordinary work into an extraordinary experience? According to Mark Sanborn, it certainly is. And, when we do, our lives are more fulfilling, we perform better at our work, and we become leaders whether or not we have a title.

This truth became very clear to Mark when he interacted with a postal worker named Fred Shea who delivered the mail in Mark's neighborhood. Fred turned the mundane work of delivering mail into an extraordinary experience for both him and his customers.

Mark shared Fred's story, and examples of numerous other "Freds," in his mega bestseller The Fred Factor, which has sold nearly two million copies to date. The core message of The Fred Factor is that with a little bit of creativity and thoughtfulness, we can transform our work and transform our lives.

I recently had a chance to speak with Mark and ask him about some of the key ideas from his brand new book, Fred 2.0. This book offers a more in-depth exploration of the principles that guide and shape Fred's core philosophy.

Below, we'll look at three of the key principles from Fred 2.0. If you'd like to watch the video of the interview with Mark, click here.

Give More than You Get

In our interview, Mark stated that there are three ways to live life. We can give after we have received. We can give expecting to be compensated for what we do, such as when we do our jobs. Or we can give just to give, expecting nothing in return.

When we make an effort develop our ability to live in the third way, life becomes a little richer and we deliver superior customer service -- whether that's to our team members or to an external customer -- that people talk about. The little things we do or give don't have to cost a dime. Just a little thoughtfulness and creativity is all it takes.

Make a Difference

"Everybody makes a difference. The question is, what kind of difference do we make?" Mark said. In theory, we can go through life being neutral. But in practice, if we choose to be neutral, people typically just view us as indifferent.

A key principle of a "Fred" is to simply be a little more intentional about what we can do to make a positive difference for others each day. When we do that, we're less likely to be viewed as a negative or indifferent person. People are much more likely to want to be around us.

Build Relationships

Successful organizations look to hire and develop "Freds" because they know that relationships are what drive long-term success. While "Freds" are productive, they don't sacrifice relationships as a result of focusing too heavily on goals and to-do lists. "Freds" also look to build and strengthen relationships wherever they can, which means they offer great customer service and generate word-of-mouth referrals.

You Can Start Today

Mark ended the interview with a reminder that we all have a wonderful opportunity to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. "You can make a bigger, bolder, better difference," he said. This is completely within our control. As Mark says, "Nobody can prevent you from being extraordinary."


Matt Tenney is a social entrepreneur, an international keynote speaker, and the author of Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom.

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