(This is an excerpt of an interview from Kim & Jason magazine with Mark Sanborn, the best-selling author of the “Fred Factor” on balancing work and family, having fun amidst the busyness, and lessons we can learn from kids)
Kim & Jason: Your book, The Fred Factor, contains the example of a remarkable postman named Fred to demonstrate how passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. We found the book to be very inspiring and the techniques very simple. You make the benefits of being a “Fred” a no-brainer. In your opinion, why don’t we see more “Freds” in the world?
Mark: First, we probably don’t look for them, or think about it when we see them. There are many “Freds” who do things for us in our businesses, communities and probably even our homes that we tend to take for granted. I think we need to do a better job of paying attention to the extraordinary things people do for us on a regular basis. Secondly, I don’t think everyone realizes that they can be a “Fred.” I believe one of the first jobs of leadership is to prove significance to others: to our kids, our coworkers, our employees. People who don’t feel significant usually don’t make significant contributions. Third, knowing what one can do and knowing how to do it are two different things. It helps to know what skills to develop, and how to turn desire into results, and that is a primary reason why I wrote the book.
K&J: You’ve observed that so often we live our lives on autopilot, unable to distinguish between activity and accomplishment. Perhaps that is one reason why many people are stressed, restless, and struggling to find balance in their life. What advice would you give to people who may be struggling to distinguish between activity and accomplishment?
Mark: Stop focusing on how busy you are (we’re all insanely busy, it seems) and ask yourself a simple question: “What am I accomplishing?” If you have few accomplishments, or the ones you have aren’t that valued, then it is time to re-evaluate how you spend your time each day.
K&J: The Fred Factor embodies the essence of a childlike spirit in many ways, such as encouraging creativity and curiosity. In your opinion, what are the most important things an aspiring “Fred” can learn from children?
Mark: Children have few pretenses. They don’t try to impress you, which means they are authentic. That is admirable. Kids are typically more interested in you–sharing a story, learning something from you or just playing. They engage you rather than just talking to you. They also have a higher threshold for boredom. A bug or cloud is as exciting to them as trip to Bali or a new car. By the way, I know this because my kids are six and nine.
K&J: Kids seem to be experts at having fun, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. In your travels and experience, what are some examples you’ve seen of businesses using these principles in creative and practical ways?
Mark: Here is a great example I just blogged about: recently I took the boys to one of our favorite family eateries, On the Border. Darla wasn’t feeling her best, so she asked us to bring her something. Alese (I hope I’m spelling her name correctly) was our waitperson. We had dined in her section a couple weeks ago and been impressed by her service. When we ordered our meals, I put in a to-go order for Darla and explained why she wasn’t with us. When we got home, Darla took her food out of the bag and noticed a note written on the lid of one of the containers. It said, “Get well soon.” That was a nice touch, and more proof of how little things make a big difference.
K&J: As a highly sought-after professional speaker, you are on the road for up to 200 days a year. What challenges have you faced and what things have you done to balance your work and family life with your road warrior lifestyle?
Mark: The obvious challenge is carving out sufficient time for my family. They understand why I travel, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it, nor do I want them to be happy I’m gone a great deal. I work extra hard to make time for the family when I’m not traveling. We do frequent short trips and vacations, and I don’t always keep a typical 9-5 schedule when I’m not on the road so I have flexibility to spend time with them.
K&J: When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Mark: This sounds a little weird, but I always wanted to be a speaker. I entered my first speech contest when I was ten and failed wildly. That got my attention. I decided to try again and keep trying until I won a contest. It took a long time. In the process I learned to love the spoken word. I listened to speakers like Zig Ziglar and Og Mandino and said to myself “How cool would it be to do that?” I must have been about sixteen when I realized that the really good speakers made a living sharing ideas with audiences. I did have other jobs along the way in sales and marketing.
Like this interview?
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